Beyond the Realm of Conscience
Two girls raised in service to an emperor’s Imperial family, one is kind while the other is cruel, grow up to be separated by evil schemes and murder.
S01:E01 - Episode 1
Consort LAU SAM-HO and Consort YIU KAM-LING, the two beloved concubines of Emperor SUEN CHUNG (personally named LEE YI) of the Tang Dynasty, keep picking on each other. Seeing that LING, her once close friend, has changed significantly for the worse, HO expresses deep regret for failing to fulfill her mother KONG CHOI-KING’s dying wish. The story dates back to 20 years ago… After her husband is banished to the border areas, KING, accompanied by LING, enters the Palace as an imperial servant. Head of the Imperial Household Bureau CHOI CHUNG-PING is impressed by KING’s extraordinary craft skills and sends her to the Department of Jewels, where KING is to work with Deputy Head YUEN TSUI-WAN on the final polishing of Empress KWOK’s jeweled phoenix hairpin. Head of Attire CHUNG SUET-HA has been a bitter foe of WAN for decades. With the help of Eunuch PO KAT-CHEUNG, HO can finally be reunited with KING. As KWOK is teasing Lady CHENG about her humble background as an imperial servant, a red fluid starts to seep out from her phoenix hairpin. KWOK is so angry that she has KING beaten up and appoints WAN as the Head of Jewels. The dying KING misses the scent of the flowers from her home village terribly. To fulfill KING’s last wish, HO goes to look for the flowers in the royal garden, during which she bumps into KWOK’s handmaiden Mama TSU. TSU tells her off for stealing the royal flowers, but luckily Emperor MUK CHUNG’s younger brother YI passes by and offers to save her from the trouble, for which HO is very thankful.
S01:E02 - Episode 2
After KING’s death, CHOI decides to destroy the phoenix hairpin as instructed by KWOK. Unwilling to see KING’s efforts go to waste, WAN means to injure herself. KWOK gives the phoenix hairpin to CHENG, and WAN begins to worry about the lady and her son. HA purposely fights with WAN for the custody of HO as her apprentice. As KWOK is about to start her plot against YI, the news that YI has fallen from a tree arrives. YI suffers from head injury and seems to have developed some kind of mental problem. KWOK allows YI to recuperate at the Taoist Temple, but not in the company of CHENG. HA points out that CHENG and YI are separated by the phoenix hairpin and that it is WAN who has dragged them into trouble. She ridicules WAN for being too selfish and making others suffer while WAN does not say a word to defend herself. HO goes to see YI off, which touches him considerably. Emperor MUK CHUNG passes away and his son succeeds him as Emperor MO CHUNG. HO and YI have both grown up into adults. HO happens to find the phoenix hairpin. As KWOK is about to give CHENG a telling-off, HO turns up with the hairpin and successfully extricates CHENG from the predicament.
S01:E03 - Episode 3
KWOK needs HO to explain the design of the clothing, making HA and WAN believe that the Empress is going to punish the girl. To everyone’s surprise and delight, KWOK appreciates HO’s design and holds it in high regard. Chief General MA YUEN-CHI is no longer trusted by the Emperor after making a mistake. CHEUNG who is deemed to be in the same league with him is also embroiled in the matter. Except for HO, all the imperial servants have been avoiding CHEUNG. CHENG’s health is deteriorating and YI is finally allowed to return to the Palace to see his mother. LING and FEI-YIN pick a row over trivial matters, causing HO to accidentally damage Lady WONG’s new dress. HO has no choice but to alter the dress design. KWOK flies into a rage after knowing this. To defend HO, HA shifts the blame onto WAN emphasizing that it is all a trap set by her. LING and HO meet up at night but get caught by YIN midway through their gathering. Immediately YIN goes to inform HA of what she saw. Emperor MO CHUNG and Lady WONG make fun of YI intentionally. They throw YI’s pet tortoise to its death, which distresses the prince no end.
