Xiao En gives up on Ao Ran and starts looking for ways to return to her original world, but finds that it’s not so easy. In the real world, Ming Li struggles to maintain control.
Xiao En, Su Shan, and Qiu Tian are waiting for the elevator when Su Shan and Qiu Tian get distracted by the appearance of Ao Ran and Qing Feng. Xiao En tells them that she has good news and bad news. The good news is that Ao Ran will be in a very good mood today. The bad news is… well, they’ll see why soon enough.
Chu Chu approaches Ao Ran and Qing Feng. Qing Feng asks if she’s baked more cookies today, but instead she pulls something else out of her purse: the two tickets she won to the amusement park. She asks Ao Ran if he has time to go with her.
Su Shan and Qiu Tian watch with pained expressions and start chanting to themselves for Ao Ran to not accept the tickets. But he does. Xiao En doesn’t bother continuing to watch and instead goes into the waiting elevator. Su Shan and Qiu Tian exchange confused looks. Qing Feng spots them and frowns.
Qing Feng catches Xiao En taking a break on the rooftop with a magazine on her face. She claims she’s doing research, but Qing Feng points out that the magazine is from ten years ago.
Xiao En looks glum and Qing Feng asks if she’s okay. She looks at him, surprised, then mutters that in her life, only he and Chun Tian have ever cared about how she feels.
Qing Feng is confused — isn’t her coworker’s name Qiu Tian? Xiao En turns away, saying that she’s fine — she just wants to be alone for a bit. Qing Feng points out that she’s not smiling, but she responds that no one can be cheerful all the time. This author is really unfair — they won’t give her any chances, nor will they let her be alone.
She used to love stories like these, but now she feels suffocated by them. No matter how hard she tries, she can’t make herself into a main character. But then she shakes her head and says that she can’t control them. They can go to the amusement park and get a room together if they want.
She demands her magazine back from Qing Feng, who continues to silently watch her with a frown. She puts the magazine back over her face, then tells him to leave her alone. He sighs, but does what she asks, looking conflicted.
Once he’s gone, Xiao En removes the magazine and broods over her interactions with Ao Ran. She misses Chun Tian and doesn’t want to be in this world anymore. She wants to go back to her original world.
She walks to the edge of the roof and looks over the barrier at the ground far below. If she jumps off the roof, she’ll definitely die. If she dies in this world, will she be able to go back her original world? She decides that she might as well try, because there’s no reason to stay in this one. She backs up and starts sprinting toward the edge of the roof, but then turns and stop at the last minute. She’s afraid of heights. She’ll have to figure out a different way.
Xiao En decides to recreate the way she came to this world by trying to get herself sick. She takes a cold shower with her clothes on and a fan blowing at her, then wanders outside, still wet.
She starts feeling faint and takes her temperature. She’s at 40°C (104°F!!) and smiles triumphantly at her success. Xiao En manages to stumble back into her apartment before collapsing in her entryway. She weakly murmurs, “I can finally go home.”
In the real world, Xiao En starts showing signs of consciousness. Her eyes slowly open…
And then she bolts awake in bed to the sound of an alarm clock. She looks around and thinks she’s back in the real world. Does this mean she won’t ever see Ao Ran again? The thought makes her sad for a moment, then she shakes it off.
She wanders out into her living room. Her eyes widen when the door opens and someone walks in. It’s Qing Feng. He puts a hand to her head checking for fever, and smiles when she seems fine.
Xiao En wonders how he’s here. Tears fill her eyes as she shakes her head, saying that this is just a hallucination. It’s just a trick.
Qing Feng frowns, asking if she’s okay. He came to check on her last night after she wasn’t picking up her phone, and found her unconscious. Qiu Tian just left for work, and he just came back from getting her breakfast. He holds up a paper bag with a smile.
But Xiao En starts crying. Qing Feng hugs her, trying to comfort her, as she says, “I want to go home.” Qing Feng’s jacket catches fire again.
Tian Jian spends his days at the factory playing games on his phone in his office. He wonders for how long Ming Li will be angry. It’s already been a week. He can’t just sit around doing nothing like this forever.
He gets a call from his mother, who reports that she doesn’t know what’s gotten into Ming Li lately. No matter what she does, Ming Li refuses to listen. But his mother also has some good news — people are praising him to her all the time. She tells him that as long as he puts his mind to something, she trusts that he will do it well. He beams like a little boy.
Their phone call is interrupted when Tian Jian is told he has a guest. He’s surprised to see Uncle Hu.
