Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Startling By Each Step/Scarlet Heart (步步驚心)(2011): Ruoxi and the Princes

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The relationship between Ruoxi and the princes is definitely the central theme of the series and somehow the whole story just fall into or revolve around this part as Ruoxi, the main female lead in this drama is the main character after all and her time travel back to the Qing Dynasty period during Kangxi's reign was the main plot of the story by the author and inevitably, her status as the daughter of a aristocrat would draw her to the palace, whether she like it or not and her bubbly personality attracted the attention of the princes during that era; and since it was Kangxi's period, she was about to meet and be involved with the most notable historical figures of time in Chinese history.

I would go by the order where she meet them or get involved with each of them; and of course, the best for last, so do be patient ya ;-)

Ruoxi and Yin'e (10th Prince)
Relationship: Puppy Love, Infatuation and Friends
Yin'e sees Ruoxi as: Potential Wife, best friend and source of entertainment, then turned to be her protector
Ruoxi sees Yin'e as: Best Friend and fun company

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Surprisingly, this is the first prince whom Ruoxi encountered when she found herself in the Qing Dynasty although she was supposed to be staying in the home of the 8th Prince, as she had thought to herself. Yin'e, the 10th Prince, as Ruoxi had known was the simple-minded and naive guy and was even perceived to be dumb in Ruoxi's own interpretation and her first impression of him was just that. He was cheerful and straightforward and is a guy easy enough to decipher as his facial expressions and body language say and act the way he was thinking/feeling and Ruoxi felt comfortable when she is with him. She does like him due to his simple mind, but she considered him only as a friend and not in a romantic way. Yin'e, on the other hand seemed to take an immediate liking to Ruoxi when he met her and was extremely fascinated with her antics and playful ways. It was also perhaps due to the fact that Yin'e mentioned that they grew up together and have known each other since childhood, and also their age gap? Their personalities are rather similar although Yin'e is even more simple-minded compared to Ruoxi. The two are still playful and jovial, and Yin'e never did think ahead. It was proven from the fact that although he liked Ruoxi, he did not approach the Emperor ahead to ask for her hand, or maybe because he wanted to wait to be sure if Ruoxi liked him the same way? Anyway, his sincerity and goodwill in trying to wish his father during their Mooncake festival celebration in the palace led him to catch the attention of the Emperor (his own father) and stirred his memory that Yin'e is one of the princes who had reached the age of marriage and yet he is still unmarried. Well, I guess it was meant to be, although I would say Yin'e brought it unto himself as the Emperor, realizing that fact, decided to arrange for his marriage rightaway, and with the help of his mother? who was recommending a lady of noble background directly to Kangxi. The candidate was Gorolo Mingyu, the younger sister of the 8th Prince's first wife and who has close ties to the royal family due to their maternal connections. It was funny when the name of Gorolo Mingyu was mentioned, all the princes just bowed their heads and they looked a little disheartened; haha, I guess Mingyu was really a little too popular with her demanding ways? Yin'e, not to say the least, was shocked and petrified and tried to turn down the offer, but at the risk of incurring the Emperor's wrath had it not been for the 8th Prince who quickly stood up to help him and urged him to thank the Emperor for his arrangement. Ruoxi was surprised, and at the same time enraged with the whole incident, and while everyone thought she was angered by that arrangement because she was in love with Yin'e, Ruoxi was actually pissed that the life and fate of the princes or those noble aristocrats were not in their own hands, but rather, to be decided and ordered by the Emperor. She could not comprehend that reality, nor does she wants to and remains inconsolable, thus leading everyone to believe that Ruoxi was truly upset over Yin'e's betrothal to Mingyu and when the 8th and 14th Prince tried to console her, she denied their assumptions and even lashed out that she could not accept that their fates are to be decided by the Emperor who seemed to hold ultimate authority (well, the Emperor is considered to be sent from Heaven so it was their culture at that time but Ruoxi just would not have it that way, at all). Her words of anger surprised Yinsi and Yinti (8th and 14th) and Yinsi warned her never to utter those words ever again or face the risk of punishment by death which would involve even her own family. Ruoxi was then sent to console and pacify Yin'e so that he would prepare for the wedding day, as it was all set and like it or not, Yin'e had to just go with the arrangements and the flow; to marry Mingyu on the date set by the Emperor as well.
Yin'e admitted his feelings for Ruoxi, and even asked her for her thoughts on him; whether she liked him in return. Ruoxi's answer disappointed him as she refused to lie to him and told him that she only liked him as a good friend and also a person she is comfortable to be around with because of his sincerity and directness. It was then that Yin'e also confessed that he suspected this was the case, and that was the real reason he never dared to ask Ruoxi about her feelings for he fears the truth. On the other hand, even if Ruoxi did like him, Yin'e would not be able to make his own decision.
I felt this relationship was a one-way in romantic terms, but definitely two-way when it comes to friendship. Ruoxi liked Yin'e because he was just so simple, jovial and happy-go-lucky and he is the type who does not even think ahead and just go with the flow. His simplicity in thoughts made him approachable and Ruoxi did not ever feel like she needed to worry about his real thoughts. She mentioned that she could laugh, cry or just be herself around him and not worry about the code of conduct around a prince which made her at ease. Ruoxi, I can see, also pitied Yin'e for being constantly bullied or chastised by his brothers for his simplicity, but at the same time, he did not ever thought of getting back at them nor wanting to compete for anything. He is definitely not ambitious as he knew his own capabilities and he is just content with whatever he had.
Yin'e, on the other hand, probably liked Ruoxi as a friend initially, but her enthusiasm and optimistic character attracted him and can we blame him? He is born as a prince and his life is confined to all the rules and regulations set in the palace and although he is still carefree, he knows that he does not own total freedom either to his own fate and that was the part that he admired about Ruoxi. Also, like Ruoxi, he just felt comfortable around her and he enjoyed having her in his presence and her antics caught his attention that he was constantly trying to be around her because he was just so happy being with her. I don't really think that Yin'e was deeply in love with Ruoxi, or that his feelings for her reached the level of love yet but it was more of an infatuation. He had a strong crush on her and wanted to be with her, but he did not think that far ahead and I think it was also due to the fact that they were still young and Yin'e just knew how to enjoy himself and have fun. He did not realize that he was just merely attracted to her and that it was not really that serious although I think he did think it was serious. It was more of a puppy love, but I guess Yin'e did not know how to differentiate between infatuation and real love yet at that time. He had to give up on Ruoxi as Ruoxi turned down his offer to take her as his concubine and he realized that he is only a friend and he will never enter her heart as her partner.
The two then maintained a friendship and I liked it how they still talk to each other as though nothing ever happened and that, to me, is letting go and that is true happiness. A rather simple and friendly relationship, these two, and I liked the fact that they cared about each other as a friend and would help each other in need, even when Yin'e had loved his wife and Ruoxi loved Yinzhen, but their relationship had transitioned from romantic to platonic and that was a really nice thing.