S01:E04 - Episode 4
HO is greatly impressed by Chess Master HIN-YEUNG upon their first encounter. Japanese chess player ONIZUKA KOJIRO has come to China. As instructed, YEUNG’s father YIU-ON engages in a contest with the Japanese visitor but is defeated. KOJIRO has set a chess puzzle for the Chinese. Emperor MO CHUNG is so keen to solve the riddle that he keeps pushing his cabinet members for an answer. LING is injured by YIN. WING-FONG pretends to comfort LING and coaxes her into disclosing her design. Knowing that SIU-YUNG, a skivvy from the Department of Jewels, is desperate to get out of the Palace to visit her dying mother, HA offers to intercede with CHOI for the girl in a bid to embarrass WAN. Emperor MO CHUNG plans on attacking KOJIRO by making use of YI. Luckily HO comes along in the nick of time and manages to get YI out of the jam. FONG steals LING’s design and takes all the credit for it. LING is enraged but cannot find any evidence against FONG. HO delivers the medicine to KOJIRO but is driven out of the room. Knowing that YEUNG has come up with the solution to the chess puzzle, Emperor MO CHUNG needs him to risk his life to guarantee victory. HO visits KOJIRO again but is shocked to see him lying unconscious on the floor. Eager to save his life, HO tries to resuscitate the Japanese at once.
S01:E05 - Episode 5
Knowing that YEUNG is not really confident in winning the contest, HO begins to worry about him. Too desperate to recover his military power, CHI plans to kill HO and put the blame on KOJIRO, thinking that it may be a good way to please Emperor MO CHUNG. Emperor MO CHUNG is very pleased about the victory in the chess competition, and agrees to put CHI back in charge of the military forces. Mama TSU asks CHEUNG to buy cosmetics for her but refuses to pay the money. HA upbraids TSU for what she did. TSU gets irked and begins to harbor deep resentment towards HA as a result. The Heads of Jewels, Attire, Food and Furnishings spot SIU-SHUN passing a golden necklace to LING. LING gets a severe telling-off from WAN for this reason. To vent her spleen and frustration, LING asks YI to cheer her up and to take her as his concubine. TSU overhears their conversation and goes to inform KWOK at once. KWOK not only humiliates CHENG at the Imperial Household Bureau but also gets LING punished. SIU-YUNG tries to kill herself but is discovered by HO. CHOI finds that SIU-YUNG has been borrowing heavily from eunuchs. Not wanting to alert KWOK, CHOI decides to have a word with CHI in private to look for a solution.
S01:E06 - Episode 6
HA and WAN both deny having anything to do with the account book. For the sake of fairness, KWOK decides to lock up both of them as punishment. TSU goes to question HA and WAN inside the prison. Before long, CHOI arrives and suggests having a face-to-face conversation with KWOK and TSU about that. TSU says that she has been instructed by WONG to question HA and WAN. KWOK means to protect WONG and punishes CHOI instead based on a made-up allegation. The Imperial Household Bureau has lost a leader overnight. SHEUNG and YAN, together with other imperial servants from the four departments, ask to have a word with KWOK, who however refuses to see them. To show their determination, the ladies decide to go down on their knees until their request is granted. LING criticizes TSU when kneeling outside the Empress’s place, which infuriates the woman immensely. To vent her anger, TSU threatens to sew LING’s lips up with thread. HO finds a stain on the back of the account book and decides to conduct an investigation making use of this little clue. YI finds out who is the secret loan shark inside the Palace. To protect his mother from any possible trouble, he continues to act stupid but offers to drop HO a hint at the same time.
