In the last years of the Cheng dynasty, the Emperor was a tyrant and listened to corrupt advisers. Life became unbearable for ordinary citizens, and rebellions broke out everywhere. After several years of war, the Ning family emerged victorious, establishing a new dynasty called Tiansheng.
The new Emperor sent two of his sons, sixth prince Ning Yi, who was still young, and eldest prince Ning Chuan, to eliminate remnants of the Cheng dynasty.
At a cliff, Ning Yi negotiated with a rebel to surrender a baby thought to be the ninth child of the Cheng dynasty’s imperial family. Ning Yi guaranteed the baby’s safety and presented a jade he received from the Emperor as proof of his promise. However, Ning Chuan gave the order to kill. The rebel tossed the baby off the cliff and then jumped after the baby.
The credit for wiping out the Cheng dynasty’s royal line went to Ning Chuan. The Emperor rewarded Ning Chuan by making him the Crown Prince. Ning Yi, on the other hand, isn’t fortunate like his eldest brother.
Eighteen years later, Ning Chuan continues to solidify his power as Crown Prince while Ning Yi (CHEN KUN) is imprisoned. Unexpectedly, an epidemic breaks out and spreads toward the capital.
Ning Yi contributes money to isolate the sick and buy medicine to control the epidemic. His wealth comes from his ability to weave an expensive type of fabric, which he learned while imprisoned. The Emperor considers Ning Yi’s contribution and releases him.
Ning Yi hurries to see the Emperor to thank him. However, Ning Yi drank too much at dinner and throws up while waiting outside the Emperor’s chamber. Too drunk for conversation, he excuses himself, saying that he’ll thank the Emperor tomorrow.
The next morning at court, Ning Yi kneels outside in repentance until the Emperor summons him. The Emperor forgives Ning Yi’s crimes and offers to reward him for his effort in the epidemic. Ning Yi requests a prison guard because the guard is a good weaver, causing the ministers to laugh at him. The Emperor intends to send Ning Yi to Qingming Academy, but Xin Ziyan, who’s in charge of the school, rejects Ning Yi because his past actions indicate he isn’t trustworthy. Wanting to stay away from politics, Ning Yi begs the Emperor to let him live out his life as a weaver.
The Emperor looks for someone who can protect Ning Yi. Choosing the Qiu clan, he issues a marriage edict for Ning Yi and Qiu Yuluo, a daughter of Qiu Shangqi.
In public, Ning Yi and Xin Ziyan act like enemies, but actually, they are working together. The two of them meet in secret, and Xin Ziyan congratulates Ning Yi on his new alliance with the Qiu clan. Ning Yi isn’t sure the marriage will happen though.
Naturally, Qiu Shangqi won’t want a prince who’s just been released from imprisonment for a son-in-law. If he supports Ning Yi, Qiu Shangqi becomes an enemy of the other princes and their groups, particularly Ning Chuan and his ardent supporter, the powerful Chang clan.
Ning Yi and Xin Ziyan reminisce about the past. Eight years ago, third prince Ning Qiao was the perfect candidate to become the next emperor. Unfortunately, he was framed for treason and killed.
Ning Yi vows to destroy all the people involved in the murderous plot, even if it costs him his life. Xin Ziyan reminds Ning Yi not to talk about dying lightly. He promised Ning Qiao that he would assist Ning Yi to become the next emperor.
Xin Ziyan says that Ning Chuan, second prince Ning Sheng, and fifth prince Ning Yan seem to get along, but they’re waiting for a chance to strike. More importantly, Ning Chuan’s status as Crown Prince has become uncertain. Obviously, the Emperor released Ning Yi to set him up against Ning Chuan and the Chang clan. Since Ning Yi doesn’t have power or allies right now, the best option is to go with the flow.
At the Qiu clan, there is another young lady of marriageable age. Her name is Feng Zhiwei (NI NI), and she is Qiu Shangqi’s niece. For the past couple of years, she dresses as a young man to attend school for her lazy brother, Feng Hao. Now that Zhiwei is 18 years old, her mother wants her to stop. If people find out, Zhiwei’s reputation will be ruined. As mother and daughter talk, Qiu Shangqi’s fifth concubine, Yuhua, enters the room with gifts of jewelry. She informs them that Lady Qiu wants to see them.
After talking with Lady Qiu, Zhiwei’s mother feels conflicted. Should she let Zhiwei replace Yuluo and marry Ning Yi? This is a dangerous move, but sometimes, such a move is necessary to break a stalemate. Zhiwei can’t follow her mother’s logic and begs her mother to confide in her. “If you struggled to raise me so I can marry into wealth, why would you allow Teach Zong to teach me? I’m highly educated. How can you want me to shut myself up in a nobility’s household?” she asks.
Feng Hao returns home. Blinded by the jewelry, he doesn’t care who Zhiwei has to marry. Zhiwei scolds her brother because their new wealth comes from selling “his sister.”
Walking in the garden, Zhiwei sees Yuhua arguing with Zhuyin, a famous courtesan who is at the Qiu manor to perform. Zhiwei sees a kindred spirit in Zhuyin and defends her. Yuhua can’t argue back because Zhiwei will marry into the royal family soon.
A murder occurs, and the victim is a royal guard. A note left in the mouth of the dead body warns that “anyone who betrays the Bloody Pagoda will be killed.” In the past, the Bloody Pagoda supported the Cheng dynasty.
Ning Yi and Xin Ziyan don’t believe that the Bloody Pagoda is the culprit. Someone is using the organization’s name to create trouble for the Crown Prince. Thus Ning Yi declares, “They’ve started, so we’ll give them a hand.”