Ruoxi and Yintang
Nature of Relationship: Distant, Cold, Hatred
Yintang sees Ruoxi as: Trouble to their ambitions
Ruoxi sees Yintang as: Cold, Evil and dangerous

The 9th Prince, Yintang was the only prince who was not involved with Ruoxi at all; be it romantically or in friendship. In fact, he never even cared about her at all and just merely saw her as presence and not just that, he was also constantly pissed with her (actually he's pissed most of the time anyway) and blamed her for some of their misfortunes or when their plans failed. He saw Ruoxi as a deterrent in Yinsi's ambitions and for that, he was never too pleased with her around. Yintang also never really trusted Ruoxi and he was constantly suspicious of her and I believe his suspicions increased after Ruoxi broke up with Yinsi and then later ended up with Yinzhen. To be honest, I do feel that Ruoxi and Yintang are extremely opposites which probably made their relationship seem like two ends of a magnate.
He is the type of guy who believed a man should focus on his ambitions and a woman is only a pond or not even supposed to be there in the first place, while Ruoxi, with her modern thinking, never wanted to depend on a man in anything and that women could also achieve success on her own. Though she never wanted to be in the way of a man's ambition, and in this case, history, she inadvertently contributed to the history by shaping the intense rivalry between the 4th and 8th Prince and then she tried to soothe things out to help all the princes whom she cared about. Like Yintang who did not give a damn about her, neither did Ruoxi cared about him and she was even more angered with his actions when she found out that Yutan, her best friend whom she treated as her sister was actually a pond sent by Yintang to spy on Yinzhen and in the process, lost her own life. Ruoxi wanted Yintang to feel guilty for all the sacrifices made by Yutan although he appeared with a blank expression and she left it for the last laugh by sending him that blood letter before his death so that he would be consumed with guilt over Yutan's love for him. Between the two, it was clear that Ruoxi had the last laugh and even Yintang admitted that Ruoxi was indeed like the 4th, cold and ruthless beneath that cheerful facade and that she would hit him at his most vulnerable point. So, yeah, there was no love but only an exchange of wit and hatred between these two.

Ruoxi and Yinreng (Crown Prince)
Nature of relationship: Lust, Power-driven
Yinreng sees Ruoxi as: Someone who can help him with his ambitions due to her connections (father, Emperor and Mongols)
Ruoxi sees Yinreng as: Pitiful, devious
There was nothing much between this two except that exciting part when Yinreng suddenly asked for Ruoxi's hand in marriage in Episode 18 and this evoked the anxiety of all the other princes who were desperate to save Ruoxi from this predicament. Actually, Yinreng was known for his philandering ways and in the earlier episode when Ruoxi was presenting her self-designed cups to the Emperor and the princes while they were at camp, it seemed that Yinreng already casted a rather dirty look at her after the Emperor praised her and when she was handing him his cup. Then he did try to talk to her a few times at the camp and also her connections to the Mongol royalties caught his attention, or rather fit his bill for his own succession. Furthermore, Ruoxi was in Kangxi's favour and to ensure that Yinreng would have a smooth succession, Yinreng knew that having Ruoxi would be a sure win situation because he would have Kangxi's trust and at the same time, the Mongols to back him up. I find this rather despicable because he is not really in love with her, but only more interested in her sexually and also politically. Ruoxi? Needless to say, she feared him and also did not want to have anything to do with him although she did pity him because she knew his fate as the Crown Prince would not be for long as history stated that he would be deposed twice and he never made it to rule the kingdom. I think Ruoxi was more worried about her own fate and was definitely thankful that her popularity among the princes saved her from the almost political marriage, but she should also thank Kangxi who hesitated before deciding (unlike the betrothal for the 10th Prince).

Now, we come to the main four princes who were directly, emotionally, physically and mentally involved with our female lead character and they were also the key players in her life; be it romantically or friendly.

Ruoxi and Yinxiang (13th Prince)
Nature of Relationship: Platonic, Confidantes, Soulmates

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As Yuan Hong (the actor who played this prince) mentioned during their interview, this is the simplest relationship as Ruoxi and Yinxiang's involvement with each other was purely platonic friendship and there was no romantic interests involved at any point. I liked this friendship, mainly because I always believed in the fact that there is always the existence of platonic relationship between a guy and a girl, although I am also aware that it is extremely rare and I am sure that it is even more so during that era. That is why this relationship is well-liked among the viewers, as it was just so pure and natural that it was desirable. Ruoxi and Yinxiang could just talk about anything under the sun, or in their case, the stars and it was impressive that a prince like Yinxiang, who could have had any woman, was just so noble towards her. He was loyal to Luwu, and Ruoxi was like his sister and also confidante. It was different from his relationship with Yinzhen, whom they were more of sworn brothers/allies. With Ruoxi, Yinxiang just felt matched his own personality because he was perceived as the carefree and daredevil and Ruoxi's quick mind was such a perfect complement. They are like soulmates and they would have been a perfect match if they were to be romantically involved, but then again, their relationship was so strong in faith that had there been romantic interest, it would probably kill their relationship straightaway. Ruoxi never had to be careful around him, because she just trust him, and in a way, she trusted him even more than the simple-minded 10th Prince, because she knew Yinxiang would never do anything to harm her nor others. Yinxiang was the same, his care for her was brotherly and he would never allow her to be hurt at any time and it was not based on romantic interest.
I loved how they are always there for each other, and how they would go all the way out to help each other in dire times of need and even Yinzhen had to depend on Yinxiang to console Ruoxi when she was upset yet Yinzhen never felt threatened by Yinxiang. There was a point when Yinzhen was surprised that Ruoxi never did develop feelings for Yinxiang because they were just so compatible but then it was just that. This is truly an admirable and desirable friendship, and they had the best relationship because it lasted all the way, and should I say, unbreakable.

