THE JOURNEY OF FLOWER (2015) Review – Love tears us apart

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Titles: 花千骨 (Hua Qian Gu) / The Journey of Flower

Cast:

  • Zhao Li Ying as Hua Qian Gu
  • Wallace Huo as Bai Zihua and Mo Bing
  • Zhang Dan Feng as Dongfang Yuqing
  • Ma Ke as Sha Qianmo
  • Li Chun as Ni Mantian
  • An Yue Xi as Tang Bao
  • Jiang Xin as Xia Zixun
  • Xu Hai Qiao as Meng Xuanlang
  • Bao Tian Qi as Qing Shui
  • Jiang Yang as Shuo Feng
  • Dong Chun Hui as Luo Shiyi
  • Jiang Yi Ming as Mo Yan / Shi Zun
  • Miao Chi as Sheng Xiaomo / Ru Zun
  • Ruan Wei Jing as Shan Chunqiu
  • Gong Zheng Nan as Zhu Ran
  • Gao Hai as Yun Yin
  • Gao Jiang as Yun Yi
  • Yang Shuo as Tan Fan
  • Zeng Hong Chang as Wu Gou
  • Qian Yong Chen as Dong Hua
  • Zheng Ye Cheng as Nan Xianyue
  • Lu Zi Yi as You Ruo
  • Li Qian as Liu Xia

Directed by: Lin Yufen, Danny Gao, Liang Shengquan

Written by: Fresh Guoguo and Rao Jun

Based on: The fictional novel “Hua Qiangu” by Fresh Guoguo


Plot (from Wiki):

Hua Qiangu is an unlucky orphan who’s looking for a chance to learn magic and martial arts to survive after her parents died. Appreciating her hard working nature and kind heart, and predicting her tragic destiny, she enters Chang Liu, an immortal sect, to seek peace and solutions. Bai Zihua, the sect leader of Chang Liu, takes her as his only disciple. Qian Gu falls in love with her teacher but doesn’t reveal her true feelings until the end. Eventually, the truth has been revealed that she was born as Nü Wa’s descendant and has access to godly power. She summoned the Demon God to save her master and the God transferred all his power into her body afterwards, therefore, making her the new ruler of the demons. Although Zihua tries to protect her and change her fate, Qiangu is constantly tortured by the machinations of those who wish to see her dead.

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Review:

JoF triumphed in 2015 as the most popular chinese TV series. Is its reputation well-deserved? My answer is possibly yes. I feel pretty conflicted about this show: it is good but I truly believe it would have been much better. Before watching the show I made some research, aknowledging it’s based on a novel of the same name.

I loved (and still love) the story: sorrowful, tragic and poignant. However, JoF is a victim, as many other fabulous TV series, of that terrible and incomprehensible habit of producers to cut out scenes in its released version. As a consequence of this kind of shitty decisions, some arcs feel rushed and there are parts which don’t make sense or can’t be understood fully. A pitty, because it’s an incredible story. I just can’t understand why producers decide to cut out scenes so randomly or believe some (very, very, very) relevant parts of the story can be dispensable… And even more in this case, because it’s already a 50 episodes drama (!), and so far I don’t fucking mind watching 5 episodes more… Just give me a whole worthy story that fulfills my fangirl’s expectations! ಠ▃ಠ

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Sunshine

First, we have cutie pie ZLY portraying adorable Hua Qian Gu. I think she’s the best choice for this role, she did a great job depicting both Hua Qian Gu and Demon God. ZLY fixs perfectly in both roles, and I’d say that I loved even more her Demon God version (see picture below). Not only because she’s just gorgeous (and badass) in that look, but also because it’s something that we aren’t used to see in her roles.

Some TV series always have a female lead whose innocence and kindness became unbearable, but Xiao Gu’s character, although being both innocent and kind, isn’t tiresome or dumb. Maybe I’m biased, but that’s what I felt. Her love to everyone is tender and sweet, and her performance of adorably confused and displeased Xiao Gu (like that scene where she used Bai Zihua’s precious flowers to make delicacies for him) is lovely to hell. I loved every interaction of ZLY’s character with others.

