Saturday, October 24, 2015

Nirvana in Fire Episode 1

The show start in a battle field with fire raging in the background.  A spear pierced through a soldier's heart. The sound of soldiers falling. Blood was every where. Another soldier cut down by a blade. Another fell with arrows piercing his chest. Another die. And another. A war flag went down.

 A young soldier, face coved with blood watched as a blade strike him down, disbelieve and anguish in his eyes.

A bloodied hand holding the young soldier dangling on a cliff in the next scene. " Xiao Shu, You must live. For the sake of Chi-Yan."  The owner of the hand said as he let go of  the young soldier from the earlier scene. The boy screamed "Father!" as he fell into the abyss below.

It is flash back and a scene from a recurring nightmare. The owner woke, hands crunching a bracelet with a single character "Ling" etched on it. Its resemblance to the flag of the battle scene tells us that this is the boy from the battle. He look up, eyes filled with anguish and determination.

A dove delivered a message to a beautiful manor in the mountains, bringing news that the prince of a neighbouring land, Yan had been made crown prince. We were introduce to the manor which seems to have an elaborated and effective system in place for receiving and managing information. The owner predicted the news will reach the princes of this land in no time, signing to himself that  "he" accomplished the deed.

The manor is the Manor of LangYa, and have a reputation of knowing everything in the land.  Manor of LangYa, is in the business of supplying answers for a fee. Pay the price quoted for your question and thou shall receive the answer in a sachet. The rich and powerful pay them patronage frequently and Manor of LangYa give back to society by realising their top ten list of who's who in different categories, from who is the most powerful pugilist to who is the most beautiful maiden.

We were in introduced to the Royal Family of Liang. The country of Liang have two princes vying for the throne, the Crown Prince and Prince Yu. The crown prince is the son of the Emperor's favourite consort, Grand Consort Yue. Prince Yu's mother is a low ranking consort who died long ago, but he is also the adopted son of the Empress. Prince Yu is viewed as a capable prince whom the Emperor favoured, much to the jealousy and awe of the crown prince. Both princes and their respective mums were constantly trying to one up the other in power and in gaining the Emperor's favour. In our introduction scenem Emperor Liang is pleased with Prince Yu's  completion of a task, namely to inspect the governing and situation of the seven states and decide to reward him with a promotion.

 Prince Yu, hears from his minion about the situation of the neighbouring country, Yan. The sixth son of Yan had become crown prince despite having been in obscurity and having fierce competition from his other brothers. It is unexpected and  the minon shared that Yan's crown prince succeed after receiving a LangYa Sachet. Needless to say, Prince Yu wants to know what's the answer given in the sachet. ---The one who gets the Kylin Scholar gets the Land.

At this point it becomes apparent that things between the princes are way beyond your usual sibling rivalry as as Prince Yu encounter a blush with an assassin presumably sent by his brother. The assassin was shifty taken care of and the encounter make Prince Yu even more determine to win his brother in the race for the throne.

So. Who's the Kylin Scholar? Since the new Yan's Crown prince refuse to reveal the answer, both Liang's Crown Prince and Prince Yu quickly sent their men to give more business to the Manor of LangYa and the owner of  the Manor of LangYa give both of them the same answer.

Both Princes sought out their advisers for the identity of this guy. We are introduced to the Crown Prince's advisor Marquess Xie Yu and Prince Yu's advisor, the beautiful Qing Ban Ruo who inform their respective masters about what they know of  the Kylin Scholar.

He is no other than our hero, Mei Chang Su, the guy who woke up to the recurring nightmare when the story begins.
Chang Su is the leader of Ziang Zhuo Meng, a powerful alliance in the Ziang Zhuo Region in the state of Lang Zhuo and the reigning champion on the Manor of LangYa yearly top ten list.

Strangely, while many highly skilled martial art experts listens to hie commands, Chang Su does not know any marital art himself, and appears more like a sickly scholar. The princes' advisers attribute his success to his unparalleled wit and cunning.

The next scene shows a poor old couple in a boat trying escaping from a fleet of ships. They were being escorted by the people who work for the crown prince, escaping from a powerful lord who is in alliance with Prince Yu. The escorts speed to reach the part of the river that is under the control of Ziang Zhuo Meng, knowing that they will be safe.

Sure enough, their pursuer stop on their tracks to the sound of someone playing a tune on a flute. Our hero appears, on a tiny boat playing a melancholic tune as his boat came into view and finally stop in front of the fleet.

As he politely and coldly ask them to go if they are being hired to kill anyone and the lead hedge-man immediately agreed.

The rich guy who hired the pursuers  brusquely exclaimed that he is only pursuing his own slaves, so what's the problem with that. His insolent outburst sent his hedge man into near panic.

A flicker of anger flash in Chang Su's eye and his teen body guard flew up, jumping onto the ship and throw the rich guy into the water. The hedge men retreat quickly in fear leaving their client in the water.

In the Capital, the old couple arrived in the capital safely. Their escort  turns out to be the son in law of the Marquess Xie Yu from the House of Ning.  Xie Yu is married to the Emperor's Sister, Princess Li Yang.

The Emperor shared his frustration of his sons' unfriendly competition with his Eunuch Gao,  having heard that both his favoured sons were vying for the Kylin Scholar. "There;s a rumour that The one who gets the Kylin Scholar gets the Land. - as if MY Land can be gotten so easily" he scoffed.

Back in Lang Zhuo, Su Zhe leisurely read a book while his assistant reports on the management of the alliance. Chang Su's cute little body guard, Fei Lui (His name means Flight )  is having a good time flying up and down the roof until a voice called his name. He quickly hides as the visitor, the owner of  the Manor of LangYa arrived. His name is Ling Cheng and he and Chang Su are on familiar terms.