Ruoxi and Yinsi (8th Prince) 
Nature of Relationship: Admiration, Infatuation/Love
Yinsi sees Ruoxi as: Potential wife
Ruoxi sees Yinsi as: Good husband material, caring guy
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Yinsi is the man who captured Ruoxi's interest in the beginning as she was impressed with his demeanour and capabilities, and also his gentle kindness and caring ways towards her sister Ruolan. She was attracted to his charms and it was understandable considering that she was only a teenage girl at that time (in that era) that she would be easily impressed with the suave style of her closest male model in her life; and in this case, Yinsi, who was her brother-in-law.
Ruoxi was supposed to be sent to stay with Ruolan to prepare her for the Imperial harem selection which placed her in the official home of the 8th Prince, Yinsi.
Although he was not the first man she met when she awoke, she was still nevertheless in awe of this man who treated her sister with tender loving care and her initial impression of Yinsi was positive that she found herself succumbing to his charms. She was excited to be around him and also in corresponding through letters with him, and her heart skipped a beat every time she sees him.
Was it love? She had her doubts when accepting her love; which was her sister and also her knowledge of his fate in history.
The debate: Did Ruoxi really love Yinsi?
To be honest, I did not really think that Ruoxi was really deeply in love with Yinsi, and vice versa. It was more of an instant attraction when they met, and Yinsi had described it as love at first sight.
Ruoxi was attracted to his gentle and caring ways towards ladies; and I also believe her admiration for him was based on her knowledge of him in history (Yinsi was known as the Virtuous Prince, or Ba Xian Wang in Chinese and was popular among the ministers and also the people).
However, it was also this fact that made her wary of being too involved with Yinsi. Ruoxi had had her own reservations when she first met Yinsi, and she had also known about it but she still could not help being swept away by his charms. Somehow she just developed strong feelings for him; which she could not really decide whether it was of admiration or love and that made her held back from accepting his love. The incident where Yinsi was injured during one of their outings with the Emperor was where she finally took the plunge although she still wondered whether it was the right thing to do.
That is where I see that Ruoxi was not truly in love with him, but more of a strong infatuation because she was constantly debating between right and wrong when it comes to her feelings for Yinsi, and there is never really a right or wrong in love; only whether she loves him or not. She held back because she knew he would not really meet a good end, and tried to warn him to evade the grave consequences without realizing that her predestination paradox could have inadvertently shaped history and Yinsi still ended up in his situation as stated in history, and in this version, it seemed that Ruoxi contributed to it.
Despite her warning and caring for him, Ruoxi finally still decided to let go of the relationship and left Yinsi perplexed with her conditions and decision. (She asked Yinsi to choose between his ambition and her; which Yinsi could not understand as he did not see why he could not have the best of both worlds).
Ruoxi gave up on the relationship when it had just started because she did not want to go through the hardships and also mental stress, knowing that their romance would be short-lived when Yinsi and Yinzhen fight for the throne. Was it truly selfish on Ruoxi's part?
While many would debate that it is Ruoxi's fault, I don't really think she should be blamed for the fate of the relationship. She did not really mean to hurt Yinsi, and she did gave him a choice; which was more of an opportunity to redeem himself from his sad end but Yinsi did not take it up. She wanted to save Yinsi, but it was not her fault that she could not change history although I think that she made a mistake by trying to change history. She cared for Yinsi, even after the breakup and all the way until the end of the series, which she did the same for all the princes.
Perhaps she did wanted to be involved with Yinsi, but then why did she have so many doubts? Was it truly because of her knowledge of history; although it was a major part, but I think it was also mainly because she was not sure whether she wanted to go through his hardships with him. Yes, Ruoxi may have chosen Yinzhen because he was about to be the next Emperor, but Yinzhen did not have that easy of a path either and she had not foreseen his falling out of favour with the Emperor and then despite knowing that she would offend the Emperor, she still chose to defy her arranged marriage to Yinti and then suffered for many years in the laundry department. Even when Yinzhen became the Emperor, he was still facing many threats and also issues, yet Ruoxi did not mind that.
Furthermore, it was not like Yinzhen was about to reign for a long time and Ruoxi was definitely aware of that, so with Yinsi, she could have had chosen him because he would still become Prince of Lian. Secondly, Ruoxi often harboured hopes that she could return to her own era although she would not know when, and therefore she already knew that her time would be indefinite and maybe even short, so being with Yinzhen or Yinsi would probably be the same anyway, but she did not want to take that risk to be with Yinsi. Was it because of her selfishness? Or because she just did not love Yinsi enough to want to go through his trials and tribulations? It was a combination of both.