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Absolutely gorgeous, thanks to whoever edited this so amazingly

If you think that this blogger is an enormous fan of ZLY or something, you may not be wrong; but my adoration to her is nothing compared to my devotion to Wallace Huo. This may not be my favourite character of Wallace’s work, but he surely portrayed accurately Bai Zihua. People who have read the novel say that Bai Zihua and Hua Qiangu’s love is not depicted fairly in the show, but I believe it’s more a drawback of script’s limitations and the on-screen time they had that anything else.

Bai Zihua seems cold and unreachable (like a god, which is what he’s supposed to seem to be like), but his eyes are different when it’s related to Xiao Gu. Wallace made a great job in this sense, because I could really feel his love towards her (although his expression didn’t change practically during the whole series). This, the fact that his expression didn’t change practically during the whole series (excluding some climax moments), it’s also remarkable.

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Helpless Wallace Huo fangirling

There’s an extended discussion online about who loved who more. Also, a great number of people question if Bai Zihua really loves Xiao Gu considering the way he treats her. My opinion is that he surely loves her (the scenes of Xiao Gu’s punishment, Bai Zihua’s forearm mark and Xiao Gu’s death are as powerful as stunning) but he deeply believes that he shouldn’t be loving her, but the fact is that he can’t stop loving her. That’s too complicated for a semi-god who has been centuries overcoming human emotions and trying to reach divine inmortality. How the hell do you suppose he can react?! Surely not in an ordinary way.

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*cries*

If you still doubt about Bai Zihua’s love towards Xiao Gu just pay attention to his eyes while he’s with her or thinking about her. The scene in the picture above, where he holds Xiao Gu’s drawings while he remembers her is heartbreaking. I think he doesn’t even understand what’s happening in his little inner-universe, the infinite knowledge of his divine condition doesn’t help at all when it’s concerned to Xiao Gu. Also, he does a lot of stuff that proves that he treats Xiao Gu differently, his attitude towards her is radically distinct in comparison with others, and at the end, I believe he only wanted to protect her but he couldn’t overcome his duty-sense or the feeling that loving and caring about her is wrong. He did all that he could and knew in order to let Xiao Gu be safe (and he knows and is sorry it isn’t enough).

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Yeah, baby, we all believe you don’t love her…

I love the tender moments between Xiao Gu and Bai Zihua after (and before, in fact) he accepts her as his only disciple; but I love even more the scenes after Xiao Gu has turned into the Demon God. The precursor of this is Chang Liu’s punishment to Xiao Gu, which is a must-seen scene due to its beauty and energy.

If Bai Zihua’s intentions of keeping Xiao Gu safe weren’t clear before it gets evident here, when he bears the rest of her punishment himself. I know some people may say that it’s cruel he didn’t avoid the whole punishment since the beginning, or someone may think he could just take Xiao Gu and leave that doomed placed, but once again, Bai Zihua’s little inner-unniverse is far more complicated than that. He can’t just skip his duties as clan’s leader and world’s protector or his divine purposes, he loves Xiao Gu and the only way he knows to protect her is this. If he doesn’t let them punish or publicly reprehend her, the other clans won’t be satisfied and eventually that would be worse for Xiao Gu. He had to let that happen but he couldn’t see Xiao Gu suffering that much, knowing that surely she would die or something worse, and he takes the rest of the punishment, stating that in fact it’s his fault as her instructor so it’s fair that he gets punished instead. Basically, if we were suffering for Xiao Gu, be sure that Bai Zihua was suffering even more.

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The blogger was screaming the whole time…

Other great scenes are the ones after this event. Bai Zihua fucks off annoying Shi Zun’s demands of accepting another disciple in a very intelligent way, admitting You Ruo as Hua Qian Gu’s disciple instead (which makes You Ruo his indirect disciple). That scene made me really happy, because it got obvious, more than ever, how much he loves and respects his relation with Xiao Gu. He couldn’t break his promise: Xiao Gu will always be his unique disciple.