S01:E07 - Episode 7
YEUNG admonishes KWOK for being too unfair and manages to save all members of the Imperial Household Bureau, for which HO is very grateful. Knowing that the Imperial Household Bureau has got itself out of trouble, CHI tries to approach CHOI again. Having got so fed up with his hypocrisy, CHOI and the four department heads cannot help but pour scorn on him. MO CHUNG goes hunting, during which he runs into YI and means to tease him for fun. Luckily YEUNG is there and he offers to help YI out of the predicament. HO TSAU-YEE asks WAN and HA to get her a nice dress and some accessories so that she can get MO CHUNG’s attention in a forthcoming party. WAN asks LING to make a hairpin for YEE. FONG gets so jealous that she is going to do LING an ill turn. LING discovers her plot and manages to smash it somehow. FONG begs for her forgiveness and LING graciously grants it. Mysteriously, LING’s face is found bruised and swollen the following day. Seeing YEE as a potential threat, WONG takes away her dress and accessories so that YEE will stand a slimmer chance of getting MO CHUNG’s attention. HO sympathizes with YEE and offers to make her a brand new hairpin. MO CHUNG encounters YEE in the royal garden and is captivated by her beauty right away. YEE is finally chosen to be MO CHUNG’s concubine with the title of Lady WAI.
S01:E08 - Episode 8
HO is promoted to the post of Deputy Head of Jewels. Not wanting to disappoint LING, HO would like to submit her resignation to WAN. HA believes that it has been WAN’s life-long ambition to take away HO, so her hatred towards WAN is growing stronger and stronger. YI tries to rescue HO when realizing that she has been injured by an animal trap. HO is surprised by YI’s calmness and maturity. CHOI urges the four departments to prepare for MO CHUNG’s birthday party. HA notices that WAN has not yet submitted the accessory design, which makes her believe that WAN may have something to hide. HA pretends to pay HO a visit in an attempt to get more information from the girl. HA suggests using chrysanthemums as the theme of the Emperor’s birthday party, which gives WAN quite a shock. Knowing that HO has already recovered from the injury, YI decides to reveal to her why he has been acting stupid all these days. HO understands his position and promises to keep the secret for him. YI has suddenly caught a serious infection. To prevent the spread of the disease, KWOK forbids CHENG and YI to leave their place.
S01:E09 - Episode 9
KWOK passes two bowls of so-called medicine to CHENG and YI and asks them to try it out. KWOK finally allows CHENG and YI to get out of the Palace. WAN pays CHENG a visit before she leaves. To WAN’s great surprise, CHENG returns to her the lucky charm that she gave her earlier. CHI claims that ON has been having an affair with WONG’s handmaiden SAU-LIN. LIN cannot endure the harsh punishment and finally agrees to testify against ON. HA is very fond of the perfume bag made by HO. She asks HO to give it away to her and she means to show it to WAN later on. Knowing that WAI has got MO CHUNG a few medical pills from the Taoist Temple, LING becomes worried about her and asks her to be careful not to be exploited. MO CHUNG throws up blood and falls unconscious after finishing a bowl of soup. All the maids and servants from the Department of Food are thrown to jail at once. LING reveals to CHOI that MO CHUNG had taken some unknown pills given by WAI before he slipped into a coma. With such a solid piece of evidence, LING manages to save all members of the Department of Food by proving their innocence. KWOK flies into a rage when she learns the truth. As she is about to punish WAI, the news of her death arrives.
S01:E10 - Episode 10
CHEUNG informs HO at once knowing that KWOK is planning to kill CHENG and YI. HO reveals YI’s secret to YEUNG and YEUNG is willing to risk his life to rescue YI. MO CHUNG’s assassination plot against YI is thwarted while YEUNG has suffered a serious injury and faints away in the bamboo grove. HO stays with YEUNG all night to look after him. LING discovers that HO is away from the Palace for the whole night. Burning with curiosity, she keeps pestering HO for an explanation. MO CHUNG is afraid that YI will really come to usurp his throne, as demonstrated in his dream. To prevent his nightmare from becoming a reality, he orders his men to hunt high and low for YI. Realizing that KWOK and MO CHUNG no longer trust him, CHI decides to turn to CHENG and YI and offers to help them plot a rebellion against MO CHUNG. YI means to act stupid in front of CHI saying that he is more than willing to work with him, which gives CHI a great thrill. YEUNG expresses his love for HO while HO insists that there is no future at all in their relationship. To show his determination, YEUNG emphasizes that he is ready to give up his official post and elope with HO. Not wanting YEUNG to give up everything for her, HO finally rejects him.
