New development on the block: The fish bone paved a way to the underwater palace and… it’s empty! Well, practically empty save for a big screen LCD blank canvas and a statue. The statue is the goddess Shui Bi and the canvas is like the flattened version of the crystal ball, minus the mystique or the spark. It shows the past, the future, AND it reminds us, the viewers, what had happened since episode 1, for the umpteenth time.
The only way to borrow the pearl is to save Shui Bi first. But to save Shui Bi, Xi Feng needs to be saved before that. Doing so requires a sacrifice on ChongLou’s part. After all, Xi Feng won’t be free until ChongLou says he is. To get to ChongLou, we need Zi Xuan to flex her muscle of charm. This is where the trouble begins. Remember the entangled kiss? Remember ChangQing’s fury? Don’t tamper with a man’s heart because when he’s jealous, he’s also scary.
Sorry ChangQing, you’ll have to endure this one.
While Zi Xuan is getting ready for her “thing”, Xi Feng has arrived to see his immortal beloved. But no matter how hard he begged — and beg he did — Shui Bi won’t cast her beautiful stony eyes on his eye makeup-laden face. Although she was turned into stone, she can still hear. She remembers Xi Feng’s voice distinctively and the man claiming to be Xi Feng doesn’t possess Xi Feng’s angelic voice. Therefore, she refuses to do anything other than to continue her wait.
Xi Feng’s love for Shui Bi brought ChongLou to the underwater palace. Now feeling the pain of his own unrequited love close to heart, ChongLou relents and grants Xi Feng freedom. With the restored voice, came the ugly appearance. Determined to awaken his love for once and for all, Xi Feng approaches the statue and sings to her. Slowly, the rock starts to crack; from it, emerges the goddess.
Xi Feng shies away from Shui Bi at first, covering his deformed features. But Shui Bi brushes away his uneasiness and takes his face in both her hands. “Your visage doesn’t frighten me,” she says, “with a voice so gentle and so pure, I can hear the goodness of your soul no matter how you look.” With that, they embrace.
All alone now, ChongLou starts to bang on the musical instruments, reproducing the melody of affliction he heard from Xi Feng. Zi Xuan watches him from a distance. As the tune grows more and more sorrowful, she steps forward and grabs ChongLou’s hand. (O~ Mend the poor chap’s broken heart with thy sweet lips already!) “Close your eyes and open your mouth,” she tells him. He obeys.
Inspired by Shui Bi’s total acceptance of Xi Feng, Zi Xuan returns ChongLou’s heart and resolves to grow old with ChangQing. Before leaving, she thanks ChongLou for his affection, leaving the apology of not being able to return the feeling pending in the air unsaid.
On the other side of the palace, LongKui is watching her past in front of the canvas. When the death of her beloved kin brother becomes too painful to watch, she fast forwards to the future. The future is just as bleak for her. She sees herself jumping into a pool of hot lava separating from her brother once again. As the fate of separation crashes down on LongKui, the underwater palace starts to collapse.
Although the travelers escape in time, Xi Feng and Shui Bi are buried alive. The poetic take is this: their bones get to be together for eternity. (Since Shui Bi is a goddess, you would expect more. Apparently her magic is limited to turning into stones.)
As the bunch return to Mt. Shu, MaoMao — as cute as ever — returns!
Upon the heroes’ return, they find the world littered with corpse. Not only that, the masters of Mt. Shu are shackled to the top of the Suo Yao Tower. Xie Jian Xian is now in control.
Suddenly, Xie Jian Xian appears from midair and charges at Jin Tian. He asserts dominance and — believe it or not — does a little recruiting. ChangQing, who is the recruitee, is as stubborn as a Taurus (no offense) and firmly declines the offer. That doesn’t flow Xie Jian Xian’s boat so more fighting ensues. But when the distribution of strength is so skewed, it can only end in one way: ugly defeat. Xie Jian Xian swallows ChangQing alive (it really isn’t as macabre as it sounds) and drifts away, leaving the others wail in grief.
As the day draws to a close, Xie Jian Xian sends his messenger, Jin Tian’s old buddy Bi Ping, to deliver a message. Xie Jian Xian wants to have a second round of gamble with Jin Tian. Although Jin Tian refuses to oblige, it doesn’t look like he has a choice.
Right about the same time, Jin Tian remembers the masked man who took his pendant away. The man said something about the pendant being useful at the Apocalypse. But it’s the Apocalypse now! And I don’t see no man in black. As for the white sea shell ChangQing stuffed in Jin Tian’s hand before ending up in Xie Jian Xian’s belly… What the hell?
While these questions remain unanswered, Jin Tian arrives for his appointment. He gets an invitation to fish with Xie Jian Xian. The catch? There’s no hook.
The first one that gets the fish is deemed the winner. If Jin Tian were to win, Xie Jian Xian will return to his box and stay there. But if Jin Tian were to lose, he loses everybody’s food to Xie Jian Xian.
Jin Tian may have the smarts to tie mantou to his pole as bait for the fish but Xie Jian Xian is one sneaky cheater. The instant Jin Tian drags the fish out of water, Xie Jian Xian wraps a sharp piece of wood on his fishing pole has a stab at the fish. Instantly, the food vanish into thin air. (Cheater! That’s AT MOST a tie!)
Upset, Jin Tian challenges Xie Jian Xian to a second round. This time the objects of the game are the five Taoist masters. If Jin Tian wins, the masters go free.
