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Nikolai returns back home with Denisov. The Rostovs give him a rousing welcome and receive Denisov heartily. Nikolai enjoys himself by attending parties and meeting friends. He is not sure of his feelings for Sonya. Denisov falls in love with Natasha and proposes to her but the latter declines to marry him. Shortly afterwards, Denisov leaves for the field. Count Rostov throws a party in honor of General Bagration. All the guests except Pierre make merry. Pierre suspects Dolokhov of having an affair with his wife. Thus, when Dolokhov provokes him at the party, Pierre challenges him to fight with him. At the duel, Pierre outwits his rival and wounds Dolokhov. As Dolokhov recuperates at home, Nikolai attends to him. Later, Nikolai invites Dolokhov home and introduces him to his family. Dolokhov falls in love with Sonya and proposes to her. Sonya refuses to marry him, as she still loves Nikolai. Dolokhov is disappointed and angry.
A few days before Nikolai leaves for the battlefield, Dolokhov invites him to his hotel. When Nikolai reaches the room of Dolokhov, the latter lures him to stake his money in the game of cards. Nikolai loses heavily and owes Dolokhov forty three thousand rubles. Guilty and dejected, Nikolai reaches home and asks his father to lend him money to repay the loan to Dolokhov. Count Rostov agrees to provide the money but Nikolai has to wait for a week. Soon after posting the money to Dolokhov, Nikolai leaves home to join his regiment.
Returning home, Pierre gets more involved in his work. He enrolls new members and tries to introduce reforms in the organization. He feels disappointed when the other members fail to appreciate his work. However, Alekseyevich, his mentor, encourages him to continue his good work. He also asks Pierre to get reconciled with his wife and call her back.
Nikolai is happy doing his work as a returning officer in the Pavlograd regiment and being in the company of Denisov. Denisov is unhappy about the quota of rations given to them. Thus, one morning, he diverts the rations meant for another camp to his and earns the wrath of his superiors. However, before he can be punished, he gets injured in the battlefield. As he lies in the hospital, he sends his letter of apology to the Tsar through Nikolai. Nikolai reaches Bartenstein and forwards the letter to the Tsar. The Tsar expresses his inability to help. Nikolai is disappointed and disillusioned with the way politicians bestow favors on undeserving people.
Prince Andrei undertakes reforms in his estate and suggests reforms in the army. The government accepts his suggestions. They make him a member of the reforms commission and also the Chairman of the legal section. Andrei, thus enhances his position in society by improving his status. Once, in connection with his work on Ryazan estate, he visits Count Rostov at Otradnoe. He meets the Count and also Natasha and is charmed by the youthful exuberance of the latter. Thus, he keeps making trips to Otradnoe to meet Natasha and talk to her. And one day, he proposes to her. However, he is unable to marry her immediately, as his father asks him to wait for a year before tying the knot with Natasha. Natasha is disappointed but promises to wait.
Ellen returns back to Petersburg to be with her husband but continues to lead a high social life. She befriends Boris and other eligible bachelors. Pierre feels rejected. He also loses interest in his work with the Free Masons. He reverts back to his old life and takes to drinking.
The Rostovs experience a financial set back. When the Count is unable to handle his finances, the Countess asks Nikolai to return home. Nikolai reaches Otradnoe and tries to deal with the defaulters. However, he fails to succeed in retrieving their lost position. Instead, he spends his time in enjoying himself through hunting and masquerading. At a masquerading party, he discovers his love for Sonya and informs the countess of his intention to marry her in the future. The countess is disappointed, as she had expected Nikolai to marry an heiress to better their prospects in life.