When Zhao Zhen discovers his biological mother is not the Empress Dowager Liu E, but her maid Li Lanhui, he arranges a marriage between his beloved daughter Princess Fukang and the Li family’s son Li Wei as compensation for his lack of filial piety. In the political arena, Zhao Zhen strives to maintain a balance of power between the conservative and progressive factions after the Qingli reforms experiences a significant backlash from the former.
Outside the palace, Huirou’s married life with Li Wei is far from pleasant – displeased with her foolish and boring husband, and annoyed by her prying in-laws, Huirou develops an even closer relationship with her eunuch Liang Huaiji. After a serious dispute with her husband’s family, Huirou knowingly breaks the law by charging back to the palace the same night with the help of Huaiji.
The next day, conservative official Sima Guang presents a scathing memorial to Zhao Zhen, heavily criticising Huirou for her selfishness and violation of imperial etiquette. Zhao Zhen had always encouraged freedom of speech and supported a supervisory system that would maintain disciplinary surveillance over bureaucrats and royalty, and must ultimately choose between his daughter’s happiness and the stability of government.