Liao Zhai 2: Yan Zhi

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Yan Xia and Yan Zhi were a pair of sisters who had a restaurant called ‘Tian Xiang’ (天香樓), which was recognized as the best around. Yan Xia was in charge of greeting customers and occupying their times with stories while Yan Zhi was in charge of cooking the many delicacies. Yan Xia was known as beautiful and gentle while Yan Zhi was supposedly ugly and anti-social. Yan Xia was very protective of her sister, Yan Zhi, and even wanted to find the best match for her sister. Upon venturing in the woods one day, the sisters encountered E Zi Chuan, a scholar on his way to the royal palace’s exam (the one that would allow one to advance in different official ranks, etc). It was later revealed he had other motives when rescuing the two sisters, injuring himself in the process and was brought back to their restaurant. He was actually trying to make it on time for the exams, but he was given instructions by his grandpa to search for the one who had the protective seal on her and also the powerful pearl that the rock demon was looking for. He soon found out through different tests that it was Yan Zhi yet it was not an easy test for him. (It was a relevant piece of information since a Taoist had put a seal on Yan Zhi and was able to stop the inevitable from happening to her ten years ago, but had predicted that she would encounter another obstacle ten years later.)

Zi Chuan soon learned that Yan Zhi was not a weakling or the quiet type like she had perceived at first. She was quite fierce with him after learning that he had tricked them and even stole some food from her kitchen. However, she was not unreasonable either since she still asked her sister for pardon and let him stay to help her around the restaurant. On the other hand, Yan Xia was finally meeting a match worth marrying, Shu Jie Lang. Yet she did not know that he had an agenda of his own with being so close to her. He was none other than the rock demon that Zi Chuan and his grandpa had been searching for.

Thinking that they could finally shed off Shu Jie Lang’s mask, Zi Chuan and his grandpa followed him into the woods one night and a battle ensued as they discovered the rock demon was feeding off a girl at that time. After realizing that they were no match for the demon, Zi Chuan and his grandpa fled the scene to which they were chased and eventually ran into the town’s constable. While Zi Chuan was yelling out for help, his grandpa stopped him from revealing their secret. However, the other guards found the girl’s body and immediately reported it to the constable to which he had both grandpa and grandson arrested for murder. An investigation was launched and the constable discovered some suspicious items in Zi Chuan’s belonging at Tian Xiang Restaurant. He took the items back to the cell where Zi Chuan and his grandpa resided and questioned them some more–to which Zi Chuan’s grandpa fended off the suspicions again. It was then that they discovered another body around town so the two suspects were released. That night, Zi Chuan and his grandpa kidnapped Yan Zhi with the intention of wanting to explain everything to her, seeking her help by letting them stay with her so it was easier to investigate. At first, she wasn’t convinced but later realized that Zi Chuan wouldn’t lie to her so she agreed. She then brought the two back to Tian Xiang Restaurant and persuaded her sister in letting them stay. Yan Xia did not trust the two and thought her sister was easily deceived but the constable appeared at that time, clearing their names and vouched for their innocence. Though the grandpa was grateful to the constable for backing them up, Zi Chuan knew the constable only wanted to keep them to find more information.

One day, Shu Jie Lang wanted to take Yan Xia on a boat ride date. Thanks to Zi Chuan’s grandpa, the date was avoided, allowing Zi Chuan a chance to follow Shu Jie Lang to find a lead. Zi Chuan soon discovered that the constable was following him from behind. On the other hand, Yan Zhi, not able to stay put, followed Zi Chuan and ended up helping him divert the constable’s attention from them. Once again, Yan Zhi helped Zi Chuan track Shu Jie Lang since she was more familiar with all the locations around town. They ended up being lost in the woods with fog surrounding them. They had to rest and wait for the fog to clear before going forth. That night, the rock demon finally attacked. Zi Chuan was defeated by the rock demon and the rock demon was moving in for the kill when Yan Zhi picked up the special magic coin sword to attack the rock demon, attempting to save Zi Chuan. Because of that, Yan Zhi received another scar on her face–this one being more obvious than the previous one. However, Zi Chuan was able to find a remedy to patch up the damage. After some hardships, Yan Zhi’s face was restored–even the scar from years ago. With all the efforts, Zi Chuan and Yan Zhi’s feelings had grown–for the better, of course. Even Grandpa was happy so it wasn’t just about them. Grandpa’s happiness wasn’t just because of Yan Zhi’s recovery but they also found the seal that was hidden on her years ago, allowing them to discover more regarding the powerful pearl that was on her also. They also learned that the Taoist who saved Yan Zhi’s life and placed a protective seal on her years ago was none other than Zi Chuan’s father. Zi Chuan realized the importance of practicing the skills and ended up taking a more active and responsible role as a Taoist, succeeding under his father as the next leader of their sect, Xiang Nan.

