Ep 39

In the last episode, we ended with the flashback of The 8th squad barely surviving the siege. It was a heavy time for the dwindling group of men. We start off this episode barely any better. The men decide to have the one injured young soldier leave the beacon tower in hopes of recovery. This just leaves a handful of men now guarding the beacon – 13 to be exact. They are up against 3000 Turkic men.


Xiao Gui is up on his perch preparing for the next battle. He plans on setting off the crouching fire against the enemy and is preparing the ingredients for the bomb, which tells us how exactly this guy knows so much about making bombs Zhang Xiao Jing has been chasing around today.


As we continue the Turkic men approach, it devolves into a bloody battle. Zhang Xiao Jing, in the flashback, can barely stay alive and it is Xiao Gui with his crouching fire that saves the men. In the Flower Sepal Tower, Zhang Xiao Jing finally awakens. 


At the top of the tower, Long Bo or Xiao Gui is still over there pontificating about his grand plan to Li Bi. I wonder why he’s discussing 子时三刻 which translates to 1145PM when we are already firmly at 1AM in the evening. This is evident in the title card. 


Long Bo has the flag of The 8th Squad hanging nearby. Li Bi, of course, doesn’t know what this flag means, but we as the audience do. Long Bo threatens that if the Emperor isn’t able to shoot down the golden arrow – the entire structure and Chang An will go meet Jahannum-dhool or 阙勒霍多. The fire apocalypse.


Long Bo asks Li Bi how to stop Zhang Xiao Jing – to which Li Bi responds – he is a soldier who protects Chang An. You can’t stop him and neither can I. I like the pause from Long Bo, it’s almost as though he’s smirking at this thought. 


Zhang Xiao Jing slowly regains consciousness from Wen Ran’s fragrance and sees her in front of him. Another flashback ensues when he tries to tell her to back off while she insists that he sees everything clearly, why won’t he just accept it?


In this flashback, Zhang Xiao Jing has made it to Chang An and is leader of the Sleuth Hounds. Evidently, this is a few years after their heroic battle. A man was tied up and dropped off for Zhang Xiao Jing. Unclear who did it, but the man in question is a now older 刘宗器。 This is the young injured soldier that was told to escape while Zhang Xiao Jing and company stayed to protect their outpost. At first, Zhang Xiao Jing was ecstatic to see Liu Zong Qi alive but is soon puzzled by Liu Zong Qi’s tears. Liu Zong Qi, despite surviving and honestly thriving in Chang An, has felt guilt since surviving. He tearfully tells Zhang Xiao Jing that their brothers in the 8th squad died in vain because General Gai was actually preparing an ambush of 6000 men right near their beacon tower. The 8th squad was used merely as bait. The moment the tower fell to the invaders, General Gai would swoop in. 


These words cut Zhang Xiao Jing like a knife and his eyes immediately swell with tears not only of sadness but of fury. He at first didn’t believe these words. He thought that General Gai cared for the 8th squad. But that evidently was far from the truth. The 200 lives of the 8th squad were nothing more than bait. 


In the present day, Zhang Xiao Jing argues with Wen Ran since he can’t understand why she is in cahoots with whoever is planning the devastation for tonight. He does not know yet that it is Xiao Gui and therefore why it makes sense Wen Ran would be in on it. Her father fought with Xiao Gui as well. Zhang Xiao Jing screams at Wen Ran that she should follow the rules but Wen Ran only retorts that her father followed rules and look at what happened. They should retaliate when they are being hurt and bullied.


Zhang Xiao Jing overpowers Wen Ran and ties her up. He wants to bring her up to finally see the culprit behind this. Wen Ran gives him something from the mysterious man and it turns out to be military sharpening stones, just like the ones her father had. This strikes another chord with Zhang Xiao Jing. The man behind this has military ties.


He takes the stones to help sharpen his own weapon. While doing so, he gives Wen Ran instructions on how to escape tonight. He wants her to return to her shop and pretend like nothing happened today. He wants her to get married, have kids and thrive in Chang An. She tearfully protests at this. She doesn’t understand why she has to stay in Chang An. Zhang Xiao Jing’s answer is rather simple. They are in Chang An because that is what the brothers of the 8th squad wanted. Wen Ran staying in Chang An is also what he and her father wanted. It was the driving force for the members of the 8th squad and that “thing” they were fighting for. For Wen Ran to be able to live in the bustling capital city of the empire they protected. He believes that only with her in Chang An, their deaths will not have been in vain. 


For Zhang Xiao Jing, protecting Chang An is his core belief. Once a person loses their core belief, that person loses everything. 


He then tells Wen Ran about how one man showed up when he was depressed about what General Gai did. It was Xu Bin. They didn’t really know each other but Xu Bin arrived and give him the boost he needed. What kind of story do people in Chang An want to tell? Who is going to protect the dream of people in Chang An. This reminded Zhang XIao Jing that his mission in life is to protect. Even if it means there’s only one person left in Chang An, he swears to protect that person.