Yinsi, on the other hand, was attracted to Ruoxi immediately and it did seem like he was really in love with her, based on his affections and attention to her. However, I personally felt that Yinsi was more in love with the idea of being in love with her, and the prospects of being able to be with her. Also his status as her brother-in-law also made him confident of his own chances of winning her love, but he was often perplexed at Ruoxi's hot and cold behaviour towards him. When he finally managed to gain her love at the outing camp, he was pleased with himself and made no effort in hiding his pride by telling Yinti (14th Prince) that he could finally address Ruoxi as his sister-in-law; thus putting his claim on Ruoxi and a way of telling his brothers that she was his. However, when Ruoxi rejected him, he was initially bewildered but then he was angered because she made him choose between his ambitions for the throne and her. Yinsi could not understand it and being the complacent guy he is, as portrayed in the series, could not accept why Ruoxi could not see the fact that he could have the best of both worlds. He withdrew from Ruoxi although it could be seen that he still cared for her and tried to protect her from harm, by joining forces with Yinzhen to foil the Crown Prince's plans to marry Ruoxi.
Yinsi was unhappy when he suspected that Ruoxi could have fallen for Yinzhen, and tried to warn her to stay away from Yinzhen who would be his biggest nemesis in competing for the throne. (It was perhaps due to the competition for the throne and also Ruoxi which led to the competitive struggle between these two princes, as it seemed from this story).
Yinsi just could not accept that Ruoxi had moved on after breaking up with him, and that showed his obsessive and possessive streak; and he seemed to be so intent on winning, it seems to me.
To me, Yinsi did not truly understand the meaning of love as he felt that to love is to possess and to be with the person and he just could not bear that Ruoxi moved past him and had fallen for someone else (although it was also his stepbrother). Had Yinsi not thought of whether Ruoxi was happier with Yinzhen? He just wanted her so badly that he was blinded by his own wants and needs that Ruoxi's heart mattered nothing at all?
I just find myself a little perplexed at Yinsi as well; for how could he claimed he loved Ruolan so deeply yet could still want Ruoxi? Is that still love, or did he not care about Ruolan's feelings? It is just plain weird. Then did Yinsi not care about the effects it could have on the sisters' relationship, which would just become more complicated as the sisters would both be competing for one husband. Perhaps it was his intention as well that he wanted Ruoxi so that he could have Ruolan at the same time (Ruoxi could coax her sister into accepting him?). How about his first wife, Minghui? She had done nothing wrong and she did not deserve his hot and cold behaviour towards her; he is only nice to her when he needed her help due to her family background. That just made him look like a casanova.
To me, Yinsi is a guy who loved himself above others; and he is just too intent on having the whole world to himself and I could not really blame him either as I watched his own background and facing neglect from his own father due to his mother's background which evoked his fighting spirit to fight for everything he really wanted in his life.
However, he was a pitiful guy and I still admire his kindness towards Ruoxi throughout the series and even until the end; although he was angry over his wife's death, he never really blamed Ruoxi and even wanted Ruoxi to live happily with Yinti and told her to forget everyone including himself as she exits the Forbidden City. He is still not that bad of a guy who loved Ruoxi, after all, although at the end, it was more of a friendly and brotherly love he had for her.

Ruoxi and Yinzhen (4th Prince) - * My Favourite Couple*
Nature of Relationship: True Love
Yinzhen to Ruoxi: Yinzhen is Ruoxi's one and only true love; the man she would stand by at all times despite knowing that he would be the future emperor of the dynasty.
Ruoxi sees Yinzhen as: Dangerous, cold, fearsome, pitiful, compassionate and not fully expressive

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I wanted to leave this for the last; but then again, according to the order of Yinzhen's position among the brothers and also in Ruoxi's heart, Yinzhen had to be moved up to the top of the list.
Well, Ruoxi and Yinzhen did not get off to a good start as Ruoxi's first impression of him was more of fear and intimidation rather than even the mere feeling of like and it is not hard to understand why as Ruoxi, being someone from the future had already known the future and Yinzhen was to be the next Emperor; Yongzhen and based on the history that she knew, his succession to the throne would be one of major dispute and he had been portrayed as someone who was stern and also ruthless in achieving his ambition. I could understand why Ruoxi tried to stay away from him and yet made sure she did not offend him as much as possible. Knowing that he will be the future emperor put Ruoxi on her guard against him, and she initially tried to avoid him but knowing that she will need to be in the palace, she took precaution to treat him well and also to make sure he is happy by taking his special likes, dislikes and needs into consideration. However, little did she know that her minor gestures which was meant to protect herself against future danger but she had also inevitably attracted the attention of the 4th and also all the other princes who perceived her little actions as affections towards the 4th Prince.
From what I observed, I guess Yinzhen had also noticed her from the first time they met (Episode 1, yes, they met really early, right from the start of the story) and I should say that there are a few stages in this relationship; from the time they met until the deep involvement, romantically, of course

