The novel consists of 109 chapters in total and the main storyline is separated to six volumes (two volumes in each book). Here is a list of volumes and the recaps of main events:
Prologue: Fore life in modern society (chapter 1-3)
Chu Qiao, 27, vice commander of 11th division of MSS, a sophisticated high rank espionage who had accomplished chains of national security missions, is under a secret trial in a specific prison.
She is sent back to cell after denied all the charges against her and refused to give more information. A while after, she breaks out and manages to get back the important evidence she found proofing the betrayal of one summit official of China. When she is about to run out successfully with the evidence, she realized that the whole prison is in danger of being smashed for the one who betrayed the country is willing to destroy anything might endanger himself, i.e., Chu Qiao, the evidence, and anyone who gets involved. Handing the evidence to a colleague who comes to save her, Chu Qiao returns and rescues all people in the prison sacrificing her own life.
Vol I: The Zhen Huang City (The Chang’an City in drama, chapter 4-17)
Backs to conscious, Chu Qiao found herself lying in the middle of a hunting field badly wounded. Soon, she realized her body is of a little girl who is barely 8 years old and together with other girls at a similar age, they’ve been chasing by wolves. While trying to escape with the others, CQ figures out that five noble teenagers are competing in a game to see whose girl (marked on the clothes with the boys’ family names) could survive. The boys are shooting with arrows the wolves when their own girls are in danger while shooting the others’ girls to death. Quickly, there is just CQ left surviving and she had nowhere to hide, meanwhile, all the boys are running out of arrows except for Yan Xun who has his last arrow in hand. YX intendedly misses CQ and loses the game. CQ is then sent back to Zhuge (Yuwen in the drama) family and thrown in a shabby storage, she remembers the names of all the boys on the hunting field and swears to revenge.
Linxi sneaks in the storage during night, brings her food and promises to protect her. Slowly, CQ discovers her new identity as Jin Yue’er, nicked as Xiao Liu (the 6th), one of the Jin siblings (Zhixiang (4th), Lingxi (5th), Xiao Qi (7th) & Xiao Ba (8th) ) who originated from a noble family but punished to be slaves after their father failed in a political scheme, and the whole rest of the family had already been slaughtered. CQ decides to run away by herself cause with such a fragile body of an 8-year old, she could barely do nothing for the others. Right before stepping out of the main gate of Zhuge’s mansion, CQ hears Linxi’s shriek. Finally, CQ runs back only discovers Linxi been whipped to death right in front of Zhuge Yue (Yes, he is Yuwen Yue), the 4th young master of Zhuge family. Besides Linxi, Xiao Qi is begging for mercy from Yue, but he cruelly ordered to cut Xiao Qi’s hand off when his white boot was stained by her dirty fingerprints (No, he is not THE Yuwen Yue, at least in the beginning of the novel). CQ is stunned witnessing all these brutal scenes of Jin Yue’er’s siblings. Although personally not connected, she still feels tied with them after shortly being taken cared by them. The existence of CQ attracts Yue’s attention, while CQ quickly calms herself and kneels down in front of him. Yue keeps CQ as his maid since then. When CQ gets back to where all Jin siblings lives, it turned out that Zhixiang has been sent to the “grandpa’s” (Yuwen Xi), and died. When CQ finally managed to bury Zhixiang’s body and back home, Xiao Qi also died. There is just herself and Xiao Ba left, and she swears never lose Xiao Ba again.
CQ carefully plots to kill (through the others’ hands) the persons who were involved in Jing siblings’ death. One by one, they get their debt repaid. Similar as in drama, YX shows his interests to CQ and asks her to come back to Yanbei with him. The Jiuyoutai event begins at the same night when CQ finally kills the “grandpa”. She end up with YX at the Yingge yard. Soon after the Jiuyoutai, Yue went to Wolong Mountain to study with the greatest scholar of Ximeng, and stayed there for eight years.
Vol II: The State of Daxia (The Wei state in drama, chapter 18-36)
Eight years later, CQ and YX survived from countless assassinates and planning to get back to Yanbei under the support of Datong Hanghui, a secrete organization lead by Mr.Wu and Lady Zhong Yu. During the eight years, CQ actually is YX’s mentor, teaching him with fighting skills, warfare theories, etc.. They managed to revenge by killing Muhe Xifeng (Zhao Xifeng) and Wei Shuyou. CQ is commanded to be the arrow coach of Zhao Che (Yuan Che)’s army.
Li Ce (Xiao Ce), the prince of Biantang (Liang) state come to state of Daxia for an official visit while the two states plans to settle a marriage between a princess of Daxia (with Li Ce’s own choice) and Li Ce. CQ accidently beats Li Ce while receiving him, and thereafter has no way to get away from his persistent teasing. Li Ce intendedly announces his proposal to CQ in front of the emperor of Daxia, which triggers a chain of reactions from Yue, Zhao Che, Zhao Song, and YX. Afterwards, Li Ce uses CQ to lure supports from YX and Yue for rescuing him from a wave of assassination targeting to himself (in the wood). He also uses the assassination to negotiate with Daxia for a better tariff for the trade of Biantang, plus, eradicates his enemies back home by provoking a thorough investigation on the assassination in Daxia.