However, Xiao Gu, who has hit rock bottom, doesn’t know all the details and she’s literally heartbroken aknowledging that Bai Zihua admitted another person as his disciple (and so breaking the promise he made to her). I sobbed so much seeing her grief ಥ ̯ ಥ Also, the scenes of Xiao Gu secretly returning back to Chang Liu and Bai Zihua taking care of the flowers that Xiao Gu used to raise are incredibly significant about their great love.

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My poor little baby

Well, as I said, the interactions between these two are even better after Xiao Gu turned into the Demon God, because I think they both can’t barely hang on any more. ZLY and Wallace’s depiction of their characters’ suffering is absolutely genuine.

When Bai Zihua recovers, now captured by Qi Sha (the “evil” clan), and Demon God Xiao Gu is sleeping near him, he calls her gently by her nickname “Xiao Gu”. I cried watching Xiao Gu waking up at his call, clearly affected because he was calling her in that way, and then acted like she didn’t care at all ಥ ̯ ಥ I adore ZLY’s acting pretending to be heartless and cruel, and I love her rage because everyone she loves had died, she’s so hurt that it will totally tear you apart. She’s genuinely furious when Bai Zihua tries to convince her to “change”, to “return to the good path”, because she has lost everything and still Bai Zihua only cares about acting properly and being good. Oh, my poor baby. And even ‘though, she tells Bai Zihua to leave, because deep inside she knows that she won’t hurt him anyway. However, Bai Zihua agrees to stay as her servant in exchange of liberating Shi Zun.

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I can’t believe how beautiful she is omg (her look as Demon God reminds me of Chen Qiao En’s look as Dongfang Bubai with the red dress in Xiao Ao Jiang Hu)

I cried even more when Bai Zihua said that everything was his fault and Xiao Gu is horribly affected, asking him why he feels guilty and Bai Zihua answers that his greatest fault was not being able to protect her. Xiao Gu is overwhelmed by their conception of good and wrong, she can’t understand why innocent kind people who loved her had to die, and why the person she loves the most (Bai Zihua) still defenses the people who are hurting her so much.

And okay, I shouted really loud when Xiao Gu talks with You Ruo and aknowledges Bai Zihua suffered the rest of the punishment for her. The whole scene of Xiao Gu ripping off Bai Zihua’s clothes, noticing the scars and embracing him is breathtaking; but it gets even more astonishing later, when Bai Zihua’s love is proved by the marks of the water that only hurts people who love someone. Bai Zihua is so affected because of this, so hopeless and practically ashamed… He can’t believe that he actually loves Xiao Gu, even ‘though he shouldn’t. His inner-universe gets revealed with those marks and that’s too much to bear for him. Xiao Gu is even more affected, hurt because loving her is something that despicable in Bai Zihua’s opinion. Her confusion realizing he actually returns her love and then her genuine sorrow watching Bai Zihua rejecting those feelings (by painfully tearing off his own forearm’s skin) made me feel miserable. As Bai Zihua said, it doesn’t matter if he actually loves her or not, because in any case, they can’t and won’t be together. So heartbreaking.

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The heart I didn’t know to have is breaking so much

The finale is superb, when Xiao Gu dies in Bai Zihua’s arms because of him, and the illusion she created about innocent people being killed by her disappears. What a wonderful scene. I almost hated Bai Zihua here because I could empathize with practically everything he did (because I assume he did it all in order to protect her), but seriously, I couldn’t stand the fact that he didn’t believe Xiao Gu, that he didn’t know that she wouldn’t hurt anyone if it’s not ultimately needed. She turned into the Demon God and suffered so much because of him and he still couldn’t drop his “what’s wrong and what’s correct”-baggage, ugh.

