Si Feng adjusts to life with his mask. Meanwhile, Xuan Ji sets off on a new adventure with Ling Long and Min Yan as they start their year of experience in the outside world.
Si Feng tells Yi Huan that wearing the mask isn’t so bad. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on cultivation without other distractions. But Yi Huan disagrees. Cultivation is already so difficult — why force oneself to have to be emotionless while pursuing it? He says that he will find a way. Then he returns Xiao Yin Hua to Si Feng.
Xuan Ji keeps ringing Si Feng’s bell, hoping he’ll respond. Ling Long finds her ringing the bell and thinks that Xuan Ji must have been in constant contact with Si Feng. She chides Xuan Ji when she finds out that Xuan Ji hasn’t communicated with him at all. She says that if she weren’t Xuan Ji’s sister, she would want to break off their relationship. Xuan Ji thinks that friendships and sisters are both for forever — they all made promises to meet again in four years, so she thought that would be enough. Ling Long sighs that Xuan Ji is still so naive when it comes to people. Friendships require maintenance. No one is going to wait for her in the same place forever.
Xuan Ji treats Min Yan to some wine from Xuyang. He asks her if she’s found out anything about the mirror. She tells him that she isn’t looking for the mirror anymore, and he seems to accept her answer. She gifts him some fairy fruit she saved from Xuyang Peak, but then Min Yan gets distracted when a fellow disciple rushes up and reports that Ling Long is about to dance the flower-drum dance with another male disciple.
Di Lang, the Tianxu Hall leader’s crony, reports that they’ve been able to successfully infiltrate all of the sects except Shaoyang. However, he recommends not yet activating their spies because the sects are on high alert. Wu Tong enters the hall and interrupts with a loud laugh at how ineffective Di Lang has been over the past few years — he’s failed to figure out where the God of War and Mosha Star are, and he’s failed to acquire the spirit keys.
Di Lang and Wu Tong argue back and forth about what to do when it comes to the sects. Wu Tong asks their leader for the opportunity to take over the task of eliminating the five sects and acquiring the spirit keys. Di Lang tries to say that as a human, Wu Tong can’t be trusted. But Wu Tong reveals that the Xuanyuan sect has been lying to Di Lang all along. He has a prisoner, a Xuanyuan sect member, brought in, and reveals that Xuanyuan sect has their own spirit key. The sect member confirms what Wu Tong said and adds that only Zhu Shi, the sect leader, knows where it is.
Wu Tong again asks the Tianxu leader for the opportunity to take over when it comes to spirit keys and the five sects. The Tianxu leader tosses him a ring, declaring him the new division leader of Buzhou Mountain. The Tianxu leader gives Wu Tong permission to use whatever methods he wants to acquire the spirit keys. His sect has been in the dark for too long — it’s time they reveal themselves.
The Lize Palace disciples assemble before they are to leave for their year of experience in the outside world. The Lize Palace leader declares in front of everyone that he’ll pass the sect down to Si Feng as long as he continues on his upward trajectory. Yuan Lang closes his eyes. The disciples whisper among themselves. Si Feng doesn’t react.
Yuan Lang reminds everyone that even though the mask may discourage Si Feng from getting distracted by emotions, he may still die if he forms another “deep friendship.” The Palace leader waves off his warning and asks Si Feng if he understands the expectations of the mask. He does. The Palace leader then again reminds the rest of the disciples that Lize Palace will always be their true home and everything else in the outside world is just a distraction.
Yuan Lang tells the disciples to keep an eye out for demons when they’re out in the world. The Palace leader seems to think that the demons are of no concern to them, out on their island. The other sects can fend for themselves. Yuan Lang looks displeased and says that they have to at least respect the other sects. The Palace leader tells him to do what he wants.
Hao Chen reminds Xuan Ji to write him when she’s out in the world. Chu Lei gives them a few last reminders before they leave. Ling Long gets impatient with the nagging and runs off first.
The trio’s first week out in the world is uneventful. Xuan Ji’s letters to Hao Chen consist mostly of the good and bad food she’s eaten and communicate how happy she is. He smiles to himself to read them.
One day, they run into some men from Wangxian Town on their way to Shaoyang. Their town has been troubled by demons and they were hoping to get the cultivators’ help. Xuan Ji checks her map and is excited to discover that Wangxian is on the way to Lize Palace. They can go get rid of the demons and then find Si Feng.