Stage 1: Curiosity vs Fear/Intimidated
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When Yinzhen first saw her, it was more of surprise and curiosity as Ruoxi's running to the streets and stopping his horse while Ruoxi never, in her wildest imagination thought that she would be encountering the grim Yinzhen, whom she knew would be the next Emperor; Yongzhen. Hearing her maid Qiaohui telling her that the man on the horse was the 4th Prince Yinzhen made her wary of his presence and that she had just blocked the way of a future emperor and remembering her historical facts, Yinzhen was often portrayed as one of fearsome personality and his disputed succession to the throne added to the common perception that he is brutal and cold in his ways. Ruoxi wanted nothing to do with him, if possible at that time upon learning his identity while Yinzhen, found himself curious about this young lady who was related to his 8th brother as she was his young and bubbly sister-in-law. Yinzhen was probably curious about her but I guess, his personality and careful nature kept him at bay from approaching her further although he wanted to know the reason she was trying to seek death at such a young age that made him constantly approaching her to find the truth. However, he was a man of composure and realizing that she would not be saying much, he left her at that and decided not to pester her further. Her popularity with his other brothers did stirred up more of his curiosity but being the elder one and also I guess it was in his inner personality that he never liked to reveal his thoughts/emotions on his face, he tried to act cool in front of everyone and no one ever suspected that he had the slightest interest in her. I think I am not wrong if I were to say that everyone probably thought that the 4th was just like the 9th Prince, who did not care about Ruoxi's existence as well. At the same time, he knew that his brothers were all in some way or another interested or involved with her and also her rumors with 10th Prince made him just stay away from her although you could see that he was still keeping an eye on her most of the time whenever she was around. He was already fascinated with her antics, just like all his brothers although unlike them, he never publicly showed it. When he thought that she was just a fascinating character who was quite unique among their required formality, then her actions in finding out about his likes and dislikes through his confidante, the 13th Prince and then serving him his favourite tea and designing a cup based on his favourite magnolia flower compared to the other princes, he was again piqued with interest by her and he started wondering whether Ruoxi had feelings for him. So, I would say at the earlier stage, the 4th was constantly curious about Ruoxi and wanted to know what she was actually thinking; from the reason she wanted to commit suicide to her bold thoughts and actions and then to her real feelings for him as she was constantly doing things for him as even the 13th Prince who was close to Ruoxi chided her for never bothering to find out about his interests while she asked about the 4th and then did everything according to his likes. It did appear like she cared about him a lot compared to the other princes and the 4th could not help but formulate the impression that she could be interested in him more than the rest of his brothers.
Ruoxi, on the contrary, was afraid of him the moment she knew his identity during their first encounter and tried to avoid him as much as possible, although he was constantly appearing around her and asked for her reason that she rushed to the streets. Although she was scared, she engaged in small chat with him out of formality and also of politeness and I guess, she also wanted to hear what an intelligent person would say to her situation or at least shed light on a solution. When she was to report to the palace and then served the Emperor, she was also constantly in the presence of the princes whom would engage in official matters with the Emperor and she knew that she could not escape from meeting all the princes. As she did not know the duration she would be stuck in that era, she had to go with the flow and since she was fearful of the events that would eventually occur to create what she had learnt in history, she tried her best to maintain a distance from the 4th Prince and yet avoid offending him as much as possible although it was a little difficult. Knowing his future that he would ascend the throne and become one of the famous Qing emperors, Ruoxi then made it a point to please him so that she could be safe and unharmed in the future when he ascends the throne as she had done nothing to offend him. Also, Ruoxi was quite intimidated by the cold exterior of the 4th Prince compared to the other princes who can also be rather stern with her and she just did not feel comfortable around him. Her knowledge was probably the contributing factor because she knew he is not that simple of a guy and there must be many plans or plots running through his mind to achieve his ambitions.
So, it was more of like a chess game initially between these two where Yinzhen was trying to approach and find out, while Ruoxi was trying to retreat and stay low and kept their relationship as simple as possible.

Stage 2: Distant vs Distressed
Despite his initial demeanour as a composed and calm person, Ruoxi was taken aback by his willingness to teach her riding lessons in replacement of the 13th Prince and then his aggressiveness in forcibly kissing her. She must have thought to herself then, "Gosh, is he going to take things further?" and must have been extremely petrified that she did her best to fend off his advances by biting his lips to stop his actions there and then. Of course, at that time, she liked the 8th prince and so she had no interest in the 4th whatsoever and she was also unhappy and shocked that he would kiss her so suddenly. Pushing him away, she left the 4th Prince perplexed as to her real thoughts/emotions for him but I like that he was a gentleman and he let her go immediately and even mentioned that he would not resort to force to win her heart because he wanted things to take its own nature rather than pushing the limit but the poor 4th must have been bewildered that his assumptions were incorrect and he could not understand the reason she is treating him in a special way compared to the rest and yet she is pushing him away at that moment. The 4th also mentioned that he thought that was what she wanted at that time but he knew to leave her alone after that and even told the 13th that he would leave her matters to him and he would no longer meddle in things regarding her. He kept his word and also his distance at that point, although it was just for a short while.
Ruoxi, at that point, was not just petrified by his actions but also shocked when she was told by the 13th that her actions were rather obvious signs of affections for the 4th and that the 4th was also interested in her already. She denied her feelings for him and started to worry about the outlook of her actions and whether the 8th Prince would have the same assumption as she did not want to mislead him since her interest was in the 8th Prince at that time. Therefore, there was this period of time where Yinzhen was distant while Ruoxi was distressed at the outcome of her own actions which was supposed to protect herself from future harm while Yinzhen was left wondering at his own assumption as he had prided in his own wits and intelligence and yet it was wrong.

Stage 3: Action vs Avoid
Despite Yinzhen's initial plan to keep his distance, I guess his interest in her and also his intent to win her heart got the better of him and he started to make his first move towards her. However, it was a bold and subtle attempt at the same time as he sent her gifts and letters. It was also due to Yinzhen's calculated confidence and also his wisdom (remember that Yinzhen is older than Ruoxi?), that Ruoxi definitely did like him and she had not realize it that made him decide to make a move towards her. Yinzhen is not a guy who acts rashly and takes calculated moves; it is just in his nature and I can see that he will not do anything unless he is more than half assured that it will work and he told Ruoxi that since she had started it unintentionally, it is not up to her to call it quits and he would not give up. It showed his confidence and maybe a little arrogance? that he could win her heart eventually. Ruoxi, however, wanted nothing to do with the future emperor nor to be entangled in the brothers' political struggles that she tried to keep away from Yinzhen and also she was still attracted to Yinsi instead of Yinzhen; where she saw the former as a more gentle and loving type while the latter is dangerous beneath his calm. Therefore, again, this stage returns to the chess game where Yinzhen made the move and Ruoxi just wanted to retreat.

