Xiao En slowly comes to the realization that perhaps she has now become the lead character in this story. But being the lead means that she might get the guy, but she also has to deal with everything else that comes with being the woman who gets the CEO.
Xiao En returns to her apartment and flops down onto her bed, her mind still on Ao Ran’s kiss. What did he mean when he said sorry? Did he mean it in a “just pretend you were bit by a dog” way? Or in a, “I must have kissed the wrong person in the dark” way? Why did he say sorry?
Ao Ran is also reeling over the kiss in his own bedroom, unwilling to accept that he could like Xiao En. But every little thing he does — his necklace brushing his lips, drinking a cup of coffee, brushing his teeth — makes his mind flash back to the kiss. He tries to explain away the flashbacks to himself, saying it was just a kiss, but he can’t fall asleep at night and is forced to admit that he likes Xiao En.
Xiao En also stays up, squealing as she wonders if Ao Ran just maybe might like her a little tiny bit.
Ao Ran stays up, trying to rationalize and downplay his like for Xiao En. He likes plenty of things: reading, cars, investment, taking risks, steak, watches. He is a person of many interests.
At 1 AM, he finally tries to go to sleep again and makes peace with himself when he remembers that Xiao En is the one who likes him. That’s why he kissed her, because she likes him, not because he likes her.
Xiao En bolts awake, feeling like she’s missing something as she tries to connect the dots. Mo Ran appeared, and then Ao Ran dreamed of He Tian Xing. Even though she can’t help Tian Xing in the real world, she can at least protect Ao Ran from Mo Ran in this one.
He Tian Xing is still on the ventilator, but his eyes suddenly flash open, Xiao En’s face reflected in them as she says his name.
Ao Ran bolts awake from his dream, sweat-soaked and confused.
Qiao Zhi shows Ming Li the latest tabloid headlines. Tian Jian was spotted visiting a hospital in the countryside, looking battered and bruised. Most of the headlines speculated that he had been caught cheating on women, but Qiao Zhi points out that the He family has their own private doctors. Tian Jian could have easily gone to one of them, but instead he purposely went to a public hospital. Ming Li thinks Tian Jian is doing it to irritate her and doesn’t think more of it. She goes to pop some pills from a bottle, but it’s empty. Then she thoughtfully watches her live surveillance feed of Tian Xing’s hospital room.
Tian Jian laughs as he sees the headlines about his hospital photo and learns that his sister thinks he’s doing it just to spite her. She is too easy of an opponent.
Uncle Hu praises his performance. It seems like everyone else has underestimated Tian Jian. But there is one loose end left to be tied up before Tian Jian can be secure in his position as chairman. Tian Jian reads between the lines: He Tian Xing.
Qiao Zhi rushes into Ming Li’s office the next morning, reporting that Tian Jian hasn’t shown up for work. She doesn’t seem concerned, until he adds that Tian Jian is on his way to Tian Xing’s hospital with men in tow. Ming Li finally realizes that Tian Jian is trying to take over.
While driving Tian Jian to the hospital, Uncle Hu tells him to open the glove compartment. Inside is a case with a syringe and some liquid. One injection and Tian Xing will quietly die. He asks if Tian Jian can do it. Tian Jian is silent for a long moment, then says he can.
Qiao Zhi calls one of Tian Xing’s security guards to confirm that he’s still in the room and leaves him with instructions to not let anyone in, not even Tian Jian. Ming Li nervously monitors her live feed of Tian Xing on her way to the hospital. She mutters that initially she wanted him to die and he wouldn’t. Now, he’s not allowed to die.
Someone sets off the smoke alarm on Tian Xing’s floor so that the guards at his door leave. (Wow, those are bad guards.)
By the time Ming Li and Qiao Zhi arrive at Tian Xing’s hospital room, Tian Jian is already there. But Tian Xing is missing.
They each accuse the other of hiding Tian Xing. Qiao Zhi pulls up the video feed, which still shows Tian Xing lying in bed. He examines the security camera and discovers that someone had attached a device to tamper with the feed.
Ming Li starts laughing at Tian Jian and they trade barbs over the will and who will win. She acts confident that she has the upper hand — after all, she’s the one in the chairman position.