While that was going on, words had spread around town regarding Yan Zhi’s recovery and how her beauty was beyond imagination, drawing even more attention. That also stemmed some jealousy from Yan Xia–though subtle. At that time, Constable Ye (the same constable that had been investigating about the rock demon case) wanted to cancel the yearly beauty pageant for the female population’s safety. (It wasn’t just a typical beauty pageant since the winner was responsible for going up the mountains to this one temple to ask for the town’s fortune and well-being for the upcoming year.) YET Shu Jie Lang and Yan Xia still wanted to go ahead with it. And in the end, Shu Jie Lang won and they had to proceed with the plan but had to heighten the security.

Moving on, the public pressure had been hectic, causing Yan Zhi to seek for a hiding place. She ended up in Zi Chuan’s room–on his bed to be exact. Just at that time, Zi Chuan went back to his room and bumped into her–literally. He immediately told her to get out because it would lead to a misunderstanding (aka he wouldn’t want to get killed by her sister if someone walked in on them). So Zi Chuan took her to the roof to talk matters over. After a while, Grandpa walked in on them, teasing them some more before they launched into their discussion with making the next move, preparing for the security issues during the beauty pageant. After some ideas being tossed around, Yan Zhi finally thought of a plan but did not reveal it to Zi Chuan or Grandpa.

The next day arrived and Yan Zhi got her chance to carry out her plan, which was pretending to seduce Jie Lang so she could get close to him, forcing his demon form to appear in front of them all. However, both Yan Xia and Zi Chuan saw the action at the same time, causing more misunderstandings. Yan Zhi had no choice but to reveal the whole story to Yan Xia but of course, Yan Xia did not believe her, stating that Yan Zhi was just making an excuse, trying to hide the fact that she was stealing Yan Xia’s boyfriend. After tossing Yan Zhi out, Yan Xia wanted to go visit Jie Lang. That also led to her discovery of Jie Lang’s actual demon form because he was trying to cure himself of Yan Zhi’s previous attack. (More like the protective seal on her that had injured him.) The demon did not harm her. In fact, he offered to fulfill her wish of everlasting beauty if she would slash Yan Zhi’s face to destroy the seal, allowing him a chance to steal the powerful pearl on her. Yan Xia returned home to find Yan Zhi worrying for her, causing her to feel guilty of her plan. She bumped into Constable Ye the next day out in the streets and they had a talk. It also helped her to sort out her feelings. She returned home that night feeling much better about the whole thing, abandoning her evil plot altogether. OR so it seemed because she awakened from a nightmare that she had gone ugly to the point of terrifying. That was her new determination and she sought out the rock demon and joined forces with him, guaranteeing her forever beauty.

With the help of Yan Xia, Jie Lang was able to gain ultimatum over Zi Chuan, even killing Grandpa. Though Yan Xia was not able to separate Zi Chuan and Yan Zhi, she was able to aid Jie Lang in other means, causing the worst. They had no idea Yan Xia had destroyed their special magic coin sword on purpose the previous night and also switched their special ink to dog blood. Not to mention, Yan Xia was responsible for injuring Yan Zhi the previous day. Zi Chuan could not stop blaming himself for his grandpa’s death, thinking it was his lousy skills that had caused the old man’s death. But Yan Zhi soon discovered the dog’s blood and informed Zi Chuan, persuading Zi Chuan to continue on, thinking of methods to uncover Jie Lang’s mask. Due to his stubbornness and rash behaviors, Zi Chuan fell into Jie Lang and Yan Xia’s trap, causing him to be imprisoned. However, Zi Chuan was able to draw some magic words on Yan Zhi, wanting her to test Yan Xia to see if Yan Xia had been possessed. Upon Yan Xia’s deceptive words, Yan Zhi abandoned her plan and they proceeded with the beauty pageant the next day.