Uncle Hu tells Tian Jian that his sister is only treating him this way because she’s scared of him. He has the ability to displace her at the company. Uncle Hu is concerned about Ming Li’s recent actions. She’s losing self-control and Uncle Hu is afraid that she’ll harm not only the company, but also herself.
He hands Tian Jian a note with what looks like an address on it.
Ming Li visits Tian Xing’s hospital room. She thinks about turning off his ventilator, but instead ends up sitting next to him. She tells him that there’s no point in getting rid of him. She initially thought that Tian Liang would be hers if she got rid of him, but now she’s realized that he can’t die. As long as he’s alive, the He family has two sons and one daughter. If he dies, the He family has only one son.
She laughs cynically at herself. Now she’s realized that the most important thing she’ll be allowed to do with her life is to get rid of him and open up a path for her younger brother.
Qiao Zhi comes in and reports to Ming Li that Lawyer Wei has been found.
Qing Feng takes Xiao En fishing by the shore. She asks why they’re here. He says that he wanted to distract her. She asks why they couldn’t have gone somewhere more exciting. Isn’t this a storybook world?
He tells her, “Peace.” She obediently takes in a deep breath, then says she will peacefully imagine what Ao Ran and Chu Chu are doing right now.
Qing Feng tells Xiao En to stop torturing herself. She asks him if he would prefer she bother him instead. Doesn’t he want to know what Chu Chu and Ao Ran are up to? Qing Feng responds that he’s more curious about whether she actually wants a lavish getaway.
Xiao En ignores him and imagines more hypothetical scenarios for Ao Ran and Chu Chu. Maybe they’re on some high-adrenaline rides. Nothing like that to get the sparks of love going. Or maybe they’re going through a haunted house, where Ao Ran’s love for Chu Chu is stronger than his fear of the dark. No matter how hard she tries, Xiao En knows that she can’t compete with the way Chu Chu looks at Ao Ran.
Xiao En stands up and yells toward the ocean, “Zheng Xiao En, you’re so tragic! I wish I could hug you.”
Qing Feng also stands up, but tells Xiao En, “Enough!” with a frown.
Xiao En apologizes to Qing Feng, saying she went too far. He probably also feels bad too.
But Qing Feng says that Xiao En doesn’t need to apologize to him. The person she should be apologizing to is — and he gets cut off by a phone call.
It’s Ao Ran, saying that Chu Chu never showed up. Xiao En’s eyes widen. Is this her chance?
Xiao En calls Qiu Tian, asking for Chu Chu’s address. Once she hangs up, she tells herself that if she can’t go back to the real world, then she has to at least seize this opportunity. Ao Ran is hers!
Qing Feng meets up with Ao Ran at the entrance to the amusement park. Qing Feng tells him that Xiao En is looking for Chu Chu, but then gives Ao Ran a searching look. He isn’t acting like someone who was stood up.
Xiao En finds Chu Chu’s home. When no one answers the doorbell, she goes inside. The place looks like it’s been ransacked. No one responds when she calls Chu Chu’s name, so she pulls out her phone. But then someone strikes her on the back of her head, knocking her out.
In the real world, a nurse notices that Xiao En’s head is suddenly bleeding. She calls for a doctor.
Chun Tian rushes to the hospital and asks a nurse about Xiao En’s condition. The nurse reports that Xiao En is in critical condition and they’re busy trying to save her. Xiao En flatlines. The doctors defibrillate her.
Xiao En opens her eyes to find Chu Chu staring back at her. Chu Chu breathes a sigh of relief that she’s finally awake, then pulls her brother forward, telling him to apologize to Xiao En. Chu Chu’s brother apologizes, saying he thought she was from the debt collection agency.
Qing Feng tries to reassure Ao Ran, saying that something probably came up and that’s why Chu Chu stood him up. He shouldn’t worry too much. Ao Ran says that he does feel some worry, but he has also has a lot of other feelings that he doesn’t know how to name. Qing Feng says this is the first time he’s seen Ao Ran not know what he’s feeling.
Ao Ran tries to talk through his feelings. He was excited about this date with Chu Chu. When she didn’t show, he expected himself to feel disappointed, angry, upset. He did feel some disappointment, but more than anything he felt relieved. It doesn’t make sense to him. Qing Feng agrees that it doesn’t make sense.
He decides to backtrack a bit. Ao Ran was excited about the date because he likes Chu Chu, right? Why does he like Chu Chu?
