LuLing and Kai Jing meet in secret to kiss and touch each other. They make plans to marry, but these plans are interrupted by the news that Japanese soldiers have begun to invade China. On the morning the orphanage receives this news and tries to make sense of what will happen next, LuLing is astonished to see GaoLing arrive. GaoLing explains that she now lives in Peking with her husband, Fu Nan Chang. The family fortunes have gotten even worse, especially now that many of the sons have gone off to support military efforts. GaoLing snuck away from her husband and is in no hurry to return. Eventually, with the help of one of the nuns who runs the orphanage, GaoLing concocts a plan to lead her husband to believe that she has been arrested, and she is then free to stay at the orphanage.
A few months later, LuLing and Kai Jing get married. The day is a mixture of happiness and fearfulness, since the threat of the Japanese invasion grows every day. LuLing and Kai Jing continue to work at the orphanage, with LuLing enjoying a close relationship with her father-in-law. However, after only a few months of happy marriage, Kai Jing and several of the other scientists are arrested by Chinese soldiers over their failure to enlist in the army. Eventually, the Japanese seize control of the area. This briefly allows Kai Jing and the others to return to the orphanage, but the next day, the Japanese come and arrest them again, convinced that they will be able to share the location of where the Chinese troops have fled. Kai Jing, along with others, is questioned and then executed.
LuLing mourns for Kai Jing, believing that her life no longer has any purpose. Eventually, the United States declares war on Japan, and Miss Grutoff is arrested as a prisoner of war. Before she leaves, she reveals that she has left money and instructions for how to evacuate the orphans to safe houses in Peking. Showing bravery and ingenuity, LuLing evacuates her group of orphans. Once they settle into new lives, GaoLing and LuLing move into some rooms in the back of the old ink shop, along with LuLing’s father-in-law and one of the teachers from the school. The Chang family tolerates them living there because they implement several ideas that improve sales. Unfortunately, after the war ends, GaoLing’s husband returns to claim her. He also announces that he has sold the ink shop. The others are resigned to finding somewhere else to live, but GaoLing refuses to give up her family business. Before a conclusion can be reached, they learn that Miss Grutoff has been released from the prisoner of war camp and is now very ill. They rush to see her and learn that she is planning to return to the United States for medical treatment. There is an opportunity for one person to accompany her as her caregiver.
The group discusses who should go with Miss Grutoff, knowing that the chance to immigrate is a huge opportunity. LuLing is eager to go but puts on a pretense of being unwilling to leave GaoLing, but GaoLing agrees to go. The plan is that once she is in the U.S., she will sponsor LuLing to come be with her. In the meantime, LuLing will move to Hong Kong to wait. Teacher Pan will stay in Peking since he is considering remarrying. The group has a party to celebrate, imagining reuniting someday in the U.S.
LuLing moves to Hong Kong, where she stays in a shabby rooming house. After a few months, she receives a letter from GaoLing with updates. Unfortunately, Miss Grutoff died almost as soon as they reached the United States, and GaoLing learns that it will not be easy for her to sponsor LuLing. She works as a house cleaner and does not earn much money, and her family in China pressures her to send money home. GaoLing thinks her best chance is to find an American husband, and she is prepared to hide the fact that she is already married. LuLing is crushed and decides to return to Peking, but she learns that the train fare is now more than she can afford. She contemplates selling the bone, and when she takes it to several shops, she realizes that the bone is very valuable. She decides that she will not sell it and will instead work until she saves up enough money to pay for her train ticket.
LuLing moves into the cheapest accommodations she can find in Hong Kong and gets a job as a maid. She works in the home of two British women, Miss Patsy and Lady Ina. During the two years she works for them, LuLing learns English. GaoLing’s letters mostly focus on how difficult her life in the U.S. is, but one day, she reports that she has met two brothers and thinks they might make good husbands for her and LuLing. As LuLing thinks about this possibility, she runs into Fu Nan Chang, who demands to know where his wife is. LuLing defiantly shares that GaoLing has gone to America but becomes alarmed when Fu Nan threatens to find her and tell people that she is already married. LuLing begins to pay off Fu Nan until she receives a letter from GaoLing saying that she has procured a visa for LuLing, and the Young brothers are interested in meeting her. Relieved, LuLing sells the bone and uses this money, along with her savings, to pay for her voyage to California.