Wen Ran understands Zhang Xiao Jing’s resolve a little better now and while she has dreams of how she can survive outside of Chang An to create a better world through’ fragrance, Zhang Xiao Jing still wants to bring Wen Ran out of the tower to safety. Only then, will he speak to the person at the top of the tower that is waiting for him. He escorts her down the stairs only to find that the despicable Yuan Zai and Wang Yun Xiu have arrived with numerous soldiers. 


At first, Yuan Zai is very respectful to Zhang Xiao Jing, showing him the decree from the Crown Prince and the Right Chancellor giving Zhang XIao Jing reprieve from being arrested. He says a bunch of things about how they want to work together to bring down the real culprit. This will allow Wen Ran and Zhang Xiao Jing a proper way of living. Wen Ran actually believes him and steps forward but Zhang Xiao Jing is more skeptical. He’s right to be. Poor Wen Ran. The moment she gets within arms length of Wang Yun Xiu, she is held at knife point. Wang Yun Xiu threatens Zhang Xiao Jing with Wen Ran’s life. Yuan Zai also immediately turns from the deferential man moments earlier to calling to bring down Zhang XIao Jing. 


Held at knife point, Wen Ran hear’s Wang Yun Xiu’s goading that with such a weak spot in Wen Ran, Zhang Xiao Jing won’t be able to do anything. Wen Ran ponders this for a moment and realizes yes, she is his soft spot and he will do anything for her. She wants him to live. In that brief moment, with Wang Yun Xiu’s knife pointed at her neck, Wen Ran makes the final decision. She forces the knife into her neck, committing suicide so that Zhang Xiao Jing can escape. 


Seeing her fall to the ground, bleeding out, Zhang Xiao Jing snaps once again. He attacks the numerous soldiers armed against him as he sees the one belief he’s held in Chang An fade away. His friend, Wen Wu Ji, left Wen Ran in his care when he died. Even on the battle field, the goal was for Wen Ran to be able to live a peaceful life in Chang An. That belief crumbled before him. 


Injured but furious, Zhang XIao Jing unleashes his anger and fury once again, cutting down numerous soldiers. But he also had help. Soldiers from Long Bo’s Pi Fu organization arrive to bring him to safety. Many of these men are killed in the process just so Zhang Xiao Jing can survive and head upstairs.



In the book – when Wen Ran’s father dies, she managers the fragrance shop by herself. On her way to sending 王韫秀 some fragrances, she was harassed by members of the Fire Gang and was rescued by Wang Yun Xiu. When the Wolf Squad went to abduct Wang Yun Xiu, they accidentally kidnapped Wen Ran instead, and that’s how she got entangled in the mess of the day’s events. When The wolf squad realized that she wasn’t Wang Yun Xiu, they threw her into a dried well and was rescued by Yao Ru Neng and locked back in Jing An Si. After leaving Jing An Si, she was aided by 岑参 to find the head of the fire gang and seek revenge. It was then that she accidentally rescued Zhang Xiao Jing again. At the end of the book, she leaves Chang An with 岑参 but nothing more is said about her.


In the drama, we’ve discussed her quite a bit. She’s always loved Zhang Xiao JIng and hated Chang An since the death of her father and capture of Zhang Xiao Jing. She knew of Xiao Gui’s plot when he arrived in 长安 and willingly became a member of his group of men. She took the agency to lure 王韫秀 to the Wolf Squad hiding place. For all of the subsequent events in the drama, she rarely seemed to be in “true” danger. Now we know why. She had a protector but it wasn’t the one we expected. It was Long Bo instead of Zhang Xiao Jing


In the translation from the book to the screen, Wen Ran has more agency. In the book, Wen Ran found herself in a lot of these situations without the protection of Zhang Xiao Jing or Xiao Gui. She wasn’t aware of Xiao Gui or Long Bo’s plot. She was basically the female version of 岑参 who just got caught up in the day’s events. Contrast that to the drama, Wen Ran vowed for revenge after the death of her father and capture of Zhang Xiao Jing. Her goal was to save Zhang Xiao Jing from prison and flee the city with him. She also had the protection from Xiao Gui and was aware to a certain extent of his schemes. So while yes, she was betrayed by Yu Chang and captured by her, she was never betrayed by Long Bo. At the end of this episode, Wen Ran chose to be captured and chose to die to save Wen Ran. She wanted to give him the opportunity to escape Chang An. The real tragedy of this situation is that Zhang Xiao Jing sacrificed so much so that Wen Ran could live a fulfilling life in Chang An but she chose to end it for him. 


Viewers of the drama were completely up in arms when this episode aired because they didn’t like that Wen Ran died. I’m quite indifferent as I think her death really was the final nail in the coffin for Zhang Xiao Jing and his actions at the end of the drama. She was the tie for him in Chang An. She is why he protected Chang An but what now does he have to protect? My reading is that this was Zhang Xiao Jing’s final test. He saw once again how two faced the system could be. Yuan Zai turned on a dime to bring him down and was a coward when the fighting got heated. He ran away when Wang Yun Xiu showed more courage. What more could Zhang Xiao JIng do now? The question is, will he now join Long Bo in destroying the system that has broken his beliefs? Or will he stick to it. What matters more? How can he continue when the last person he held dear just died at the hands of the broken system?


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