Prince #3 goes to visit his mother, who is upset and blames the Empress for the assassination attempt. She tells him to be careful.
Back at the palace of being grounded, A’Wu is hanging out with Wan’ru and discussing boys. Wan’ru is a little subdued (on account of her own arranged marriage to A COMMONER, EW).
Meanwhile, A’Wu’s mother meets with #3’s mother, who gives her a bracelet for A’Wu. Both mothers are whole-heartedly in favor of the kids getting together, all politics aside.
A’Wu tries to comfort Wan’ru, who is NOT AT ALL happy with talk of a war hero who is A COMMONER, EW, and especially more so when A’Wu mentions the three-heads-six-arms thing. They’re going to plan to sneak out and see him entering the city tomorrow, an activity which is not proper for girls and why do I have a feeling this is going to involve cross-dressing?
A’Wu is asking her brother to take her, but Dad slithers in unexpectedly (as grand viziers do), and wants to know why. She covers hastily, that it’s because she wants to see A Real Soldier! Not like the men of the noble class who wear swords but do not use them! Dad praises her but seems unconvinced…and then turns this around on his literary, artistic son. Well that was nasty and unnecessary.
Meanwhile the moms are asking Uncle Emperor to just let the marriage take place already. Heh, turns out that part of the reason A’Wu’s mom is so happy with this is that she was forced to marry into the Wang family when young. The Emperor has a chat with her regarding her very powerful, very dangerous husband whom she married young, and whether she is acting in her capacity as a wife….or as his (the emperor’s) little sister.
Meanwhile the Empress and Crown Prince have got wind of what’s going on. To his credit, the Crown Prince appears to be genuinely distraught because he really likes A’Wu and wanted to marry her, whereas the Empress has decided to get nasty and stay that way.
A’Wu and her mother are giggling together over current events when Dad wanders in and wants to know what’s up. For some reason this makes A’Wu scurry off in a huff? I’m missing some subtext here. But Dad admits that he can’t go against the Emperor’s command, so…
Later, Dad (wearing his metaphorical Grand Vizier Hat, but actually only wearing his top-knot, which thankfully is much more dignified) learns about the whole Prince #2 in the brothel incident. Prince #2 and the Crown Prince have also dropped by for a visit. A’Wu is entirely bored with the proceedings, but her brother (I don’t actually know his name yet?) is still covering for her. The Crown Prince has brought her some fur robes he personally killed himself and had made into robes for her. A’Wu sweeps off with her nose in the air, since he’s known her for sooooo long and still doesn’t know what sort of things she likes, hmph!–leaving him puzzled and distraught.
A’Wu’s father rolls his eyes in a manner that is only half Grand Vizier and entirely Impatient Dad. He then explains to the Crown Prince that a) he’s a dumbass, b) I’m kind of on your side boy, try giving me something to work with here.
Okay so meanwhile. One of Those Indistinguishable Guys (I think this is Lord Gu, the guy who was in charge of the deceased-ninjas investigation) is busy fretting that he is going to have to recieve A COMMONER, EW, into the city as a peer. You guys….seriously…
But then he gets garrotted by his tea girl. Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!
So we immediately cut away to where the preparations are taking place, and look, when I say that A’Wu’s father goes places, what I mean is he’s got a completely villainous swagger going on and it’s amazing. He’s there to poke fun at the Duke Xie (Wan’ru’s father) having a new, expected son-in-law.
A’Wu and her maidservant discuss Prince #3 meanwhile.
Another one of Those Guys has showed up and he says, hey, don’t kick the Xie Family while they’re down in the shameful dust of having to marry A COMMONER, EW.
HAH. Grand Vizier Dad says: You guys are MORONS (like the guy I probably just had assassinated oh wait did I just say that out loud?)
Anyhow, the girls (and A’Wu’s brother) are in place to make eyes at Prince #3 and witness XQ’s triumphant entry. Princes #1-2 notice. A’Wu, however, is doing her BFF-ly duty to talk up XQ for Wan’ru’s benefit, too.
So the parade begins, and hey, that many horses is pretty good production quality, even if they’re only there for about three shots, repeated from many angles.
XQ’s sidekicks, including Swordsgirl Sidekick, are there as well, wearing masks for some reason. (But we know Swordsgirl is a swordsgirl, because a) she has subtle boob armor, b) she’s not wearing a helmet, and c) her mask is more stylish.) Nevertheless, Prince #3 recognizes XQ when he takes his helmet off. (A’Wu is too far away to see clearly.)
The Crown Prince has had just enough time to sneer at A COMMONER, EW daring to approach the Emperor when…hah, lol, ninjas? Oh, no it’s not a ninja. Someone threw Lord Gu’s body off a balcony attached to an inflammatory banner. Wow. Or did they frame it as a suicide? Ahhh, it’s framed as a suicide protesting XQ’s ascension. Huh.
This was pretty upsetting to A’Wu, but her Grand Vizier Dad is more worried about whether she was close enough to see how “assisted” his suicide actually was. So Lord Gu has a granddaughter and grandson, whom the Emperor both give hefty promotions to (at Grand Vizier Dad’s suggestion.) Duke Xie, on the other hand, has questions about why Lord Gu had such strong feelings about XQ in the first place. Kind of suspicious, no?
Meanwhile, XQ is settling into his new residence with the advice of Duke Xie. XQ asks about Lord Gu but is assured by the Duke that it’s all good, everything’s fine, no worries, just stay put.
XQ immediately orders his sidekicks to leave immediately, hurry back to the camp and tell everybody to STAY PUT UNTIL FURTHER ORDERS FROM ME, PERSONALLY. Swordsgirl thinks that if it’s that dangerous, he ought to leave town, too; but, being the hero, he’s not going to.
Meanwhile, however, the autopsy has revealed that Lord Gu’s time of death isn’t lining up with the official timeline. So, That Other Guy (Dad’s brother, it seems?) is there in the room. Grand Vizier Dad discusses with him the possibility that, hm, perhaps Lord Gu was killed before he, ah, jumped. Could it have been something he discovered in the course of his ninja investigation: aka, did the Empress kill him? Of course, this means that someone else will have to take his place…and then there’s that upstart XQ…
Hm. So, was Dad not behind this?
Interestingly enough, the Empress is meanwhile ordering a tearful and reluctant woman to do something that she really doesn’t want to…which is overheard by a creeping courtier.
We cut back to our heroine, cuddling with Prince #3 up on the roof. She’s really shaken by all this sudden death, especially since Lord Gu was one of her uncles as well. Dad saunters up and spots them. Cut to the next morning, in which he is having the tree by which A’Wu has been accessing the roof, carefully chopped down. Hah.
Lol, he says that a thief came to their house last night, didn’t she know? And then he grins to himself when A’Wu storms off, yelling for every tree to be chopped down. Okay, I like this guy, because even when he’s being all slimy Grand Vizier, he’s being low-key about it; and it’s the same when he’s being an asshole paterfamilias. Not to mention, he seems to be enjoying the hell out of this whole process anyway.
So the welcoming-the-conquering-hero banquet is finally on, except that Wan’ru is in tears and insisting that she’s not going to go out there be faced with marrying A COMMONER, EW. Does her father care more about the Xie Family than about her, his daughter? (slap)
Okay, so the board is set up, somehow. XQ is at the banquet, A’Wu is on her way there…and the Empress’s serving-woman is lurking in a corridor, to divert her into going to see the Empress. Alone. By herself. Right now.
Meanwhile, XQ is being finally, formally entitled Lord Yuzhang. I’d be happier about this if absolutely everyone in the banquet hall didn’t look really, really shifty.