Zi Chuan escaped from prison the next day through the invisibility trick, going up the mountain to where the demon was supposed to strike. Constable Ye was also in hot pursuit, but while he and Zi Chuan were arguing and sorting things out among themselves, they saw a light appearing from the sky a distance away. It was a sign that the protective seal had been broken. It was Yan Zhi breaking it herself because she wanted the rock demon to restore Yan Xia’s beauty for her. Apparently, Yan Xia was touched by Yan Zhi’s many attempts to save her that she could not go forth with the plan in harming Yan Zhi causing the rock demon to punish her. The two men immediately rushed up to the mountain to find the two sisters struggling with the rock demon. Zi Chuan took over the battle against the rock demon, stopping him from getting the powerful pearl from Yan Zhi. After some more struggling, the rock demon managed to take the pearl out, ready to down it in order to gain human form forever. But before he was able to swallow it in full, Zi Chuan managed to put a protective seal over the pearl, causing the rock demon to swallow both the pearl and the seal, exploding into pieces. As they did a little celebration and gathered everyone up to escape from the scene, the rock demon managed to restore itself again, collecting every piece that made up his rock body. Zi Chuan was trapped under a big rock statue at that time since the ground was shaking, but he was able to yell out his command to the others to catch the pieces, stopping the demon from forming again. The rock demon laughed on, mocking their lame attempts YET he had no idea Yan Xia had caught one in all their attempts. She swallowed it, not letting the demon restore in full. While he tried to acquire her body to take the piece back out, she yelled out a command to Zi Chuan to destroy her body in full–even the rock particle that was in her, sabotaging the rock demon’s final chance. Yan Zhi did not understand at first since Yan Xia was using some vague words as her commands but Constable Ye was able to comprehend the situation. Zi Chuan finally went through with his curse and summoned the ability to destroy Yan Xia and the rock demon.

The next scene was the part where Yan Zhi and Constable Ye were standing in front of Yan Xia’s grave. From their conversation, it had been a while already and Zi Chuan already left–mostly from the guilt that he had killed Yan Xia (but that was because he had no choice). Yan Zhi had been living alone in Tian Xiang Restaurant but also under the care of Constable Ye (who of course was just taking on the role of a protective brother). After some reassuring words from Constable Ye, they separated. Yan Zhi encountered Zi Chuan and they finally talked it over, reaching an understanding. Zi Chuan was actually persuaded by Constable Ye to come and see Yan Zhi. It was a happy ending for both–a rare scene for such a tragic collection of stories.

I loved the chemistry between Cecilia and Kevin. It was just too addicting to watch them argue. I was glad he wasn’t just some weak scholar only knowing how to lecture others YET not looking at himself. He was much more than just a typical scholar. He knew how to take care of himself. He also had a smart mouth but it wasn’t just lecturing others out of some book. He had real experiences of those things or was intelligent enough to know what he was actually talking about. There was also the whole idea of Yan Zhi not being a weakling either. She seemed timid and gentle at the beginning. She was gentle but it did not mean she would get stepped on by others. Seeing different scenes, it was obvious she could take care of herself.

I was a tad surprised that Luo Da Hua was in here, considering how he wasn’t receiving important roles at TVB, etc. (I have watched him in various ATV series before that.) A role worth looking forward to though he was a villain this time. Kind of typical, considering his roles these past years at TVB, but this time, it was much more intriguing to watch his character unfold. What was more was seeing how his character Shu Jie Lang was just a shield for the rock demon. (Thanks to Constable Ye’s further investigation of Shu Jie Lang’s background and uncovering the truth.)

A very good storyline overall. Also, great characterization and development throughout. The acting was really good also. Quite convincing with each person and their personalities. Not to mention the emotions and turmoils they went through as the story progressed.

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