Bai Zihua should have known her better. And maybe deep inside he actually believed Xiao Gu and knew she wouldn’t hurt anyone, even in her Demon God form; but reality is that he couldn’t overcome his duty-sense of doing what’s right for the world. Bai Zihua doesn’t live for himself or for Xiao Gu, he lives for the world and its safety (he has been living with this purpose for centuries and it’s difficult, almost impossible, to change something like that). He can risk everything, even his own life or Xiao Gu’s life (which is more important than himself actually), but he can’t risk innocent people’s lives or world’s safety… AND THAT’S SO HEARTBREAKING ಥ ̯ ಥ

 

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Such a powerful scene

The best part comes when Xiao Gu blames and curses him. Bai Zihua, horrified because everything was an illusion and he had wrongly killed Xiao Gu, wants to commit suicide but Xiao Gu impedes him. She blames him, stating that he doesn’t have that right (and oh shit, that was so fucking awesome, I’m totally in love with the whole scene), and makes him immortal. On one hand, I think Xiao Gu is truly hurt because he fell into her trap (proving the fact that ultimately he would put the world’s safety before hers), but also I want to feel  she’s kinda “protecting” him. I don’t want, I refuse to believe Xiao Gu died horribly hating him, the man she loves so greatly, without any trace of affection ಥ ̯ ಥ

It’s after this scene where the producers made the biggest mistake ever. In the novel, Bai Zihua goes crazy after Xiao Gu’s death, like very crazy; he tries to resurrect Xiao Gu, but her soul is so scattered and wrecked that he can only recover a Xiao Gu with the mental capacity of a 3-4 years old child. But guess what, these events, which in my opinion are some of the most interesting parts of the story, aren’t included in the series (maybe because stupid producers thought it’s dispensable). Instead, we’re directly skipped to many years later, when Xiao Gu and Bai Zihua now live together happily (and Ru Zun comes to visit them and mentions briefly how crazy Bai Zihua went after her death).

I felt fooled, disappointed and almost betrayed because of this. I faithfully watched 50 episodes and I wasn’t getting the ending I wanted. I know I’d have suffered incredibly with those crazy-Bai Zihua’s scenes, but I can’t avoid the feeling that the story is not complete without that. And even so, they managed to make their love story so great and tragic that I’ve utterly fallen for them. So congratulations, I suppose.

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Wallace Huo and Zanilia Zhao’s acting are superb

As for the wonderful actors who portrayed the rest of the characters, I must say that they have became well-deservedly popular. Zhang Dan Feng plays the role of Dongfang Yuqing, a mysterious and cunning man who grow up hating Bai Zihua and his group of deities because they killed his father. He wants to revenge his father’s death and so he approached Xiao Gu initially, knowing that she could bring disaster to Bai Zihua. At the beginning of the story, Dongfang discovers Xiao Gu taking a bath in a river and when she found out, he adorably pursues her, stating that he must take the responsibility of seeing her nude body and marry her. These scenes were golden and it’s impossible not to adore Dongfang. In this way, he achieves Xiao Gu’s trust and can help her become a Chang Liu’s disciple, something that would make him fulfill his thirst of revenge. However, he fell for her and died at the end in order to protect her. He sweetly nicknames her as “Gu Tou” (literally translated as “bone”).

He has another identity, “Yi Xiu Jun”, a popular figure whose face no one has ever seen because he’s always wearing a mask. In this identity, he answers to people’s question in exchange of favours and power. Dongfang uses this identity also to ask Xiao Gu to prepare a lunch for him, and that scene is beautiful and heartbreaking. Throughout the series, you can really feel Dongfang’s love for Xiao Gu, and how in the end he gave up everything to protect and free her from Manhuang (the prison where Xiao Gu was banished by Shi Zun and Ni Mantian). I was so sad when he died and told her to love herself, even if the whole world didn’t love her and wanted her to be dead ಥ ̯ ಥ

Then, do I ship Xiao Gu with Dongfang? Possibly yes. If Xiao Gu would have been able to love Dongfang everything won’t be this tragic, but reality doesn’t care about happy or unhappy endings. The fact is that Xiao Gu wouldn’t have been able to love Dongfang in that way, and that getting over Bai Zihua wasn’t even an option. I felt sorry for Dongfang, really sorry.

