I knew this moment was coming – it’s been obvious for a couple of months, in fact – so it was really just a question of when the axe would fall, and how it would be handled. Whenever Lun Hu died was going to be too soon for me, but as far the manner of his death I have no complaints as far as the moment itself. I would say that the manner in which he received his critical wound (the one he sustained last week) from Xin leaves a bad taste in my mouth, especially since the guy who made it possible had the bad taste to survive.
Would Xin have won this duel if his second-in-command hadn’t intervened? We’ll never know – I suspect not – but it was clear that although Lun Hu dragged himself upright with sheer force of will, he was a shell of the fighter he’d been before taking that terrible blow. It was a bit of dramatic license to have him take the time to tell Xin his life story, but it suited the moment. The most important thing here was Xin’s behavior after he finished off Lun Hu – he refused to inflict the indignity of taking the great general’s head, which was a classy decision on his part. Xin may be young, but he knows when he’s in the presence of greatness, and he knows to show those who possess it the proper respect. That was a surprisingly emotional moment, at least for me.
This episode was a bit of a change from Kingdom’s recent practice in that it didn’t switch back-and-forth between the major areas of focus – of Meng Ao there was no sign, though the battle of the old men will surely take precedence next week. With Lun Hu dispatched there was another crisis to consider – the fate of Qian Lei and the 200 wounded men Xin left behind with her. Lun Hu had left a reserve force of 500 of Jie Zifang’s stoutest soldiers to attack them as soon as Xin departs, and when it becomes clear that something is very wrong Xin rushes back to the scene, leaving Lun Hu’s body to be attended to by his own forces.
I must say I find it pretty hard to believe that any of Xin’s men still thought Qian Lei was a man, but so it seems they did. That this should be as big a deal as it is even given the gravity of the moment is a testament to just how unheard of such a thing was at the time (though let’s not forget that Wang Qi’s beloved was a woman, too). There was perhaps just a moment or two when I believed Qian might actually die – but not really. Too much plot armor there, even in this series – she still has her vendetta and all. Her secret is now out, though, and that means sooner or later it will become common knowledge, and that complicates matters considerably both for Qian Lei and the men who serve under her. Their loyalty to her – and Xin – is unquestioned, especially after she’s saved so many of their lives. But she will indeed be a target now.
The state of the battle is an interesting one. Even with Lun Hu dead the Wei soldiers morale is strong, because they’re fighting to defend their homes. But half of Lian Po’s inner circle is dead, and a third sidelined in a siege of Wang Jian (which I still feel is a good trade-off for Lian Po). It really all boils down to that battle on the hilltop, where Xin intends to go next – Lian Po is staking pretty much everything on taking down Meng Ao with this attack and if he fails, I think for the first time the state of battle could truly be said to favor the Qin forces. Bi is still out there somewhere close by, and Huan Ji will be heard from before this is all said and done as well – just how much of that has Lian Po factored into his calculations? He’s the best general in this war, but he’s still a human being – and a somewhat overconfident one at that.