Ao Ran responds with a scripted answer that is familiar to Qing Feng: he said the exact same words when Xiao En asked him why he liked Chu Chu. Ao Ran asks Qing Feng why he wants to know. Do the reasons he likes Chu Chu matter? Qing Feng responds the same way Xiao En responded to him: the reasons don’t matter — as long as the author wants him to like her, then he will.
Ao Ran gives him a confused look. He doesn’t understand. Qing Feng smiles to himself as he says that he didn’t understand at first, either, but now he does.
In the real world, Xiao En ends up okay. Chun Tian gives the doctors a tongue-lashing for letting her get injured, but they claim that the most likely explanation right now is that she somehow… injured herself.
Chun Tian sits back down next to Xiao En and hopes that her dreams have been good. She asks her to wake up soon so they can go home.
Xiao En brings Chu Chu and her brother back to her own apartment and says they can stay there for now. Chu Chu is worried about being a bother, but Xiao En points out that they have no one else to bother and she has no one else to bother her.
Xiao En asks Chu Chu what she plans on doing about her father’s medical bills. He had to get emergency surgery, which is why Chu Chu ditched Ao Ran. Chu Chu isn’t sure. Whenever she calls her relatives, they hang up the minute she broaches the subject of borrowing money. Xiao En suggests Ao Ran as an option, but Chu Chu immediately says no, saying she doesn’t want to become a burden on Ao Ran.
Xiao En beams, saying that’s the way women should be. Women should be independent, so she’ll take it upon herself to figure out how to resolve Chu Chu’s debt. She fetches her envelope of money from Ao Ran and presses it into Chu Chu’s hands. That will cover her father’s immediate medical bills, and the rest Xiao En will help her figure out.
Xiao En looks flustered when Chu Chu seems moved to tears. She’s quick to reassure Chu Chu that she’s just lending her the money; she still expects to be paid back. But Chu Chu continues to stare at her with wide eyes, saying no one has ever been as kind to her as Xiao En has. She promises to return the favor one day. Xiao En realizes that she’s starting to soften toward her romantic rival.
Qing Feng gets a call from Xiao En, reporting that Chu Chu suddenly fell ill with a contagious respiratory illness, while Ao Ran eavesdrops nearby. Ao Ran immediately bombards Qing Feng with concerned questions about Chu Chu’s health. Qing Feng is about to hang up when Ao Ran stops him. If Chu Chu’s illness is contagious, doesn’t that mean Xiao En should also be careful?
Qing Feng asks if Ao Ran wants to tell Xiao En that himself, but Ao Ran demurs. Instead, Qing Feng conveys the reminder himself, then tells Xiao En to keep in touch before hanging up.
Ao Ran latches onto “keep in touch”? So that means Qing Feng and Xiao En have been in regular contact? Qing Feng makes a sly comment about missing the days when the three of them worked together. Ao Ran claims he’s just worried Xiao En will infect other coworkers. Qing Feng points out that Ao Ran never seemed to show this much care for his coworkers before.
Ao Ran says there’s nothing wrong or out of the ordinary about a boss caring about his employees. Qing Feng just nods and says, “Yes, and the American president hates Twitter and North Korean missiles are the most accurate.”
Ao Ran doesn’t seem to get what Qing Feng’s saying and asks what he means. Qing Feng just shrugs and says he’s imitating Xiao En. Ao Ran feels like Qing Feng is scolding him. “You’re not wrong,” Qing Feng responds.
At night, Xiao En can’t sleep, wondering how she’ll scrounge together the money to help Chu Chu. She doesn’t have any money. The easiest thing to do would be to ask Qing Feng for help, but if Qing Feng knows it’s only a matter of time before Ao Ran finds out. She won’t give Ao Ran an opportunity to be the hero saving Chu Chu. Instead, she decides that she needs to be the hero.
She starts looking up part-time jobs, but there are no hostess bars in this world, nor are there construction companies. She sighs, wondering why finding a part-time job is so hard, and scrolls through her phone some more. Then her eyes widen.
Tian Jian goes to the address that Uncle Hu gave him, making a racket trying to get someone to answer the door. A neighbor gets annoyed with him and tells him that no one lives there.
A short while later, Ming Li and Qiao Zhi show up outside the same door. The same neighbor gets mad at them, and tells them that someone else also came by earlier. She describes Tian Jian.
Tian Jian spots Ming Li and hides. She yells for him to show himself, and he almost does, but then decides to keep hiding. Ming Li gives up and leaves.