Qiao Zhi asks Ming Li if they should try to find Tian Xing, but Ming Li says there’s no need. If someone else wants to hide Tian Xing, then she’s happy to let them do it. It’ll take a load off her shoulders; before she was constantly monitoring him, nervous that something would happen. Tian Jian might not know where Tian Xing is, but she does. Other than her, who else would want to keep him safe?
The answer is obvious. Su Shan Na and Jie Sen check on Tian Xing in his new room in a different location. They were the ones who set off the smoke alarm and managed to kidnap Tian Xing, with the help of their own doctor.
Qing Feng holds a meeting with the marketing department prior to the start of their marketing event. Ao Ran quietly walks up. Xiao En turns and they make awkward eye contact, before they both quickly turn away. Qing Feng notices, as does the rest of the team. Qiu Tian leans over to ask Chu Chu whether Ao Ran was supposed to show up today. They both seem a little surprised to be talking to each other, but Chu Chu just frowns and shakes her head.
After adjourning the meeting, Qing Feng asks Ao Ran why he showed up. Qing Feng didn’t ask Ao Ran to come, and with Ao Ran’s packed schedule, he finds it odd that he would have the time to show up. Ao Ran claims he’s here to help out.
Xiao En approaches with an arm full of boxes. He tries to help her, but when she makes eye contact with him over the top of the boxes, she’s so surprised that she drops the stack, right onto their feet. They both stumble around in pain, bumping into each other. Things only get more awkward as they both try to bend down pick up the same box at the same time. They finally manage to each pick up their own box, but then dance around, accidentally blocking each other’s way as they try to maneuver around each other. Finally, Xiao En tells Ao Ran that she’s going to go to her left, and they manage to navigate around each other and rush off in opposite directions.
Qing Feng watches the whole interaction with crossed arms and a furrowed brow. Qiu Tian and Su Shan exchange a wide-eyed, open-mouthed look. Chu Chu watches from the edges.
Xiao En takes a breather by herself, wincing at her injured foot. Qing Feng finds her and asks what’s going on with her and Ao Ran. She’s surprised that he knows, but he found their reactions to each other way too obvious. She abruptly tries to change the subject by asking him who he went out with last night. She spots the wax tablet in his front pocket and, recognizing who it’s from, pulls it out and teases Qing Feng.
Qing Feng tries to take it back, embarrassed, and they’re struggling over it when Chu Chu shows up. She beams to see that Qing Feng has kept the tablet on him and approaches them, then slides the tablet back into his front pocket, patting him gently on the chest.
Once she’s gone, Xiao En goes back to teasing Qing Feng and pats him on the chest, too. He grabs her hand to stop her, asking her to stop messing around, but she ignores him. She continues teasing him with her hands on his shoulders, then somehow stumbles and pitches forward. He catches her. They stare deeply into each other’s eyes for a moment before Qing Feng repeats his request for her to stop joking around.
But Xiao En just keeps going with it and grabs his hand, pretending she’s him and he’s Chu Chu as she professes her love. He makes her sit down as he helps her put her shoe back on.
Ao Ran watches jealously from a distance, and pettily mutters that Xiao En was leaning against a pillar before. How could a person be more stable than a pillar?
He’s distracted from his thoughts when Chu Chu appears and shows him the leather envelope she made during their date together. She asks if he has his with him, but he doesn’t. She looks disappointed, then tells him that he has to remember it next time. He glances at her for a moment, then looks away, seeming subdued, then asks if she’s free after work; there’s something he wants to say to her. Chu Chu puts on a bright smile, commenting that, based on his expression, it seems like he has something important to say to her. She’ll always make time for him. He forces a slight smile back, but continues to look serious after she’s gone.
Xiao En watches them from a distance with a slightly sad expression, then suddenly senses that someone is watching her. When she looks behind her, there’s no one there. She shrugs and returns to her work.
Back at the office, Su Shan and Qiu Tian catch Xiao En eavesdropping on some coworkers who are gossiping about Xiao En and how she kept on watching Ao Ran all day. She turns to leave, but her friends force her to turn around and confront the coworkers. But Xiao En doesn’t have to say a thing, because Qiu Tian and Su Shan are quick to rise to her defense and tear down the other coworkers.