S01:E11 - Episode 11
KWOK expresses strong opposition to YI’s accession to the throne during the coronation, saying that it is totally irrational to leave the country to the hands of a mentally retarded guy. YI immediately reveals his true self and has a rigorous debate with her. YI is finally crowned with full support of all the ministers. Realizing that YI does not really trust him, CHI urges the Emperor to appoint KIM FUNG as the Chief General so as to build his own power base. YI knows that YEUNG will stay loyal to him, so he decides to keep him by his side as an Armed Guard. FUNG runs into WAN, during which he keeps boasting about his achievements. WAN is relieved yet a little grieved to see that he has accomplished such a lot. Upon YI’s coronation, CHENG rises to become the new Empress Dowager. Knowing that WAN has been assisting CHENG all along, KWOK means to pick on WAN and HO by showing unrelenting dissatisfaction with the hairpins they make. Luckily CHENG arrives in time to get them out of the predicament. Noticing how FUNG has been looking out for his wife KA?PIK during the dinner, WAN gets a little upset. HA means to reveal to PIK the love story of FUNG and WAN, which enrages PIK immensely.
S01:E12 - Episode 12
YI has a meeting with CHI hoping to develop a range of public policies in favor of his fellow countrymen. CHI, however, hopes to remain in sole control of the government and does not want YI to get too involved. YUE comes to admonish YI. CHI rebukes him for being too rude to the Emperor and the two of them get into a fight soon afterwards. Left with no better solution to the trouble, YI decides to lock YUE up in the prison. YEUNG and HO get attacked by an assassin in the royal garden. CHI shows up suddenly and arrests the couple on a charge of adultery. WAN and HA turn to CHENG for help and CHENG promises to do her best to rescue HO. CHI refuses to spare HO unless YI is willing to give away a piece of land to him. YI has no choice but to agree to his request. As punishment, HO will be sent to the laundry room for a month, where she will have to do all kinds of domestic chores. LING is worried about HO and sneaks into the laundry room to pay her a visit, during which she bumps into YI. Knowing that she is a good friend of HO, YI tries to be as nice as he can to LING, which touches the girl so deeply. WAN throws up blood after taking a bite of the snacks given by CHENG. Everybody thinks that this may have something to do with KWOK. KWOK denies the allegation and criticizes CHENG for being too incompetent to take up the role of Empress Dowager. CHENG promises to find out the truth within the next five days.
S01:E13 - Episode 13
All members of the Imperial Household Bureau offer to help with the investigation and the truth is finally uncovered. FONG insults LING on purpose. HO tries to defend LING and picks a row with FONG. Filled with anger and spite, FONG does HO a bad turn by breaking her hand. The royal physician points out that HO’s right hand has been seriously injured. FONG goes to see CHI hoping to get some credit but ends up receiving very severe punishment from the man. Later CHI even decides to hand her over to YI for trial. HO suffers badly from her hand injury. LING feels for her and appeals to YI for help. The royal physician suggests that HO may try acupuncture, which however is considered to be a bit of a high-risk gamble for her. LING offers to take part in a clinical trial for HO’s sake. HO wants to listen to some music during the treatment. She asks WAN and HA to sing her a few of her favorite songs, hoping that closer collaboration between them will eventually help patch up their relationship. HO is gradually recovering while WAN and HA have finally become reconciled. The position of Head of Furnishings has been left vacant since the death of YAN. YEE-MAN who is desperate for promotion tries to please everyone around her. YUEN-YING and MIU-FUN are jealous of MAN but still pretend to be friendly with her.
S01:E14 - Episode 14
WAN is appointed as the Head of Furnishings while HO is promoted to the post of Head of Jewels. SHEUNG goes to see CHOI at her bedroom. She is not happy with WAN’s transfer and asks CHOI for an explanation. Knowing that YI is planning to free the wrongly convicted, LING tries to intercede with the Emperor for HO’s father and asks for an amnesty. KWOK suddenly arrives in the main hall with the spirit tablets of all the previous Tang emperors, in a deliberate attempt to force YI to abdicate. KWOK is so eager to weed out CHI and YI. She compels YI to punish CHI but YI and CHI team up together and put on a good show to shake off the allegation against CHI, which infuriates KWOK no end. Realizing that she has lost all her power and dignity, KWOK decides to commit suicide but is stopped by LING. KWOK is kept in an isolated room. CHI means to pour scorn on her and they get into a terrible quarrel right away. HO and WAN have been collaborating on a number of projects, which makes HA a bit unhappy. HA is jealous of WAN but has been trying to hide her emotions. SHEUNG asks for HA’s help in fighting against WAN, to which HA does not have a definite answer.
