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Jiang Zuo Alliance and Allies

One of the most powerful political forces in the pugilist world of Da Ling. It's leader, Mei Changsu, created it and spent 12 years gaining power in order to facilitate his larger plans.

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    Mei Changsu/Su Zhe/Lin Shu 
Played by: Hu Ge and Zhehan Zhang (young)

The leader of the Jiang Zuo Alliance

Tropes:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mei_changsu.png

  • Batman Gambit: Basically all of Mei Changsu's strategies are this. He is extremely good at predicting how others will react to events.
    • The best example is when Lin Shu tricks Xia Jiang into leading our protagonists straight to Wei Zheng's secret location by manipulating him to infer that they have already discovered his location themselves.
  • Bash Brothers: With Jingyan in their youth.
  • Because I'm Good at It: One of Lin Shu's justifications for taking on the role of the political manipulator
  • Blatant Lies: When Lin Shu tells Nihuang he has 10 years left to live and any other time Lin Shu says he'll hang around with Jingyan in the future even in the very last episode, dammit.
  • Blue Oni, Red Oni: The highly intellectual and manipulative Mei Changsu plays blue oni to the red oni that is the emotionally driven Prince Jingyan.
  • Captured on Purpose: Lin Shu walks right into the Xuanjing Bureau and Xia Jiang's hands in super slow motion and looking totally bad-ass.
    • Xia Jiang even told the emperor he wanted to move fast so Mei Changsu wouldn't know he was coming and be able to plan for it. When he arrives at the Su residence though, MCS meets him at the entrance completely unruffled.
  • Cassandra Truth: Lin Shu admits he's a member of Prince Qi's household to Xia Jiang partly so that he will sound even crazier and discredit himself when he reports it to the emperor. Lin Shu even explains away Xia Jiang's claim to Jingyan by saying he lied about his identity for this very effect.
  • The Chessmaster: Mei Changsu is a master of manipulating others, predicting their actions and reactions, and thinking steps ahead of them. During the confrontation in Xie Manor, he sends Fei Liu to sabotage the armory so Xie Yu's guards are unable to fire on his guests with crossbows.
    • He even has wooden tiles for each one of his enemies that he burns upon 'removing' them from the board.
  • The Chosen One: "To have the Divine Talent is to have the World." Possibly subverted in that Lin Chen is Mei Changsu's best friend and this "prophecy" was likely given out as part of his master plan. Doubly subverted when you consider that Langya Hall's "prophecies" are actually just statements of fact derived from carefully compiled information. Essentially, Mei Changsu chose himself.
  • Chronic Hero Syndrome: Lin Shu just can't seem to stop trying to help his friends and uphold his duty, even when he's literally dying from pushing himself too hard.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Lin Shu's ability to foresee and plan for every possible outcome is the quality that makes him the ultimate Divine Talent. See The Chosen One
  • Empty Promise: regarding his health and life expectancy. Any time Mei Changsu promises anyone anything regarding the future. See his promise to stay by Jingyan's side and watch him become emperor or his promise never to leave Nihuang again.
  • Flashback Nightmare: The first scene of the series shows the bloody massacre of an army and the young Lin Shu's dying father urging him to survive just before he falls off a cliff... and our adult hero catapults awake, panting in his bed.
  • Ill Boy: Mei Changsu is a sympathetic and near perfect character who certainly manages to look very pretty even when he's turning deathly pale and coughing up blood. Thankfully he's also a very layered and nuanced character who avoids the more annoying Marty Stu versions of this trope.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: After 12 years playing shadowy manipulator, a lot of people would have lost sight of their original goals. Granted, being on the verge of death tends to give people a sense of priority.
  • Insufferable Genius
  • Multilayer Façade: When he first comes to the capital, Mei Changsu introduces himself as "Sir Su" a mere visiting scholar. When his enemies get suspicious, they do a background check and discover his "real" identity, the powerful leader of the Jiang Zuo Alliance. This prevents them from thinking to dig deeper and discover his actual Secret Identity Lin Shu.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated
  • Sarcastic Confession: When he's cornered by Consort Yue and Xia Jiang's attempt to reveal his true identity, Lin Shu straight up admits it to the emperor's face. But then he follows up by saying even if he admits it it doesn't prove anything and uses enough Word Fu to convince the emperor to dismiss Xia Jiang entirely. That is talent. Although, admittedly it doesn't prevent the emperor from trying to kill him anyway... See Murderisthe Best Solution.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Nihuang and Lin Shu have loved each other their whole lives but are fated never to be together in this life.
  • Starting a New Life: Lin Shu's new life as Mei Changsu.
  • Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Mei Changsu uncharacteristically gives in to a little gloating the last time he sees Xia Jiang in prison. "You're just here to gloat this time aren't you?" "Yes. I've seen you play all your best cards and end up back in prison anyway. It makes me happy." So. Satisfying.
  • Your Days Are Numbered: Mei Changsu is driven to reach his goal as quickly as possible because of his limited time left to live.