After the two other women leave, Qiu Tian and Su Shan turn to Xiao En, disappointed that she was about to leave without defending herself. Is she still the Xiao En they know? Xiao En points out that they also ignored her yesterday. They both apologize, saying that they don’t know what came over them: when they saw her getting close to Ao Ran, they found themselves inexplicably angry and almost forgot they were friends.
Xiao En tells them that she understands; they’re not in control of themselves.
Qiu Tian tackles Xiao En with a hug, saying that their friendship is more important than Ao Ran. No matter how close Xiao En and Ao Ran become, Qiu Tian will support her. She seems a little pained saying that, but the words still ring true.
Su Shan asks Xiao En to stop keeping secrets from them. It hurts to be treated like strangers.
Xiao En also apologizes to them for keeping secrets and says she won’t anymore. They go back to work and tell Xiao En to make them coffee, but it’s all in good humor. While Xiao En makes coffee, someone seems to be watching her from around the corner.
Xiao En goes to the bathroom. The moment she enters and locks the stall, someone dumps a bucket of water on her. She yells and tries to open the stall door, but it’s blocked. She glances down and notices a glowing ring of light around her feet. It reappears whenever she stomps.
Xiao En’s eyes widen. Has her status been promoted after kissing Ao Ran? She giggles to herself.
In the real world, editor-in-chief Yao snaps at Chun Tian, asking if she’s applied the revisions he requested to the novel. She reports that she removed Xiao En’s name and asked the author to make the edits to the plot. He glances at Xiao En’s empty desk and muses what to do. Their boss wanted him to search for Xiao En’s replacement, but Yao refused, acknowledging that they can’t just fire Xiao En because she’s hospitalized. Instead, Chun Tian will have to take on Xiao En’s workload. He pats Chun Tian on the shoulder and then steals her squid snacks. She forces a smile then makes a face at him once he’s gone.
Chun Tian goes to the bathroom. She opens a stall door, then abruptly closes it again with an apology when she realizes that someone is in there. But then she opens the door again, because the person in the stall looked a lot like Xiao En knocking at the walls…
But when Chun Tian looks again, the stall is empty. She pats her face — is she hallucinating because she misses Xiao En so much?
Xiao En knocks at the stall door, asking if anyone is there, but there’s no response.
Ao Ran gets a call from the security office with their weekly report on Xiao En’s whereabouts. He tells them that there’s no need for them to follow Xiao En anymore. Before he hangs up, the security guard reports that Xiao En went to the bathroom half an hour ago and still hasn’t reappeared. Has something happened? Ao Ran bolts from his desk.
He rushes to the bathroom, where he knocks down the pole that was holding Xiao En’s stall door shut. She falls out of the stall and into his arms, then seems stunned to see him. Why is he here?
Ao Ran says that the security office told him someone was trapped in the bathroom. She asks if they mentioned that it was her. He awkwardly and slowly responds that they… may have mentioned it.
“So you immediately came to save me?” Xian En asks with a smile.
Ao Ran says that he wouldn’t call it “immediately.” He starts describing how he slowly left the office after hanging up and slowly pressed the button for the elevator… he trails off when he notices that Xiao En has started to cry.
He asks her why she’s crying. She turns away and says that a dream she has long awaited has finally come true. He gently cups her face and wipes away her tears, telling her that it’s okay.
They smile at each other and simultaneously ask each other about yesterday. Then simultaneously tell the other person that they can go first.
Xiao En asks Ao Ran why he kissed her last night. He says he doesn’t know. Xiao En looks down, disappointed, and starts to excuse herself, but Ao Ran grabs her wrist to stop her before she can go.
“I’m looking for the answer,” he adds, staring deep into her eyes. He steps closer to her and gently tells her to dry herself off. She smiles and nods, then leaves. He smiles once she’s gone, then leaves as well.
Once they’re both gone, Chu Chu steps out of one of the stalls, glaring after them with a dark look in her eyes.
Qiu Tian dries Xiao En off while Su Shan shakes her head and says that pouring water on someone is so low and childish. They both turn to stare at her, the irony not lost on them that she’s the one saying this when she was also the one who was such a fan of pouring water on Chu Chu.