S01:E15 - Episode 15
The dye HA will be using has been swapped with something else, which makes her extremely angry. The relationship between WAN and HA is once again on the rocks. CHOI asks SHEUNG whether it is she who has been stirring trouble for WAN and HA, and SHEUNG admits it right away. CHENG suggests that it is time for YI to settle down and find a partner now that he is already crowned. As YI is about to tell HO about the imperial concubine selection, KWOK’s handmaiden KAM-LEUNG comes to assassinate the Emperor. Luckily YEUNG is there and manages to stop the woman. Knowing that HO has already found her Mr. Right, YI decides to keep his love for her inside. LING reveals to HO that she has developed a strong affection for YI and their conversation is overheard by CHENG accidentally. CHI uses the assassination by KAM-LEUNG as an excuse to crack down on his own enemies. Left with no way out, YI chooses to escape from the problem. HO tells YI that LING is deeply attracted to him, and she fervently hopes that the Emperor will pick LING as his concubine. In the meantime, CHI also recommends his god-daughter PO-YIN to YI as a concubine candidate. YIN gets so jealous when she knows that YI has turned down the idea of concubine selection just because of LING. She means to insult LING in an attempt to bring down her confidence and make her withdraw in the end.
S01:E16 - Episode 16
WAN goes to see PIK to discuss the design of the dressing table, during which she bumps into FUNG again. Believing that they have been having an affair, WAN gets so angry with WAN and means to pick on her. HO meets FUNG by chance, and sincerely asks him to have a word with PIK in the hope that she will stop humiliating WAN and treat her with more respect. FUNG is clueless about what is going on between WAN and PIK, but with HO’s detailed explanation, he finally comes to realize the problem. YI pays no attention to the government affairs and keeps fooling around all day long. Not wanting the Emperor to carry on like this, CHI decides to assign LING a new, respectable identity as the god-daughter of a general, which he hopes will facilitate the imperial concubine selection. YI is happy with the arrangement and agrees to take both YIN and LING as his concubines. To build a stronger power base for the fight against CHI, YI needs YEUNG to help look for reliable and committed individuals outside the Palace. YIN is furious to learn that LING is also chosen as YI’s concubine despite her humble origins as a royal housemaid. She is going to show her power. Believing that YI was with LING on the wedding night, YIN gets so jealous and gives her a slap while heading for CHENG’s place. LING reveals to HO how she was punched by YIN. HO tries to drop YI a hint about what has happened by making reference to flower planting.
S01:E17 - Episode 17
SHEUNG submits some nice snacks to YIN and YIN urges her to prepare another set of desserts. SHEUNG turns to CHOI for help but is told not to spend too much effort trying to flatter YIN. FUNG asks WAN out for a chat and passes her some sweetmeats. To avoid any possible trouble, WAN turns him down. By coincidence, SHEUNG is somewhere around and spots everything. YIN receives a new collection of home wares from the Department of Furnishings and asks PIK to take a look. Knowing that the home wares are made by WAN, PIK expresses a deep sense of disgust and pulls them down to the ground. Inside the jewelry box PIK finds a short note to FUNG asking him out for a date. LING has arranged for a group of musicians to perform for YI but YIN manages to make YI stay in her place by stratagem. Consumed with anger and jealousy, LING is resolved to fight back. As YIN is still criticizing LING’s embroidery on the handkerchief, LING gives her a big slap abruptly. Seeing it as an unbearable insult, YIN turns to FUNG and CHI for help and comfort. CHI urges YI and CHENG to resolve the issue fairly. But to everyone’s surprise, LING turns out to be more seriously injured than YIN. YEUNG sneaks into the Internal Service Bureau to search for clues but is injured by CHI’s men. And worse than that, he has left behind the jade ornament that the previous Emperor passed to his family.