Stage 4: Attraction and falling in love
Yinzhen was gradually developing feelings for Ruoxi who impressed him with her wit and enthusiasm and perhaps also her bold and unique way of thinking compared to people of their era. Ruoxi was also slowly getting drawn to his character and this development was also thanks to their middle man, Yinxiang (13th prince) from whom they both received information about each other and Ruoxi, from observing the way Yinzhen behaved realized that he was not as bad as he seemed from her assumption. In fact, Yinzhen is a rather reserved and also extremely cautious person besides being perceptive. He is also not one who trusts people easily until he knows them or studies them in and out, and that was really obvious from the way he behaves around people. However, Ruoxi, as she starts to know him in person found herself fascinated and even impressed with his ability to stay calm and also composed at all times and that he is also not as ruthless as he seemed to be depicted in history but rather, deep down inside, he is also like everyone else, as he had admitted to her. It is not like that he had no feelings, but his upbringing and also his status as an older prince had led him to behave like one who had to be calm and composed at all times and that was also the reason he find it hard to express his inner feelings or emotions. He was brought up under the strict governance of his mother, Consort De and he was taught to be a role model to his younger brother, the 14th, and with such rules, it is no wonder he developed such a formidable character. He never learnt to love, or to trust anyone easily nor does he have that much fun and in my opinion, Yinzhen must have had quite a tough childhood, the poor guy. Ruoxi's cheerful and bubbly character which initially fascinated him also started to impress him. I guess it was because Ruoxi could do and say things in the ways that he wished he could yet he could not, and for that, I think he was jealous, impressed and in awe of her for being so bold. He slowly learnt to let go a little especially around her, and he also learnt to trust her and I believe that part was influenced by 13th Prince. You see, Yinzhen trusted Yinxiang, and he knew that Yinxiang's impression could not be that bad and Ruoxi and Yinxiang seemed to get along so well, that Yinzhen just wanted to be part of that equation. Yinzhen slowly fell for her and it was beautifully depicted in the drama, and perhaps he did not realize that he had moved towards the love stage, or maybe he was just too afraid to admit it (remember that Yinzhen is never one who could openly admit his own feelings), but he knew the reality when he started seeing her performing although it was Princess Minmin at that time and he knew that Ruoxi had crept into his heart. Ruoxi also found herself thinking of him despite liking Yinsi (8th Prince), and it was obvious as she was even thinking of him when Yinsi tried to kiss her for the first time. Like Yinzhen, she tried to push the thought out of her mind, but she found that Yinzhen's presence start to make her feel different compared to fear initially and she also started to enjoying sharing light banter with him.

Stage 5: Love, Trust and Sacrifice
The most beautiful yet moving stage as the two started to move towards each other in their mind and heart yet physically, they acted cool before each other; or rather, on Ruoxi's part because she was aware of the future which awaits all the princes. She had her doubts in Yinzhen but yet her heart told her otherwise and she found herself impressed with his subtle moves to win her heart and deep down inside, she had started to accept him although she did not want to admit it yet. She enjoyed his gifts and the light moments/glances shared with him in the presence of others and she found herself fascinated with his little jokes and also his way of showing his affection, yet she just did not want to admit it herself. When Yinzhen hinted to her about her lack of control of her own future/fate/marriage, especially with her growing popularity before the Emperor, she retorted back that she would not allow anyone to decide for her and Yinzhen told her that she would need to be prepared to kill herself and also dragging her innocent family members into the same predicament because of her mistake. Maybe she was trying to play hard to get, or also she did not care that much until tragedy strikes; which was the Crown Prince's forward request to ask for her hand in marriage directly from Kangxi that she realized that she was truly helpless. Her fear and anxiety caused her to fall sick and it was then that Yinzhen showed his true feelings of care and concern, and of course love, when he turned up at her room through his own tactics to check on her. I believe that was the point when Ruoxi truly started to  decide to leave her fate to him; partly because she knew that he was the most dependable since he would be the future emperor and also because she already start to realize her feelings for him.
Yinzhen was initially disappointed when she answered that there was no one she could consider marrying or depend on but when Ruoxi asked him to marry her after the Crown Prince issue, it was obvious that he seemed elated although he tried to hide it from being too apparent. I liked how Yinzhen slowly transitioned from someone who was grim and stern with Ruoxi to being affectionate, caring and gentle towards her and sometimes even playful while Ruoxi matured from being a girly and childish young lass to a more understanding and stable lady. She may have asked him to marry her because she knew he would be her safest bet based on history, as compared to the other princes, but then when she tried to test him on his intentions, she was surprised that he was just so open with her and told her a truth directly and it was something that he did not even tell his best confidante, Yinxiang. As mentioned in her final letter to him before her death at the end, that was the turning point when he had unlocked the key to her heart and she found herself trusting him and he had truly established a place in her heart. Ruoxi started to enjoy being with him and even Yinzhen no longer intimidate her, as he was a totally different person with her; obvious when Yinzhen did not even get angry despite her playing a prank on him. Their fun and happiness was shortlived as the battle of the princes soon began shortly after in the series and Yinzhen was pulled into a web of lies where he was framed of resorting to tactics to depose the Crown Prince and it was all set up by Yinsi. This was when their love blossomed into true love as they each felt pain for Yinxiang, yet they were also tugged towards each other in their hearts as they were both separated. Yinzhen could no longer ask for her hand in marriage due to his falling from his father's favor, and Ruoxi did not ask him for more and yet tried to save both him and Yinxiang, although she also had to tread on her paths carefully. They could no longer be with each other physically and I think it was this brutal period which forced them to grow up and mature; especially for Yinzhen who had so much on his mind and I could understand his helplessness in not being able to stand up for his best buddy and confidante and also the love of his life; the two most important people in his heart. There was just so much pain in him and he was even more pained when he realized Ruoxi did not even hate him yet was understanding enough to accept his will without the need for him to explain to her in words, at all. Their love was put to the test when they were further torn apart; with Yinzhen backing from the official court matters and Ruoxi being demoted to the laundry department for defying the Emperor's orders to marry Yinti. This was the part where their love was really proved in its faith and endurance, as Ruoxi, despite knowing that she could die for defying the Emperor, still chose to do it at the risk of incurring the wrath of Kangxi just because she simply could not accept marrying someone she did not love. It was probably because Ruoxi did not want to hurt Yinti, because she simply did not love him and it would be unfair to him if she were to just marry him. It is a modern thinking but Ruoxi is from our era, anyway. However, the ultimate reason was because she loved Yinzhen too much and she wanted to wait for him because she knew he would be the final victor although it would mean years (she knows the year he would ascend the throne) and she is aware of that fact, yet she is willing to suffer unknowingly washing clothes to be with Yinzhen, or maybe never end up with him. It was something she did not know, but yet she was willing to do it and give up the only way to escape the Forbidden City and it was purely out of her love for Yinzhen. That was true love at that point, and even Yinzhen was moved by her sacrifice, which made him even more determined to save her, at all costs. It shaped history, and as according to this drama, perhaps it was also one of the reasons why Yinzhen decided to put his plans in action and ensure that he could be the ultimate authority figure so that he could protect his loved ones.
I find their love for each other really moving because unlike her romance with Yinsi, this truly lacked actions, gestures or even intimacy yet it was so strong that we viewers could just feel it and we would cry when they are apart and be happy when they are together. Yinzhen and Ruoxi just proved to us that true love does not mean or need being together all the time or physically, but rather, emotionally and also being linked in their minds and hearts. Yinzhen need not explain yet Ruoxi knew what he was going through and also why he did things in the way he did, while the whole world misunderstood him. Even Yinzhen admitted that she knew him best, besides Yinxiang, and he never had to worry whether she was angry with him because he knew, that Ruoxi, being Ruoxi, would never abandon him and for that, he was determined to make sure she had a happy end. Their love, although subjected to the harsh fate of the Emperor's decision and favour towards Yinti, was unfailing and Yinzhen knew that. Ruoxi never demanded him for anything nor pressured him to save her immediately, but rather, waited patiently in the background and she even started supporting him blindly out of her love for him. Yinzhen did not know how long he had to succeed yet he was impressed with Ruoxi's determination and silent support, even when he could no longer assure her of his plans or whether he could rescue her. Well, Yinzhen did not know Ruoxi know, but honestly, when Ruoxi was subjected to the laundry department, it meant demotion and lots of hard work and she still strived through it and subject herself to harsh conditions for years; and for a woman, it meant all her years of beauty and youth were spent in a lowly department. She could escape with Yinti, and hope to return to the future era, but she did not want to, because she cared about Yinzhen and she wanted to be with him. She could not enjoy luxury when Yinzhen was suffering and being abandoned. There were simply no words of exchange but only their occasional meeting and also their endearing thoughts and images of each other and that was just simpy so moving and beautiful, in my opinion. Ruoxi's only request is that Yinzhen should never forget her, or at least before she had forgotten about him and that was also directly telling him that she could never put him out of his mind and how could Yinzhen not be moved by that? Ruoxi was not the only one who sacrificed as Yinzhen risked his own life to save her from the arrow because he did not want to see her hurt, and Ruoxi was just truly touched by him. Theirs was true love, and I think Yinzhen truly loved Ruoxi, as compared to his wives, whom he married because of his father's arrangement.
Somehow I felt that Yinzhen would never truly have felt loved or have loved because like all the princes, they did not choose their wives but rather had to marry just because their father, the emperor said so and maybe Yinzhen thought that marrying would mean love until he met Ruoxi. Maybe it is not wrong to say that Yinzhen loved Ruoxi the most, but then again, this man had my respect as he showed that he was not one to toy around as despite his love for Ruoxi, he did not want to abandon his wives and that is one responsible man. His wives stood by him in times of distress, and he did not want to hurt them even when he wanted Ruoxi so badly. This is a true gentleman.