Not too much happened between Yue and CQ in these chapters (All can be seen in the drama. There is even less between them because Yue does not serve in Zhao Che’s army), except that while Yue tries to prevent CQ from escaping when YX is rebelling outside the royal palace, CQ describes her ideologies to him (that all people should at least be free to live on their own choices, and everyone has the dignity to be treated with respect), which he feels unrealistic and naïve. But he is so affected by her confidence and optimism when she promised to him that Yanbei will be a different world and asked him to wait and see, that he would like to stay behind and watch her on her way.
Similar as in the drama, YX rebels on the wedding day of him and Chun’er. The whole city is damaged and the peoples suffered. YX abandons the Xi Nan Army (Xiuli Army) who supported him in the city. CQ returns and rescues the Army, and prevents the Daxia’s Army from chasing YX utilizing guerrilla warfare. Tragic happens to Chun’er & Zhao Song and CQ escorts them back. Afterwards, she has to detour to Biantang escaping Daxia’s Army that are trying to arrest her.
Vol III: The State of Biantang (The Liang state in drama, chapter 37- 52)
CQ meets Liang Shaoqin on her way while fighting with the Daxia soldiers, and the companion of the two begins. The differences between the novel and the drama include that Liang was from a wealthy scholar family and was on his tour of studies, that there was no after life camp and Zhan Ziyu was just a falling noble of Biantang; that Zhan Ziyu had helped CQ because Zhao Song (who had lost his arm already) had asked for it and he needed to repay Zhao Song who had helped him before; that after arrive in Wupeng, CQ found the trace of Liu Xing (her horse, which was taken cared by Yue after she lost it) and followed it to the mansion of Wupeng’s mayor, where she met Yue in the bath.
CQ was injured by a poisoned needle from a local thug while attempting to protect Yue. The two traveled together with the caravan of Xianyang and heading to Tangjing (the capital of Biantang), where they met Mo’er and Xingxing, and they fought against Liu Xi who had slaughtered Xingxing and her family. CQ recognized YX who was disguised as Liu Xi, then she left alone.
By the time when Li Ce meets CQ, she was almost fainted on her horse back, and he was captured by his guards from his attempting to run away from his settled marriage with Daxia. Li Ce brought CQ back to Tangjing, and tried to cure her from the poison. CQ stayed in Jinwu Palace as a guest of Li Ce, who had been gifted with a great talent on mischiefs and amusements, and the two had enjoyed a pretty funny and easy life jointly. That probably was the most relaxing time in CQ’s life. The longer had she hung over with Li Ce, the more she learned about him under his cover of cynicism. After CQ pictured Li Ce’s back story (will be summarized in the recap of Vol V), her feeling towards Li Ce had changed to a sincere respect and a deep sympathy. They’d become the best friend of each other, exchanging their ideas and opinions over the historical and recent events among the four states of Ximeng. CQ realized that instead of dandy, Li Ce was actually a quite accomplished politician, and he will be an excellent ruler for the already much more advanced society of Biantang. Li Ce also learned the fish and water relationship between the ruler and the people from CQ. He had tried to hint CQ to be cautious about YX and to be realistic about Yanbei, but it was too early for CQ to taking his words seriously.
The remaining part of this volume is about Chun’er, who had arrived Tangjing as the princess of Daxia for the political marriage. She’d plotted to kill CQ, who had seen through her plan and threw it back to her. Both Li Ce and Yue had tried to rescue CQ from the crisis raised by Chun’er, but CQ had saved herself beforehand. CQ and Yue had had a fierce quarrel over the faith and the responsibility that CQ insisted, in the end, CQ said that she must go to Yanbei because YX needed her. Yue kissed her desperately and asked whether she was aware that he needs her as well. CQ begged for a let go. Yue told her in an icy voice that she is free to go, then left without any hesitation. Li Ce had sent CQ to the meeting point of YX’s people, he told her that since she already made the choice, it would be good to forget about what had been given up and concentrate on what are lying ahead. CQ thanked Li Ce, and get on her road to Yanbei.
Vol IV: The State of Yan Bei (chapter 53- 74)
The real face of Yanbei and Yan Xun.
The ice lake.
Things happened just as expressed in the drama, except that the whole trap of killing Yue by using CQ was schemed by YX himself. Cheng Yuan was just the one who was operating it.
CQ is saved by YX from the lake and the only reason for her keeps living is because Yue asked so. Her health is severely damaged, also her faith. She feels her life being pointless and loses her courage. What makes her life worse is that YX announced to the world that Yue was killed by trapes from CQ, aiming at luring the remaining Yue supporters come to assassinate CQ and eradicating all of them. CQ quietly accepts the reality and recovers slowly.
The volume ends by CQ finally bursts up with tears after Yue’s death on her way of secretly leaving Yanbei during the New Year’s Eve, and recalls her conversation with Yue when hearing the sounds of firecrackers. Back then on the way to Biantang, when they were trying to kill Liu Xi and revenge for Xingxing, Yue asked CQ whether she is prepared. CQ asked him to take good care of himself, because: “If you died, I will celebrate with a hundred of firecrackers, for I don’t need to repay you anymore.”
While Yue scoffs back with:” Well, you will never get the chance for such firecrackers!”