    Fei Liu 
Played by: Wu Lei

Mei Changsu's young bodyguard and close companion.

Tropes:

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/fei_liu.png

  • Ambiguous Disorder: Fei Liu has some kind of developmental disability, which mostly seems to manifest in acting young for his age and rough, limited speech. It certainly doesn't hurt his motor skills or coordination.
  • Badass Adorable
  • Wire Fu: Apparently the second thing every martial artist learns is flying, but Fei Liu especially spends most of his time on rooftops.

    Meng Zhi 
Played by: Chen Long

Commander General of Da Liang and of the Imperial Guard.

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    Li Gang and Zu Ping 
Played by: Wang Hong and Zhao Yilong

Two survivors of the Chiyan Army that serve Mei Changsu

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    Gong Yu 
Played by: Zhou Qiqi

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    Sir Shisan 
Played by: Gong Fangmin

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    Tong Lu 
Played by: Wei Wei

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    Wei Zheng 
Played by: Wang Hong

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    Lin Chen 
Played by: Jin Dong

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    Physican Yan 
Played by: Weihua Zhong

Tropes:

  • The Medic: Mei Changsu's personal doctor while he is in the capital.
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    Nie Feng 

Tropes:

  • Chekhov's Gunman: You know that "beast" Jingyan's soldiers have been trying to catch since the early episodes? It's almost the end of the series and they finally caught it! Turns out it's actually one of the few survivors of the Chiyan Army, Nie Feng, who helps reveal how Lin Shu himself survived and the nature of his illness.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated

The Jing Household and Allies

    Xiao Jingyan, Prince Jing 
Played by: Wang Kai

Tropes:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Jingyan seeks power for altruistic reasons and is ultimately able to become Emperor. while The Crown Prince and Prince Yu are ultimately defeated by the consequences of their own unscrupulous greed for power.
  • Arranged Marriage: When Princess Nian Nian arrives in Da Liang to be married to one of the princes, Jingyan is a candidate having only one concubine. She end's up engaged to Jingting
  • Bash Brothers: With Lin Shu in their youth.
  • Blue Oni, Red Oni: The highly intellectual and manipulative Mei Changsu plays blue oni to the red oni that is the emotionally driven Prince Jingyan.
  • Honor Before Reason: Jingyan's default setting. Mei Changsu tries his best to make him behave more strategically, but has to give in when Jingyan refuses to leave Wei Zheng in prison to be executed, even though breaking him out is an extremely dangerous move that will potentially waste all of Jingyan's political gains so far.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: The reason many support Jingyan to become emperor. Prince Yu even points this out when Jingyan is sent to handle disaster relief, wondering how Jingyan can resist skimming off the relief funds.
  • Locked Out of the Loop: Mei Changsu won't let anyone tell Jingyan who he really is because he knows his best friend will be too worried about him to treat him as a mere strategist and follow his plans without question. By the time Jingyan finds out, it feels like everyone knows but him, including his mother.
  • Pulling the Thread: Jingyan attempts to do this when he asks both his mother and Mei Changsu what his father's name was without giving them time to consult each other. Unfortunately for him, Mei Changsu's cover is too well planned- they both give the same name, the one Lin Shu's real father used as an alias.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: When Jingyan insists on breaking the falsely accused Wei Zheng out of prison.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • Jingyan notes Mei Changsu's habit of rubbing at things when he's thinking- just like this one guy he used to know...
    • Lin Shu accidentally draws Jingyan's sword and uses it to point out troop movements, unconsciously repeating a familiar gesture which Jingyan recognizes
  • Warrior Prince: Jingyan is a capable fighter and general, as well as the seventh son of the emperor.