When Tian Jian returns to the factory at night, he finds Ming Li waiting for him in his office. Ming Li demands to know where he was and guesses he was out looking for Wei. He claims he doesn’t have the will, but Ming Li doesn’t believe him. Instead, she accuses him of betraying her, something he scoffs at because she was the one who sent him here, after he tried to help her with the strike.
Qiao Zhi tells Ming Li that he’s located Wei’s wife and child, and Ming Li smirks, planning to use them as hostage. Tian Jian beseeches her to leave them alone. She’s changed into someone unrecognizable and he finds her frightening. But there’s nothing Ming Li won’t do to keep her power. She’s already sacrificed her own family, what is someone else’s family to her?
Ming Li tells him that there’s nothing for him to be afraid of if he doesn’t have a guilty conscience.
Tian Jian frowns after she’s gone, then makes a phone call.
Uncle Hu receives a phone call and chuckles, saying, “I’m glad you’ve thought it through. I will stand on your side.” He captures the queen with his knight on the chessboard. (I have so many questions about this chessboard and the rules that govern it… hasn’t he knocked down the king/queen three times at this point?)
Su Shan and Qiu Tian invite Xiao En out shopping after work, but she mutters something about everything being fake and 3D printed and then heads out, claiming she’s busy. They turn to Chu Chu next, but she’s also busy.
Chu Chu meets up with Ao Ran, who gives her a coffee and asks if she’s better. Chu Chu didn’t know that she supposedly had a respiratory illness, but awkwardly tries to maintain the cover. Ao Ran then awkwardly and circuitously asks if “everything else” is okay. Like… her coworkers.
Chu Chu can tell he’s really asking about Xiao En, and asks him if that’s what he means. He grunts in response, studiously looking into the distance, then claims that he’s worried about Xiao En passing it on to other coworkers. Chu Chu reassures him hat Xiao En is fine. He tries to act like he doesn’t care, says they should head out, and starts walking away.
Xiao En finds herself working at a cat maid cafe, where she struggles to get into character. She finally gets into the cat part of the character, but more along the lines of an angry cat and not an affectionate one. Her coworker has to pull her away from swiping at a customer and lecture her on treating customers with basic ettiquette.
Xiao En tries to be in character to greet the next customer, then freezes when she sees that it’s Qing Feng. He laughs at her and can’t help but continue to laugh at her as she serves him. She never thought he’d be the kind of person to patronize a cat maid cafe, but he claims he followed her here after seeing her rush off after work.
Qing Feng also reminds her of a condition in Royal Group’s employee contract: no part-time jobs. But he’s willing to keep it a secret for her if she provides a satisfactory experience tonight.
They bicker for a bit, with Xiao En staying in character by adding a “meow” at the end of every sentence. He asks her why she needs money. She claims that she wants to buy a brand-name purse. He doesn’t believe her, but she changes the subject by asking why he’s making fun of her — they’re supposed to be allies! Qing Feng says he’s not here to make fun of her. He’s here to see her be cute.
She’s taken aback. How is she cute? He points to her outfit, then boops her on the nose. She thinks he’s messing with her, but he says that he’s being sincere. He thinks she’s cute, even without the costume. He puts his hand over hers. She stares up at him.
That ending preview scene though, with Ao Ran cutting in between Qing Feng and Xiao En connecting during a dinner date…
I’m kind of getting Westworld vibes from the storybook characters — Qing Feng in particular — as they start to gain sentience. We saw another instance of Qing Feng catching fire this episode. There were some nice theories from commenters a couple of episodes back! To me, it seems like the fire is symbolic of Qing Feng deviating from his character’s predestined path and developing feelings for Xiao En. Qing Feng seems to be sentient now, thinking and asking about the why, instead of just blindly letting things happen. Perhaps having existential crises is a sign of sentience?
I don’t find the “real world” He family drama particularly interesting, but as time goes on watching them, I’m hoping that the reason it exists is because the plot lines will all connect back together in some meaningful way. I will say that this episode in particular made me like Tian Jian less and also dislike Ming Li a bit less. Tian Jian at first seemed useless, then seemed like a nice guy, and now he just seems painfully immature and oblivious (though he was always both of those things.) I dislike Ming Li less than I did before because it kind of feels like she’s hanging onto a cliff edge by the fingertips. She’s basically lost all control and should probably let go, but she’s still stubbornly hanging on.
As much as I adore Marcus Chang, Ao Ran feels like such a blank slate right now. I suppose the start of Ao Ran’s awakening is for him to have to think a bit more and not just be shallowly handsome. And I guess right now, he is exactly that shallowly handsome person forced to confront more ~complex~ feelings for the first time in his life.