The scene cuts to two young men, Yu Jin (Son of the Queen's brother) and  Jin Rui (Son of Princess Li Yang and Marquess Xie Yu ) They are shopping while on their way to visit Su Zhe. Jin Rui had made friends with Su Zhe by a chanced encounter and he is inviting Su Zhe to stay with him in the capital to help him recover from his illness.
 Ling Cheng tries to convince Chang Su not to go to the capital with Jin Rui as his father, the Marquess Xie Yu  is known to be deep in the fight between the crown prince and Prince Yu. Ling Cheng feels that staying at Marquess Xie Yu house is too dangerous for Chang Su. Chang Su disagree, confident that his preparation at the Capital is sufficient for him to keep himself safe. Ling Cheng is also Chang Su's physician. He frown and sign after checking on Chang Su's pulse which invites a protest from Chang Su "Are you here to sent me off or to stop me from going?"  "Can I stop you?" Ling Cheng retort. "I knew since 12 years ago that you will go back to the Capitol - the City of Jing Ling " Chang Su ask Ling Cheng how much longer does he have (to live? )

 Ling Cheng : How long do you need?
 Chang Su:  Two years
 Ling Chen: Sure, bring along 10  physicians
 Chang Su: Silent long look
 Ling Cheng: Sign

 He give Chang Su a bottle of pills, telling him to eat it when he feels unwell and remember to sent for him when he is almost done. A ghost of a smile appears on Chang Su as he says sincerely that having Ling Cheng is the better having 10  physicians. Suddenly bashful, Ling Cheng turns his attention to address Fei Lui, who suddenly appears upside down from the ceiling. As he tease Fei Lui, Chang Su goes deep in thought. Is that a scowl that appears?

Chang Su, Yu Jin and Jin Rui arrived just outside the city of Jing Ling, with Chang Su in a carriage while the younger men were on horses. They were ask to stay on the sides at the gate to make way for the Duchess. A group of soldiers on horseback came charging by and Yu Jin and Jin Rui happily greet the Duchess as "Big Sister Ni Huang" Duchess

Chang Su watched wistfully from his carriage as Ni Huang  proceed to test the young men on their pugilist skills, beating both of them swiftly and squarely. She praise them on their progress before riding off.

Chang Su arrived at the House of Ning and contemplate a big sign that says "Pillar of the Country", apparently the sign is written by the Emperor  himself in recognition of  Marquess Xie Yu's military accomplishment in crushing the a massive enemy invasion 12 years ago.

Chang Su reminded Jing Rui that he will only like to be know as Shu Zhe during his stay so as to avoid inconvenience cause by his real identity. Jing Rui readily agrees and proceed to introduce Shu Zhe to his younger brother, Xie Bi, who greets them warmly before proceeding to pay their greetings to the Marquess.
 The  Marquess is in a meeting with his son in law, who reports to his father that he had escort the old couple to the magistrate who will look at their case. Marquess Xie Yu is pleased, not because justice will be served but because the culprit is a trusted minion of Prince Yu. This means that Prince Yu may also be implicated.
At the announcement that Jing Rui is back, the son in law quickly take his leave, leaving by the back door so to avoid Jing Rui.

While Jing Rui is happy to see his father, Marquess Xie Yu appears cold and  reprimand his son for staying away for too long. That's until he notice Chang Su, who is also eyeing him, poker face.

As Chang Su greet Marquess Xie Yu with impeccable manners, we see that he is the man that have cut down our young Xiao Shu in the nightmare war scene. It's not just a nightmare isn't it? Is Chang Su really Xiao Shu? They looked totally different. A mixed expression on Marquess Xie Yu. Definitely not an expression of a loving parent meeting his son's friend for the first time. Did he sense something?

 Next we see Ni Huang in the Palace with the Emperor. Ni Huang is Duchess of  the House of Mu in the State of Yun Nan and is favoured by the Emperoras she had protect the border of Liang from it's aggressive neighbour for the past 10 years. She is in the city of Jing Ling as the Emperor is organising a pugilist competition to help her find a suitable consort. It is agreed that she will challenge the top ten candidates and choose her consort from there.The Emperor seems amicable and fatherly here. From their conversation, we know that Ni Huang's younger brother has just come of age and is taking over the role of the head of the House of Mu and that Ni Huang is one of the top pugilistic expert of the land according to the LangYa top ten list.

As they come to the end of their conversation, the Emperor's equivalent of a secret investigation service arrived. The reporting investigator is Xia Dong, a high ranking investigator is assigned to investigate into the case of the old couple who had complaint that their pursuer Duke Qing had commit multiple murders and many other crimes.

Xia Dong is also a good friend of Ni Huang, having fight a war together.  We learned that Ni Huang was betrothed to Ling Shu (aka  Xiao Shu. Xiao means little and is a common term of endearment for youngsters when combine with their name. For the sake of consistency we will refer to the character as Ling Shu  even though Ling Shu and Chang Su is the same person.) Xia Dong's husband used to be a general in the Chi-Yan Forces and died because of the Chi-Yan Forces treason. Xia Dong hatred for the Chi-Yan  forces is apparent and she hope that Ni Huang will find a good husband and forget about her betrothed Ling Shu whom everyone believed  had died 12 years ago.

Ni Huang shared with Xia Dong that the Emperor's concern over her marriage is more that what it seems, commenting that she probably can't return to  the State of Yun Nan even if she doesn't get married this time.


What an episode. This drama really needs one to follow attentively. There are lots of characters introduced in this episode and many clues dropped along the way. I like the world and all the characters who seems intriguing. Especially endearing is the relationship between Chang Su and his young body guard. This show offers lots of eye candy  from the actors and actresses to the scenery to the costumes and buildings and interiors which are all of much better quality than some movies out there.

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