    Consort Jing 
Played by: Liu Mintao

Tropes:

  • The Chessmaster: Consort Jing may be even more of a Chessmaster than Mei Changsu. She tampers with the Emperor's medicine to induce insomnia, restlessness, and hallucinations, which all contributed to him having nightmares which she then convinced the Emperor is caused by restless ghosts and can only be resolved by setting up a memorial plaque.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Empress Yan compares her to a cotton ball because she absorbs everything thrown at her until she turns it all against you.
  • Spotting the Thread:
    • Consort Jing discovers Mei Changsu's true identity after finding a veiled reference to his mother's name in a book he wrote notes in
    • She also realizes her maid was part of the enemy's plot to cause mistrust between Jingyan and Mei Changsu when the maid makes sure to tell the story of Mei Changsu's supposed capture of her to the prince. They couldn't leave such a crucial part of the plot (making sure Jingyan heard the story told their way) to some unrelated person.

    Lie Zhanying 
Played by: Yujian Zhang

Tropes:

    Xiao Tingsheng 
Played by: Juming Zhang

Tropes:

  • Hidden Backup Prince: Tingsheng was of royal blood even as a slave and there were a few people who knew this, even if he didn't. It was possible he could have been made emperor if something had happened to all the other princes, even before his adoption.
    • Subverted by the fact that, being the son of the late Crown Prince Qi, Tingsheng would have been third in line for the throne upon his birth had his father not been declared a traitor. Had Prince Qi become emperor, Tingsheng would have been Crown Prince. Technically, the Crown Prince, Prince Yu, and Prince Jing are all after him in a direct line of succession.
  • Ragsto Royalty: Tingsheng is a slave who ends in the care of and later adopted by Prince Jing. But he was really a prince all along, being the only son of the late Prince Qi.

    Shen Zhui and Cai Quan 
Played by: Hui Feng and Duo Li

Tropes:

The Mu Household

    Princess Mu Nihuang 
Played by: Tao Liu and Xiaoyang Pan (young)

Tropes:

  • Action Girl: General of the military in Yunnan guarding the border with Southern Chu.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A decidedly non-G rated version.
    • The Crown Prince and his mother Consort Yue attempt this with Nihuang so that she is forced to marry one of her potential suitors, that is loyal to them, and have her military and political influnce serving their faction. Thankfully it stops at Attempted Rape.
  • Engagement Challenge: The tournament set up for Nihuang's suitors. The top ten have to pass the final challenge- beating Nihuang herself. This effectively gives Nihuang Child Marriage Veto powers.
  • Lady of War: Nihuang has protected the southern border from invasion as the general of the southern fortress for years and she's so awesome at martial arts than none of the skilled warriors from all around China that come to compete as her potential suitors are able to beat her in a one on one duel.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Nihuang and Lin Shu have loved each other their whole lives but are fated never to be together in this life.
  • Warrior Princess: Nihuang is the general of the armies defending Yannan from Southern Chu and her first appearance has her defeating Jingrui and Yujin, two-on-one in combat.