Stage 6: Unconditional Love vs Betrayal and Endearment
Ruoxi, despite knowing history, also knew that Yinzhen's succession was probably staged by Longkodo, yet for her love, she went along with him and blindly supported him thus backing out of her loyalty for Kangxi and her mentor Eunuch Li. At that point, I could feel that Ruoxi did not care about the truth but rather to help Yinzhen ascend the throne only. It is no wonder Yinzhen would love her so deeply even when he had ascended the throne to become Emperor Yongzhen. He tried to fulfil everything for her; besides dethroning/divorcing his own wives, and he was totally open and down-to-earth with her despite his status of ultimate power. He was himself with her, and there were no reservations. However, this is where things start to be sad, because Ruoxi started to withdraw from him but not only because of fear for this historical figure but also because she loved him too much and did not want her feelings to upset him. Yongzhen was starting to take revenge towards those who framed him, which include even his own princes and this was when Ruoxi was inevitable thrown into the dilemma and political struggle, because although she loved Yongzhen, she could not turn her backs on the other princes whom she cared about and this was where conflict starts. Yongzhen still tried to protect her feelings and kept things from her so that she would not be torn in-between and also to ensure that she would not be involved in the men's matters of conflict. Ruoxi, on the contrary, could not help knowing the truth and the appearances of the wives of the princes made her realize the truth and became miserable which angered Yongzhen more because it would affect her health. Yongzhen was also furious because they were dragging Ruoxi into their battle and he would not have her hurt or suffer again, and that made him plot against them more. As he had mentioned to Yinxiang, whom he sought to help advise Ruoxi, Ruoxi cared about everyone else except herself but he only cared about her and the fact that Ruoxi's failing health which subjected her to only a decade left to live made Yongzhen even more anxious and it triggered him to unleash his anger unto them. Ruoxi should have realized that, but she then learns the brutal truth when Minghui, Yinsi's wife, under the influence of 9th Prince revealed to her that she had indirectly caused the misfortunes of Yinxiang and Yinzhen back then due to her warning to Yinsi to be wary of Yinzhen and his allies (she gave him a list of names). Ruoxi suffered a miscarriage then and could no longer bear children anymore, and Yongzhen was even more angry and punished Yinsi severely by ordering him to divorce Minghui, who was the culprit but led to Minghui killing herself after losing Yinsi as her husband as she is deeply devoted to Yinsi. When Mingyu approached Ruoxi to plead for her favor to help the 10th Prince, Ruoxi then revealed to Yongzhen the truth which made him felt totally betrayed and he started to give her the cold shoulder. Their relationship probably suffered a crack then and Ruoxi could no longer tolerate the mental stress of being ignored by her loved one, and also whether her presence would also lead to the tragic fates of all the other princes that she opted to leave and had Yinxiang deliver a word to Yinti who came to ask for her hand in marriage based on Kangxi's edict which was issued when he was still alive. Yongzhen, although was unwilling, then suffered another blow to his pain of betrayal when Yinsi told him about his romance with Ruoxi at one point and Yongzhen's heart could no longer take it. Actually while everyone thought Yongzhen was pissed at Ruoxi (even Ruoxi thought so), he let her go because he loved her too much, in my opinion. He knew she was so unhappy, and although he was disappointed that there were so many things Ruoxi hid from him and also dealing with his anger, he knew he could never make her happy and to ensure that she could live on without having to witness his cruelty towards his brothers, he knew he had to let her go. Yinxiang assured him that Ruoxi and Yinti's marriage would only be in name, but even if Yinxiang did not tell him, Yongzhen did know that fact. Yes, their love had grown so strong and stable that despite feeling betrayed, Yongzhen still had faith in Ruoxi's love for him. His gesture to have spies in Yinti's house was more to learn about Ruoxi's antics, because he still truly cared for her although he was upset again when it was reported that they held hands. I was impressed that despite the years apart and also their distance from each other, they still loved each other so much. They are the best example of "Distance makes the heart grow fonder".
Ruoxi, although initially wanted to run away from the palace still could not get over her love, and as she neared her death, she wanted so badly to see him for one last time and bid him farewell although she was afraid that he would still be angry with her. Sadly, due to a misunderstanding, Yongzhen never turned up and Ruoxi died with her memories of him and hoping that he would forgive her while Yongzhen had to live with her last words and memories of her. I feel really sad for them both, because it seemd like throughout their relationship, they were rarely together in person and they are still separated at death. Their love story is just so moving yet so emotionally-provoking that I felt myself grieving for them and I could not help feeling sorry and miserable for Yongzhen, who had to live with the guilt for not being able to see her/fulfil her last wish and knowing that she never stopped loving him. That, I think would be worse than death.