S01:E18 - Episode 18
Fearing that ON and YEUNG will reveal all the gruesome details of his crime sooner or later, CHI is keen to weed out ON insisting that the man should be sentenced to death. FUNG tries to intercede with YI for ON and manages to save him from death penalty. YI pretends to be fooling around in a bid to lure FUNG into proposing a relief campaign. Realizing that YI is trying to fight back by making use of FUNG, CHI gets so angry and decides to transport all his properties back to his home village. YIN goes to fly a kite in the royal garden, during which she discovers a rabbit getting trapped inside a crack of the memorial tablet erected by the previous Emperor. To save the rabbit, YIN urges an attendant to break the tablet apart, for which she gets a severe telling-off from YI. HO tries to defend YIN by explaining to YI what she saw. HO gets bitten by a venomous snake. YI who passes by is desperate to rescue HO and offers to suck the poison out of her wound. Later YEUNG comes along and spots YI holding HO in a bear hug. YI asks YEUNG out for a pint, during which he confesses that it has been his wish to keep HO by his side. YEUNG has no choice but to reveal his relationship with HO. YI then decides to...
S01:E19 - Episode 19
CHOI has been ill for quite a while. She reveals that she would like to step down and that only the best candidates in terms of both ability and ethical rectitude will be considered for the post of Bureau Chief. SHEUNG pays CHOI a visit and finds her behaviors a bit suspicious. PIK keeps vomiting after eating some of the dishes prepared by the Department of Food. FUNG grabs this chance and rebukes the Department for being too careless and causing WAN to suffer from a rash years ago. SHEUNG is so eager to escape responsibility that she tries to shift all the blame onto HA. YEUNG asks HO out for a chat, during which he reveals that he is going to leave the Palace to do something for YI, and passes her a bottle of ointment. SHEUNG visits CHOI again and notices a strange smell from her flower pots. Accompanied by WAN, HA goes to pay a tribute to her late mother. They talk about the past and pick a row soon afterwards. SHEUNG comes along and reveals the source of the misunderstanding between WAN and HA. HO tries to intercede with CHENG for CHOI hoping that the Empress Dowager will let CHOI leave the Palace and stay in her home village for the rest of her days. HA and WAN arrive at the Imperial Household Bureau to stop HO and SHEUNG even berates CHOI for deliberately acting ill. CHOI tries but fails to defend herself. Feeling wronged and seriously offended, CHOI gets so worked up that she falls down in a faint right away. HO intercedes with CHENG for CHOI on behalf of the other three department heads. WAN runs into HA above the city gate the day CHOI gets out of the Palace. Memories of what happened twenty years ago come flooding back...
S01:E20 - Episode 20
CHENG treats LING, YIN and PIK to dinner, during which PIK notices that YIN has a partiality for sour food, which makes her think that the girl may have been pregnant. In fact it is LING who is expecting. LING stumbles on a painting roll and falls over. The royal physician points out that LING has suffered a miscarriage, but LING forces him to keep it secret. YI mentions that PIK has been acting very strangely. LING pays YIN and PIK a visit and notices their strange behaviors. Following FEI-YIN’s thorough investigation, LING makes a shocking discovery… CHENG is going to prepare a range of accessories for her future grandchild, and LING means to act sick before the Empress Dowager. As LING is being treated by the royal physician, YI and CHENG go to question FEI-YIN. Believing that someone has been trying to cast a spell on LING, CHENG becomes irritated and decides to do something for LING. YI asks PIK if she has been to the Taoist Temple with an intention to cast a spell on LING. LING confesses to the allegation, although she insists that the spell is not yet completed. She says it is all a plot by LING and rebukes the girl for setting her up deliberately, which makes YI even angrier. YIN tries to intercede for PIK, but in vain. PIK is found guilty by YI...