    Prince Mu Qing 
Played by: Xiaoqian Zhang

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The Yan Household

    Yan Yujin 
Played by: Xiaoran Guo

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    Marquis Yan Que 
Played by: Jinsong Wang

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The Yu Household and Allies

    Xiao Jinghuan 
Played by: Yujian Zhang

Tropes:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Prince Yu manages to be a pretty sympathetic villain throughout the series, but even if you never liked him, his pathetic breakdown due to the discovery of his father's betrayal of his mother and his subsequent suicide in a desperate attempt to save his wife and unborn child will have you shedding a tear.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Like the Crown Prince, Prince Yu is ultimately defeated by the consequences of his own unscrupulous greed for power.
  • Dark Mistress: In Qin Banruo.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Prince Yu doesn't understand how Prince Jing can be so moral. When Jingyyan is sent to handle disaster relief, Prince Yu wonders how can control himself when there is so much money.
  • The Evil Prince

    Qin Banruo 
Played by: Ou Wang

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    Empress Yan 
Played by: Xiaoli Fang

Tropes:

  • Cool Crown: There are some stunningly elaborate royal headpieces in this drama, but the Empress's crown definitely takes the prize.

    Jun Niang, Forth Sister 
Played by: Feng Jin

Tropes:

  • Honey Trap: Fourth Sister is set up as this to get information out of Mei Changsu's messenger Tong Lu. This is partially subverted when Jun Niang actually falls for Tong Lu and later helps him escape.

Xuan Jing Bureau

    Xia Dong 
Played by: Lingxin Zhang

Tropes:

  • Action Girl
  • Determined Widow: Her husband, Nie Feng, is dead before the start of the show. Subverted since Nie Feng turns out to still be alive.
  • Friend on the Force: Xia Dong becomes this to our protagonists
  • I Will Wait for You: Xia Dong has never forgotten her dead husband even after 13 years. Happily she is rewarded for her faithfulness when Nie Feng returns alive against all hope.

    Xia Jiang 
Played by: Yongquan Wang

Tropes:

  • Dirty Cop: The Xuanjing Bureau is supposed to be completely neutral in party politics and loyal only to the emporer, but Xia Jiang uses the faction disputes to protect his own personal power.
  • Evil Mentor: Xia Jiang is this to Xia Dong. Leading a disillusioned Xia Dong to a Was It All a Lie? speech.

    Xia Chun and Xia Qiu 
Played by: Guanlin Liu and Shuyang Sui

Tropes:

The Eastern Palace and Allies

    Xiao Jingxuan, Crown Prince Xian 
Played by: Xin Gao

Tropes:

  • Ambition Is Evil: Like Prince Yu, the Crown Prince is ultimately defeated by the consequences of his own unscrupulous greed for power.

    Noble Consort Yue 
Played by: Yuting Yang

Tropes:

The Xie and Dingfeng Household

    Xiao Jingrui 
Played by: Haofeng Cheng

Tropes:

  • Break the Cutie: When all truths are revealed, Jingrui is left a little worse for wear.
  • Family Disunion: Jingrui's disaster of a birthday party. You know it's a failed family get together when you find out neither of your "fathers" is actually related to you, one of them was trying to kill you all along, and he's decided to finish the job now, along with the rest of your family and all the guests who now know too much. Ouch.
  • Family Relationship Switcheroo: Jingrui has two surnames. His mother gave birth on the same night as her friend at the temple they were staying at. That same night they were attacked and the two baby boys were mixed up in the darkness and confusion, making it impossible to tell which baby belonged to which mother. When one of the babies died after a few days, things became even more complicated. With no way to decide which family the baby belonged to, the emperor declared that he should belong to both of them and be given both their surnames. However the real switcheroo is that Jingrui's real mother Princess Liyang was pregnant with her lover's baby and then was forced to marry Marquis Xie. She realized her husband was trying to kill her illegitimate son but had actually killed her friend's baby by accident. She perpetuated the confusion with the Zhuo family in order to protect Jingrui from the Marquis. Jingrui finds out his true parentage at his birthday party.