Overcome by frustration, Jin Tian starts to toss rocks at the river. At length, a fish gets hit and pops out of the surface and — too late, Xie Jian Xian nets the fish before Jin Tian has time to pick up his tool. The five masters are dumped into Suo Yao Tower as punishment.
When Jin Tian requests for a third round, Xie Jian Xian shakes his head and asks Jin Tian to come back again tomorrow. Dejected and apologetic, Jin Tian returns to town. He faces the townspeople’s blame and resolves to find food for everybody. But MaoMao stops him. “You’re troubled and exhausted,” he says, “let me do the work this time. Let me find the food for everyone.”
The second day’s encounter with Xie Jian Xian is once again, marked by disappointment. Jin Tian didn’t plan to go but shows up eventually after finding out ChongLou is being held hostage. Unfortunately, he arrives late and Xie Jian Xian refuses to see him. Xie Jian Xian’s logic: Jin Tian’s had his chance and he forfeited it by not showing up on time. If Jin Tian wants a chance to undo the damage, he will have to come back the next day and be on time.
MaoMao hears that PiLi Tang has food and heads there hoping to snatch an item or two for the starving peasants.
PiLi Tang’s Luo RuLie takes MaoMao inside and showers him with food. Don’t be fooled, Luo RuLie is only doing it to feed the hog; he wants to eat MaoMao. Since MaoMao possesses a pure soul, eating him will increase Luo RuLie’s power. Of course MaoMao wouldn’t let himself be eaten like that. So Luo RuLie makes a deal with him: he’ll trade 5,000 grams of food for every 500 grams of flesh.
Seeing the tight spot everybody is in, MaoMao decides to sacrifice himself. (NOOOOOOOOOOOO!) He returns to PiLi Tang and accepts the offer. With a thunderous laugh, Luo RuLie tosses MaoMao a set of knives, “You cut or I cut?” Ever the resolute martyr, MaoMao bites his lips and replies, “I will do it myself.” He picks up a knife… and, splash. (Woe, I need a moment to cry in the corner.)
Loosely wrapping his wounded leg with bandages, MaoMao heads home. He brings enough food to sustain people’s lives, but not enough to chase away the feeling of hunger. Then, the demand for more food sends MaoMao right back to Luo RuLie’s lap.
In the meantime, ShengGu has brought ZiXuan and ChangQing’s child to see ZiXuan, hoping to awake her from the catatonic state she has fallen into since ChangQing’s demise. It proves to be futile.
With each game Xie Jian Xian plays, the stake gets higher. This time, he wants to use the six leaders of the six realms as the object of the gamble. He puts the name of the leaders into six capsules and sets them erect at a distance. The two of them will each catapult a ball to hit the capsules. Who knocks down the most capsules wins. To hit, the players must first guide their balls through a maze of obstacles. It’s like pinbowling. You know, pinball plus bowling.
Of the three rounds, Jin Tian ties with Xie Jian Xian in the first; saves the king of the Gods in the second; but the third round is a little tricky. BiPing, now Xie Jian Xian’s sidekick, attempts to help Jin Tian by distracting Xie Jian Xian with MaoMao’s flesh. At first annoyed, Xie Jian Xian soon thinks of a way to win. He orders BiPing to turn the meat over to Jin Tian, knowing that the starved hero wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation of food and thus losing focus. It turns out to be the case. While Jin Tian battles the allure of the meat (if he had known where the meat came from, he would be utterly disgusted. And I mean DISGUSTED.), Xie Jian Xian launches his ball and hits all five remaining capsules. As punishment to Jin Tian’s defeat, the realm leaders are tortured a la Prometheus.
That night, ChangQing’s funeral takes place. The proceeding is interrupted by a gush of wind. A white butterfly flutters around the candles and lands on the white sea shell ChangQing left. Taking sudden note of the insect, ZiXuan raises her eyes for the first time since losing ChangQing. She chases out, hoping to get a glimpse of the butterfly. But there is no butterfly.
On the fourth day of the gamble, Jin Tian takes a different approach. He is setting the rules this time. He and Xie Jian Xian will each write a name on paper and ask each other three questions to determine the name written. Whoever guesses first, wins.
They both end up writing the same name, QingEr (ChangQing’s daughter). Fortunately, BiPing saw Xie Jian Xian writing and tips Jin Tian off. Unfortunately, although Jin Tian wins, Xie Jian Xian wouldn’t let him off the hook. He wants to raise the stake and keeping going until he wins.
Jin Tian realizes then that no matter how hard he tries, he will never save the world because Xie Jian Xian will always find a way to outdo him. To add insult to injury, when Xie Jian Xian found out what BiPing did, he kills BiPing in front of Jin Tian. BiPing’s death and the devastation piling up day by day finally pushes Jin Tian over the brink of despair.
Xi Feng and Shui Bi were buried alive in episode 33, ChangQing supposedly died in episode 34, yet 35 is the most memorable out of the three. It simply hit all the right spots for me.
Although at times, Xie Jian Xian seemed more keen on teaching Jin Tian moral lessons than to undermine him, episode 35 established Jin Tian as the underdog at its worst. That said, I don’t think I would buy into it if it weren’t for MaoMao’s sacrificial act that reinforced the notion of helplessness.
In the end, it’s Lam Tze Chung’s excellent acting that won me over and made episode 35 so damn hard to write!