They offer to help, but the townsmen are skeptical that they are capable of defeating demons, given their youth and the fact that two of them are women. But Min Yan starts boasting about how famous and powerful they are and convinces the townsmen to accept their help.
The trio go to the mountain near Wangxian that is being plagued by the demon, which they think is a quru bird. As they start investigating, they come upon one such bird demon and follow it to a gorge that is dark and deep and reeking of demons.
Ling Long lights a stick of dynamite and drops it into the gorge. It explodes, illuminating hundreds of quru birds that get agitated and swarm the three friends. Xuan Ji, Ling Long, and Min Yan fall into the gorge and start fighting off the demon birds. At one point, Ling Long gets into a tricky situation. Min Yan saves her and catches her; they hold eye contact for a long moment before he helps her to the ground.
Xuan Ji struggles alone to fend off the birds around her. She manages to do a good job, at one point summoning a tornado of fire that incinerates many, but several demons get through her defenses and wound her, causing her to cough up blood. Suddenly, another person streaks through the darkness, defeating the birds. It’s Si Feng. He catches Xuan Ji as she falls and makes her a platform to stand on before shooting away to destroy more demons. Xuan Ji forms her own defensive bubble again. Si Feng joins with her and manages to blast an opening. Xuan Ji recognizes him and says his name, but he ignores her — until she swoons. Then he catches her and helps her down to the ground.
Si Feng sets Xuan Ji down on the ground near Ling Long and Min Yan, then flies off again. A short distance away, Ruo Yu lands after taking out another cloud of demons and introduces himself to the three. He tries to tell Xuan Ji about Si Feng, but she’s too excited to run into Si Feng again that she starts chattering about how Si Feng is a good friend of theirs. A woman steps up next to Ruo Yu and says that’s impossible — Si Feng doesn’t have friends.
When Si Feng gets back, Xuan Ji tries to talk to him, but he ignores her, telling his other two companions that they should leave. Xuan Ji pulls on his arm to hold him back, acting like nothing has changed. He doesn’t look at her and stares away impassively. He gives them some blunt advice about the quru birds, saying they should be more prepared next time so they don’t hassle others.
Min Yan puts an arm around Si Feng with a warm greeting, and Ling Long speaks up, too. Si Feng’s female companion pulls Min Yan’s arm away from Si Feng and stands in front of him like a shield, telling them to stay away from him. They demand to know who she is. Ruo Yu introduces her as Lu Yan Ran, a member of the Dianjing Valley sect who got separated from her own group. Yan Ran is unhappy that the three of them interfered with their own plans to go after the quru bird flock. She and Ling Long trade sharp words with each other.
Yan Ran suggests that they go back to rest before continuing their pursuit of the quru birds. Xuan Ji asks where they’re staying, hoping to join them and continue on their travels together, but Yan Ran doesn’t want to. Si Feng tries to leave again, not wanting to talk, but Xuan Ji grabs his arm to stop him again. Is he angry because she hasn’t contacted him all these years? Si Feng claims that he lost his bell a long time ago. Xuan Ji looks relieved and continues to chatter optimistically, while Ling Long frowns.
Si Feng tries to leave again. This time, Ruo Yu blocks Xuan Ji’s way, politely saying that they really have to be on their way. Xuan Ji suddenly reels, faint. Ling Long catches her and finds scratch marks on Xuan Ji’s hands. She’s been poisoned.
Si Feng pauses but doesn’t turn. Ling Long knows that Lize Palace disciples are experienced in treating poison. Is he really going to leave Xuan Ji and not help? Ruo Yu says that they should help Xuan Ji, since she seems to be in serious condition.
Si Feng draws out Xuan Ji’s poison in a rest house while everyone else paces worriedly outside. Min Yan points out that quru birds aren’t supposed to be poisonous, so why was Xuan Ji poisoned? Ruo Yu shares that they think someone intentionally put poison on the quru birds’ talons. He and his group have been trying to track the bird demons for that reason. Yan Ran repeats her irritation with the fact that if not for someone interfering, they would’ve caught whoever was responsible.
Ling Long bristles and says that they would have met up with Si Feng eventually, because they’re friends. Yan Ran points out that Si Feng doesn’t seem to want anything to do with them. She accuses them of not being capable enough and wanting Si Feng on their side to help fight off demons, then childishly makes a face at Ling Long.