Through all the stages, Yinzhen was definitely Ruoxi's true love and the only one, and there is no way to compare to Yinsi and her relationship. Yinzhen and Ruoxi's love is not like any ordinary relationship but one that is deeply moving and pure that I was just so impressed and saddened at the same time, but they made love so beautiful in their relationship as despite not being able to be with each other all the time, there was still such intensity of their romance in the air that their love showed that you do not need actions alone but silence and subtlety are just so wonderful.
Therefore, there is no reason to doubt why I would love this couple so much; and I am not the only one, along with all the millions of fans out there who are all vouching for Ruoxi and the 4th Prince.

Ruoxi and Yinti (14th Prince)
Nature of Relationship: Friends, Infatuation, Love, Dependence
Yinti sees Ruoxi as: Interesting, Brave, Admirable, Potential Spouse
Ruoxi sees Yinti as: Rash, Temperamental, Dependable Confidante/Benefactor

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These two started off as just acquaintances based on their mutual connections to the 8th Prince; Ruoxi was his sister-in-law while Yinti was his brother and ally, although it was mentioned by Yinti that he also grew up with Ruoxi, like all the other princes. Yinti was a staunch supporter of Yinsi and knew of his relationship with Ruoxi, and he even helped to ask his mother, Consort De, to take Ruoxi's name off the Imperial consort selection list. He supported Yinsi's pursuit of Ruoxi and even encouraged her to accept him; constantly pestering her to make her decision and even wondered her doubts in Yinsi especially taking note of Yinsi's care towards her. He can be quite annoying towards Ruoxi, as sometimes I wonder, what has that got to to do with him; whether Ruoxi wanted to be with Yinsi or not. He did not have a good impression of Ruoxi and thought of her as one who was toying with Yinsi's feelings, especially after Ruoxi broke up with Yinsi. He then badgered her for her decision but yet at the same time, he was also torn between his gratitude for her help in risking her own life to save him from the Crown Prince during their outing. Yinti then was confused with his feelings and thoughts of Ruoxi, but after watching her closeness to Yinxiang and how they were friendly with each other, he found himself yearning to earn Ruoxi's trust and friendship. Slowly, Yinti developed more than friendly feelings for Ruoxi, but he kept them hidden out of respect for Yinsi although he was still anxious to help her whenever she was in trouble.
Ruoxi saw Yinti as a mutual acquaintance, and then as someone who was just plain troublesome as he constantly came after her with questions and accusations. However, she still tried to help him when he was in trouble or whenever she could, although she could not compare her friendship to him to that of hers and Yinxiang. She was grateful for his help and intervention whenever she was in trouble, but that was just that. She could not have any more feelings for him and that was the part where Yinti is truly pitiful. In terms of friendship, he could not have that like Yinxiang. In love, he could not have Ruoxi like Yinzhen and in terms of admiration, he could not have that of Yinsi.
Yinti was truly like someone who was neglected around Ruoxi, but in terms of parental love, he had no lack of it compared to all the other princes as he was loved and spoilt by his own mother and even earned the favour of the Emperor, ahead of all the princes when the Crown Prince was deposed. He was even the prospective candidate for the next heir to the throne.
However, in love and with his relationship with Ruoxi, he was truly pitiful as he never earned her love like Yinzhen nor did he earn her trust like Yinxiang; which was why he offered her himself as her dependent should she need any help in the future and that was probably the reason why he was willing to marry her although she did not love him and only needed him as a place to escape from the Forbidden City. Based on that fact, I believe Yinti loved Ruoxi and it is definitely no lesser than Yinzhen as he was willing to subdue his feelings and only cared for her happiness. Unlike Yinsi, he never really cared if he could have her by his side, and was content to support her in all her decisions and her choice of the man she loved. He even offered to be her backup if things fail with her loved one, and that is absolutely such an admirable act and I could not help but be impressed with him towards the middle of the series as his character slowly matured.
Yinti's love for Ruoxi was unconditional as well, and somehow, I just felt that he was just like Yinzhen; although they did not realize it, but the two blood brothers did share something similar after all; and that is in their devotion to love which is respectable.
Ruoxi also cared and respected him but that was the most she could offer Yinti, and though it was selfish, she still asked for his help to escape from her misery in the palace and it is indeed a little cruel that she even begged Yinti to send message so that she could see Yongzhen for the last time.
The relationship between these two; is more of a one-way though unconditional one and it was still touching with Yinti's devotion to Ruoxi.

To be continued with more reviews...

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