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Hell yeah to Zhang Dan Feng’s Dongfang Yuqing

Dongfang is not the only one who sees Xiao Gu as a love interest, there’s also Meng Xuanlang, Shu realm’s heir and later its emperor. Meng Xuanlang gets into Chang Liu as a disciple too and fell for Xiao Gu while practising martial arts. At the same time, Xiao Gu’s best friend and also disciple of Chang Liu, Qingshui, fell for Meng Xuanlang. Unfortunately, Xuanlang is not slightly interested in Qingshui.

Time after, Xuanlang’s father dies and he returns to palace to become the new emperor. There’s a riot leaded by his brother, who wants to take over the emperor position, and Qingshui goes to help him. I’m really confused about this story arc because the version of the series I watched (which was supposely uncutted) brusquely skip all those scenes 😀 Later, when these events were mentioned by the characters I was so lost… But I correctly figured out that producers believe their scenes were dispensable. Surely due to this, everything related to Xuanlang and Qingshui feels more or less like nonsense to me (also I neither liked both of them since the beginning, so…). I feel indifferent to these two, which is good because their story ends up in bad terms too.

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The producers did a lot of weird things (cutting out scenes and so) to Meng Xuanlang and Qingshui’s story…

Another couple are Luo Shiyi and Tang Bao. The first one is Shi Zun’s most trusted disciple and Tang Bao was a ginx worm that turned into human, attached to Xiao Gu and Dongfang, who she refers tenderly as “mummy” and “daddy”. I don’t really like Tang Bao, she’s cute and lovely with Xiao Gu and Dongfang, but her voice is kinda annoying. Her relationship with Luo Shiyi is cute as well, and I feel sad for them because they both died not being able to stay together.

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I somehow see Tang Bao as Dongfang and Gu Tou’s relationship witness

As for most of the people, Ma Ke was an unknown actor to me before watching JoF. I think he did an awesome job portraying Sha Qianmo, the leader of the Qi Sha clan. I love his character and his interaction with ZLY’s. Although supposed to be a villain, Sha Qianmo is a good guy. His subordinate, Shan Chunqiu (a dude with terrible make-up), wants Qi Sha’s clan to conquer the world by getting the treasures of the “good” clans, which will grant them an inmense power. For this reason, Shan Chunqiu is often seen fighting against Chang Liu and the other clans, but each time Sha Qianmo comes and stops him. Sha Qianmo doesn’t want to get involved in those fights because he lost his beloved sister (Liu Xia) due to his ambition and his desire to obtain the treasures. He still blames himself because of this and can’t get over his grief.

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Ma Ke does a great job performing Sha Qianmo’s role

Then, Sha Qianmo meets Xiao Gu, he’s extremely pleased when she says that “she” is beautiful and calls her “big sister” (just like Liu Xia used to do). Xiao Gu’s adoration and cuteness warms Sha Qianmo’s heart, making him decide to protect her. Xiao Gu refers to her as Sha Jie Jie (“big sister Sha”) and Sha Qianmo lovely calls her Xiao Bu Dian (literally “little spot”). I saw people on the Internet shipping them, but I don’t see their relation in that way. I am of the opinion that Sha Jie Jie loves Xiao Gu as her little sister, just the way he loved Liu Xia (although I don’t think he was replacing Liu Xia or something alike). His love to Xiao Gu is inmense and his desire to protect her makes me adore him even more.

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He cares genuinely for his Xiao Bu Dian

Sha Jie Jie states one of the favourite quotes of the fans (and myself) when he angrily tells Bai Zihua: “Bai Zihua, if you dare to hurt her for your sect, I will slaughter your entire sect. If you harm her for the world, I will massacre the people of the world!” – so powerful, omg. This is just one prove of how he genuinely cares for Xiao Gu, he’s ready and willing to leave everything in order to protect her (something that Dongfang also did and that Bai Zihua couldn’t).