Xuan Ji wakes up after Si Feng manages to get rid of the poison. He immediately turns to leave. She tries to go after him, but is still weak and falls to the floor. He pauses and turns, telling her she still needs to recover. Xuan Ji tries to explain why she didn’t contact him for so many years, but he remains cold and says he doesn’t need an explanation, acting like he doesn’t care. He does say that he’s true to his word and pulls out the mirror shard he retrieved four years ago. Xuan Ji gently pushes it away, telling him how she isn’t looking for the mirror anymore and promised Hao Chen she wouldn’t. He clenches his fist, but otherwise doesn’t react. Instead, he just says something cryptic about how people’s hearts change.
He goes outside, Xuan Ji continuing to follow, but he ignores her and starts planning next steps for his group. Ling Long and Min Yan don’t like how he’s treating them like strangers and demand an explanation. Yan Ran says they don’t need to explain, and they turn to leave, but then a flock of quru birds attack.
The six of them join forces to create a defensive bubble. Si Feng casts a spell that allows him to trace the birds to where they come from and finds the demon controlling the flock. He attacks the demon, severing his connection to the birds, and the flock flies away. Si Feng tells the other to go after the demons, convincing them that he’ll be okay by himself.
But after they fly away, while Si Feng tries to cast another spell, a lone quru bird turns back to attack him. It gets knocked away by a parasol — Xuan Ji has turned back, deciding that she can’t leave Si Feng alone. She forces him to rest. Then, thinking he’s still angry with her, she tries a bunch of different silly things to try and make him smile. He does his best to ignore her, closing his eyes and sweating heavily, but she’s persistent.
At one point, she conjures a bouquet of flowers and holds it out to him, saying that Min Yan would always do this to reconcile after an argument. The mention of Min Yan makes Si Feng clench his fists, remembering how Xuan Ji said she liked Min Yan. He grabs the bouquet and throws it away, making it vanish.
He repeats all the usual phrases about how Lize Palace disciples aren’t supposed to form human connections. Xuan Ji is confused because he didn’t used to be this way. She becomes more earnest than silly and brings up all the words he said to her when she was comatose, about how meeting her was one of the best things to happen to him. He closes his eyes and continues to clench his fists, gritting out that he was young and naive and he shouldn’t take her words to heart. She says that she doesn’t want things between them to change. She doesn’t want to lose him.
He opens his eyes and they make eye contact. She looks deeply into his eyes, searching for something. But he just looks away and closes his eyes again, and she sits back with a frown, looking down.
The longing! The tension! These scenes are the reasons why I watch romance dramas like these, when the lead couple clearly love each other but can’t be together for some reason. Preferably the reason is life and death or reasonably an obstacle and not just dramatic nonsense. Sometimes it’s kind of both, but hey, that’s why it’s called a drama right?
Part of me doesn’t really get why Si Feng doesn’t just tell Xuan Ji the truth about the mask. I don’t think it’s part of the curse that he can’t tell people about the curse, right? But at the same time, it makes sense that he doesn’t say much to her at all, because he’s trying to limit their interactions as much as possible. Once Xuan Ji knows the truth, she’s sure to be overbearingly optimistic and driven to find a solution, and the emotional toll of trying to not have hope is probably extremely taxing for Si Feng. It might be enough to kill him.
I’m kind of surprised by how endearing I continue to find Xuan Ji’s naivete. Usually her type of character has me wanting to tear my hair out a few episodes in (like A Love So Beautiful), but she’s just so oblivious and so benignly earnest that it makes me chuckle — just like Hao Chen does — instead of want to scream.
Speaking of Hao Chen… he’s so pretty! But also so bland thus far. But there are also hints of a deep history with Xuan Ji. I’m curious to see how his character will play out with his allegiance to Xuan Ji/God of War. It’s clear that he cares about the God of War, but it’s also clear that he seems very fixated on keeping her on the “right” path and returning her to the way she was before whatever transgression sent her to the mortal realm. I can see Hao Chen being the kind of person who might do something to emotionally hurt Xuan Ji because he believes it’s good for her in the long-run.
I also keep thinking that Yuan Lang is the same person as the Tianxu Hall leader, but that just might be because they both have evil undertones. (Well, in the case of the Tianxu Hall leader, it’s not an undertone.) It doesn’t make sense for them to be the same person given everything the Tianxu leader doesn’t know.