Embarrassed, Su Shan takes over drying off Xiao En. She and Qiu Tian both notice that Xiao En’s face is red. Xiao En claims that it’s nothing, but Su Shan and Qiu Tian exchange a look and say that they should go to the security office and demand to see the security footage so they can figure out who did this to her. Xiao En quickly tells them there’s no need.
Chu Chu returns to the office and sits down at her desk without acknowledging them, a frown on her face. Qiu Tian and Su Shan watch her with narrowed eyes, commenting that she’s been acting odd lately. Xiao En wonders if it’s because seeing her this way has reminded her of her own trauma at the hands of Qiu Tian and Su Shan.
Chu Chu glances at Xiao En, then gets a text from Ao Ran, asking if she’s still free. Chu Chu texts back saying she’s putting in overtime and asks to reschedule, then she goes over to Xiao En and asks if she’s free. She wants to talk to her about something.
Qing Feng asks Ao Ran where he’s been when he returns to the office. Ao Ran tells Qing Feng that someone locked Xiao En in a stall and poured water on her. Qing Feng finds the whole situation weird. That happened to Xiao En and not Chu Chu? Something like this shouldn’t have happened to Xiao En. Ao Ran asks why, but Qing Feng says he can’t explain. He hurries off to go find Xiao En.
After Xiao En finishes showering at home, she walks out into her living room to find that Qing Feng has already set the table with fancy take-out. He smiles as he watches her savor the food, then asks who locked her in the bathroom.
Xiao En doesn’t know, but she also doesn’t seem to care, declining Qing Feng’s offer to investigate. To her, the incident is a good thing, because it’s a sign that she is know the CEO’s “little rose.” But Qing Feng continues to frown. He asks her how she knows. She says that she knew the moment he appeared.
She pours wine for them as she says that she once thought she could handle anything by herself. But when Ao Ran appeared, she suddenly felt a strong sense of security and now realizes how nice it is to feel protected by someone. She beams at Qing Feng as she holds out the glass of wine to him. He accepts it, still frowning.
Xiao En tells Qing Feng not to give up. She’s sure that as long as he tries, he will succeed. She holds out her own wineglass for a toast, saying she hopes they can both be with the people they like. Qing Feng continues to frown, then says that he hopes they can both find the happiness they’re looking for. He downs his wine in one long gulp. She stares wide-eyed, as he pours himself another and fills up her cup, then says that she will drink with him. They both chug their next glass of wine.
Chu Chu goes to find Xiao En at her apartment, arriving just in time to see Xiao En and Qing Feng come downstairs together. Chu Chu ducks around a corner and pulls out her phone.
Xiao En is tipsy from the wine. Qing Feng pats her on the head and tells her to go back upstairs. They wave goodbye and go their separate ways.
Chu Chu rings up to Xiao En’s apartment and returns the money she borrowed. She’s upset with Xiao En for involving Ao Ran and asks her to not accept anything from him from now on.
Xiao En hesitantly asks where Chu Chu got the money from. Chu Chu hesitates, then responds that she found a pretty good part-time job.
Chu Chu gets a text. She smiles when she looks at her phone and says that it’s from Ao Ran, then adds that Ao Ran keeps asking her out. Xiao En forces a smile, then stands up to clear her dining table.
Chu Chu follows her, saying that it’s unlikely that someone like Ao Ran would be sincerely kind to just one person. But she chooses to trust him and trust that he only cares about her. She grabs Xiao En’s hand and asks if Xiao En will continue to wish her well. Xiao En starts to respond, saying that she wants everyone to be happy, but–Chu Chu interrupts her, saying she hopes Xiao En will be sincere in supporting her no matter what.
Afterward, Xiao En tries to figure out what’s going on. Ao Ran kissed her because he likes her, right? But does he feel the same way toward Chu Chu, too? And what about Qing Feng? He should be getting a chance to be with Chu Chu now, right?
The next morning, Xiao En, Qiu Tian, and Su Shan run into Qing Feng and Ao Ran at the elevators. Qiu Tian and Su Shan greet them both. Qing Feng responds by specifically wishing Xiao En a good morning. Xiao En responds by saying good morning to Qing Feng and calling him by name, while giving Ao Ran a one-word greeting and calling him by his title.