    Marquis Xie Yu 
Played by: Yijun Liu

Tropes:

  • Destroy the Evidence: Marquis Xie used the martial arts skills of the Zhuo family to get rid of incriminating evidence and people.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Xie Yu tended to have anyone who he saw as a threat killed, even when he could have easily paid them off or they were the entirety of his household This leads to...
  • No Kill Like Overkill: See Family Disunion above.

    Grand Princess Liyang 
Played by: Yanyan Zhang

Tropes:

  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A decidedly non-G rated version where Princess Liyang was in love with a foreign prince but the empress and Marquis Xie conspired to drug and rape her so that she would be forced to marry Xie. Unsurprisingly this situation led to some complications, see Family Switcheroo.
  • Silk Hiding Steel: Liyang comes off as very quiet and accepting of everything that has happened to her, including being separated from her lover, being drugged and raped and then having to marry her rapist, and having said husband hire an assassin to murder her lover's child after she gave birth. However, not only does she manage to protect her son and does her best to protect Nihuang from a similar marriage plot, Liyang proves herself far from a wilting flower in episode 21 when she holds a knife to her own throat to get Xie Yu to allow Prince Yu's guard's into the manor. The fact that her husband of 20 years complies says a lot about whether she's bluffing

    Xie Bi 
Played by: Muye Kuang

Tropes:

    Zhuo Dingfeng 
Played by: Haoming Liu

Tropes:

  • Destroy the Evidence: Marquis Xie used the martial arts skills of the Zhuo family to get rid of incriminating evidence and people.

    Zhuo Qingyao 
Played by: Jie Yan

Tropes:

    Xi Qi 
Played by: Yumeng Sui

Tropes:

  • Death by Childbirth: Xi Qi dies in childbirth, possibly because of complications from the shock of the Family Disunion.

The Royal Family

    Xiao Xuan, Emperor of Liang 
Played by: Yongdai Ding

Tropes:

  • Murder Is the Best Solution: The emperor is pretty sure he doesn't believe Xia Jiang's claims about Mei Changsu's real identity, but his solution is to attempt to poison him anyway just to make certain there's no future threat.
  • Never My Fault: The Emperor takes this to extremes.

    Prince Ji 
Played by: Wentong Ning

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    Grand Dowager Empress 
Played by: Yuzhi Zheng

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    Consort Hui 
Played by: Lina Chen

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    Xiao Jingting, Prince Nian 
Played by: Bin Li

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    Xiao Jingyu, Prince Qi 
Played by: Chen Ji

Tropes:

  • Death by Origin Story: Prince Qi and General Lin Xie and his men are betrayed and framed as traitors. Lin Shu is also almost killed but comes back as Mei Changsu with the goal of getting justice for their deaths.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: The ultimate reason why Prince Qi was framed and the emperor threw him under the bus. He was just too good and had too many loyal followers, making him a threat to the throne and the powerful Xuanjing Bureau.

    Lin Yueyao, Consort Chen 

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    Grand Empress 

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The Lin Household

    Lin Xie 

Tropes:

  • Death by Origin Story: General Lin Xie, his men, and Prince Qi are betrayed and framed as traitors. His son. Lin Shu, is also almost killed but comes back as Mei Changsu with the goal of getting justice for their deaths.

    Grand Princess Jinyang 

Tropes:

  • Death by Origin Story: Commits suicide have her son and husband are declared traitors and to have been executed, unaware her son survived.

The Hua Kingdom

    Princess Xuanji 

Tropes:

     Princess Linglong, Consort Xiang 

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The Southern Chu Kingdom

     Wen Xian, Prince Ling 

Tropes:

     Princess Nian Nian 

Tropes:

  • Action Girl: Her fight with Jingrui is her first appearance
  • Arranged Marriage: Nian Nian goes to Da Liang to be married to one of the princes. She end's up engaged to Jingting
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