Another fact about Sha Qianmo is that he’s respectable. He acts honestly and fairly. You’d say that’s because he’s affected by the lost of her sister, but Sha Qianmo is pretty level-headed and reasonable. One example is when beaten by Bai Zihua in their duel, he accepted his defeat, although he was clearly unhappy about it. Shan Chunqiu tried to complain and cheat somehow, but Sha Qianmo angrily impedes him. He’s fair and cares deeply about the people he loves, and that makes him awesome.

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So much swag, omg

Said that, the real “villains” in this show are Shi Zun and the annoying Ni Mantian. In both cases, the actors managed perfectly to make me hate them, so good job dudes. With regard to Shi Zun, maybe all he did was for what he believed to be the best for Bai Zihua and Chang Liu, but the fact is that he’s a shitty person.

Then, Ni Mantian is the typical girl trying to live up to the expectations of his family. I think she wouldn’t be that hateful if she didn’t have such a despicable father. She loves Shuo Feng but is annoyed because Shuo Feng is fair and doesn’t allow her hurting Xiao Gu, knowing she does everything due to jealousy. Shuo Feng tries to convince her to drop her envy and overcome the hate, but Ni Mantian can’t do that. This couple ends up dying as well. Sad because I really think Shuo Feng could have changed Ni Mantian in a good way.

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Good job making me hate you, girl (although I ended up feeling pity for her)

On the other hand, we’ve got Bai Zihua’s “gang”: Tan Fan, Wu Gou, Dong Hua and Xia Zixun (Jiang Xin’s role here). Wu Gou‘s arc was interesting and I enjoyed watching it, the actor who plays his role (Zheng Ye Cheng) depicted very well how disturbed he was and I felt kinda sad for him in the end. Dong Hua‘s character appears too briefly to make me feel attached to him, but he was redeeming for having killed Dongfang’s father so rest in peace. Tan Fan‘s death was also bitter but very predictable, his love towards Zixun was obviously going to kill him. The saddest part in fact was Bai Zihua realizing he was now alone, that all his gang died and he’s the last one left.

Finally, I must say I admire Jiang Xin’s acting so I was expecting something great about her character here. Zixun‘s character itself isn’t incredibly complex or awesome, but Jiang Xin has incredible acting skills. I felt pity because somehow her characters never get happy endings ಥ ̯ ಥ Neither Zixun.

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The roles Jiang Xin plays never get happy endings…

Conclusion:

Hence, would I recommend The Journey of Flower? Yes. The acting from almost everyone is superb, being only accurate in the worst of the cases. Moreover, the scenography is beautiful and dreamy, accompanied by precious melodies. The costumes are appropiate as well, and as I said before, I adore ZLY’s look as the Demon God. However, it was kinda excessive in some cases, being Shan Chunqiu and his weird eyebrows the best example.

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A very long review, indeed

Side note:

If you want to fangirl even more because of JoF’s cast, you have two awesome episodes of Happy Camp where they appear.

In these two videos the guests are: Wallace Huo, Zanilia Zhao, Zhang Dan Feng, Jiang Xin, Ma Ke and Li Chun.

In this one they compete in different games with series Sound in the Clouds and movie Goodbye Mr Lose’s cast, and the guests are: Zhang Dan Feng and Xu Hai Qiao.


  • Plot: 19*/20
  • Cast: 20/20
  • OST: 10/10
  • Scenography: 10/10
  • Costume: 9.5/10
  • Overall: 9.8/10

*If only they hadn’t cut out scenes for the TV version, my ratting on the plot would have been 20. As I said, it’s an awesome story, but cutting out scenes makes some parts rushed and don’t make sense for someone who doesn’t know the whole storyline. Besides, I can’t forgive them for getting rid of crazy-Bai Zihua’s arc.


Update (12th of June): Okay, I found these GOLDEN cut scenes (WHY WOULD SOMEONE REMOVE THIS) and could not share them with all of you. The first ones were awesome, but the final one (when Xiao Gu gets drunk and Bai Zihua ends up kissing her) is just superb.  Your fangirling heart may not be able to bear it, but it will be truly worth it.

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