Ao Ran over-analyzes the situation, wondering why he only got a one-word greeting while Qing Feng got two. And why did she call Qing Feng by name?
Qing Feng glances between the two, then starts asking Xiao En about yesterday. Ao Ran quickly interrupts and also asks about yesterday, asking if Xiao En got home okay last night. Xiao En nods in response.
Su Shan and Qiu Tian both get texts on their phones. Their eyes widen and they each take one of Xiao En’s arms, then drag her off, claiming that they need to go get coffee.
Chu Chu watches them with a cold glance while groups of other female employees also give them some side-eye.
Xiao En’s eyes are wide as she scrolls through several photos of her and Qing Feng from the night before that were posted to the company’s intranet. Su Shan tells her that she has officially surpassed Chu Chu as the most hated person within the company.
Ao Ran gets a text from Chu Chu with a link to the photos. When Qing Feng shows up, he shows him the photos and asks what’s going on. Qing Feng says that it’s exactly as the photos appeared. Ao Ran asks what they talked about and Qing Feng responds that it’s a secret.
Qing Feng points out that Ao Ran should probably be worrying more about Xiao En than him. The fact that someone followed Xiao En and took these photos, then posted them to the intranet, means that someone in the company bears her ill will. The photos also mean that more people within the company will dislike Xiao En and cause her trouble at work. He should be concerned about her safety.
Ao Ran says that Qing Feng is right and prepares to leave. Qing Feng suddenly asks if Ao Ran has ever wondered why he abruptly gave up on Chu Chu. Ao Ran gives him a confused look. Qing Feng smiles ruefully and says he was suddenly curious.
Ao Ran leaves without responding and makes a call to the security office. Once he’s gone, Qing Feng says out loud that the more important question is what Ao Ran plans to do with Xiao En.
Su Shan admonishes Xiao En for letting herself get so close to Qing Feng. Doesn’t she know that people will think the worst of her given her current situation? Xiao En asks if it’s too late to run. Qiu Tian says that she doesn’t need to run, she has her. Su Shan agrees, saying that she’s here for her, too.
At the promotional event, Ao Ran watches from a distance as Xiao En waits around for some customers to get ready. A coworker hides behind a pillar and sticks her foot out to try and trip Xiao En, but Xiao En is too savvy. She uses her own foot to kick the coworker’s foot away, then pulls her out from behind the pillar and sends her off with the customers. Ao Ran smiles.
Later, a different coworker tries to hand Xiao En a spiked drink. Xiao En “accidentally” spills the drink all over her. The coworker stares, then tries to fling her own drink onto Xiao En, except Xiao En quickly dodges out of the way. Ao Ran takes off his jacket, ready to swoop in and save her, but it turns out she doesn’t need saving.
She goes to the bathroom. A coworker sticks her head over the edge of the stall next door, ready to dump water, but Xiao En has her phone pulled out and tells her to smile.
Xiao En races to catch an elevator before the doors close. The elevator dings, sensing that it’s overloaded. A coworker snidely tells Xiao En that the elevator is full, clearly wanting her to get off, but Xiao En, Su Shan, and Qiu Tian team up against her, commenting that it suddenly smells so bad — did she fart? The coworker gets off with a glare. Xiao En smiles in a self-congratulatory way, not noticing Chu Chu glaring at her from behind.
Qing Feng smiles as he watches the security footage of the interaction, saying that Xiao En really knows how to take care of herself. Ao Ran looks disgruntled; he shouldn’t have listened to Qing Feng’s suggestion about protecting Xiao En. She would probably be better at protecting him.
Qing Feng just laughs, saying it looks like the male lead doesn’t have an opportunity to show off.
The promotional event is finally over and the marketing team cleans up. Qing Feng lets the team dress up in the yukata and take a photo together. Afterward, the other members of the department dump their yukata on Xiao En’s table, making her fold all of them up.
Qiu Tian offers to help, but Xiao En tells her to go help Su Shan instead. She sits down to get to work organizing when Ao Ran shows up. She asks why he’s here.
Ao Ran asks if she had something she wanted to ask him yesterday morning. She looks confused. Did she have something she wanted to ask? He glances around, then suggests they take a photo together.
Xiao En grabs his phone and offers to take a photo for him. But before she can, he smoothly puts one arm around her and uses the other to take his phone, then takes a series of selfies together. Afterward, she shyly asks if he’ll send the photos to her.
Ao Ran gets a call from Qing Feng, asking where he is. Everyone else is waiting for him to go to the restaurant together. Xiao En tells him to go ahead and not wait for her, since she still has to finish cleaning up.
Chu Chu confronts Xiao En when she’s finally alone, tears in her eyes and an angry look on her face. She accuses Xiao En of being two-faced and stabbing her in the back. Xiao En stammers in response, but Chu Chu is angry and shoves Xiao En, saying that she wants her to leave Ao Ran and Qing Feng alone and leave the company. Xiao En falls over.
Chu Chu realizes that Qing Feng and the rest of the department are on their way over. She hurries back to Xiao En, drags her up, then throws herself to the ground, acting like Xiao En had just shoved her.
Chu Chu gets up, crying, and goes straight to Ao Ran, saying that Xiao En hit her.
I suppose we couldn’t make it far through this show without some cliche villain moments popping up. It just wouldn’t be realistic to have a cliche romance book plot without a manipulative villain!
I was worried that we’d get a complete 180 with Xiao En fully taking on the lead role in the novel and losing all her semblance of self. But thankfully, although she does take on some of the aspects of a stereotypical female lead (all those wide-eyed looks and shyness around Ao Ran!), she still also stays true to herself in the way she can stand up for herself and not need Ao Ran to save her.
The fact that Xiao En exists in a storybook world gives the writers a lot of leeway in terms of cliche moments and flat characters. All of these moments can always be explained away by, “Oh, well this is supposed to be cliche,” instead of trying to pretend that the script is original when it’s not.
In that sense, I suppose Chu Chu’s sudden villainous turn can be explained away by the fact that it is a storybook world, and maybe she can’t help herself.
Tian Jian’s sudden transformation into an evil mastermind puppet, on the other hand, doesn’t have the benefit of being part of a storybook world (unless neither the “real world” nor the story world are actually real.”) His transformation feels way too abrupt to me. Just a few days ago he was trying to preach compassion to Ming Li, and now he seems to have no conscience? Sure, perhaps he was always just a playboy who goes for the easiest option and is all too easily manipulated, but I thought he’d have a little more autonomy and backbone than what he’s showing…
I still find it interesting to consider how much the story world characters are behaving according to the way their characters were written, versus behaving out of a sentience brought about by Xiao En’s influence. For example, Qiu Tian and Su Shan originally ignored Xiao En and were angry with her, perhaps because that’s what their antagonistic character roles ordained, yet eventually they seemed to “find themselves” and stay Xiao En’s friends instead of turning into cliches.
Similarly, I’m glad that there’s at least some acknowledgement from within the story world (i.e. Qing Feng) that Ao Ran’s sudden attraction to Xiao En is abrupt. At this point, it seems like he only likes her because it’s his duty to like the female lead, and she has become the female lead.
Poor Qing Feng. There are so many moments when he could easily sabotage Xiao En and Ao Ran’s relationship if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. Instead, he seems to always nudge Ao Ran in the right direction. He’s also the only one who seems to be able to see the full picture: that weird things are happening to Xiao En and that Ao Ran’s reasons for liking her doesn’t seem real. Even Xiao En seems blinded to the reality of her situation because she’s so happy to be liked by Ao Ran.
I’m skeptical about Ao Ran and Xiao En’s insta-love, but I am also so enjoying their scenes together. There’s something about Ao Ran’s cheesy lines and the music and the long stares and their beautiful faces that makes me smile and makes my heart flutter for them even if it doesn’t entirely make sense.
The plot has yet to resolve any of the open questions it’s created (comatose characters opening their eyes and Chun Tian somehow breaching the parallel universes for a moment?), and I can only hope that the writers are planning some big “Aha!” moments in the future and not just throwing in loose ends because they can.