We get the full story of the rebellion from a decade ago. But is that undoubtedly the truth, or is someone distorting the facts to their advantage? On a lighter note, we get some much-needed sweetness between our leads, who are growing closer than they realize.
Picking up where we left off, the old friends reconcile, and Hwan promises to trust and protect Sung-on no matter what. Having made up with his long-time friend, Hwan looks more at ease and even asks Jae-yi to become good friends. But Jae-yi plays hard to get. Doesn’t Hwan know how sad she was when he kicked her last time? Saying sorry won’t cut it. She wants to hear Hwan say something more genuine, “I need you, and I want you by my side.”
Unbeknownst to her, what Hwan says, albeit internally, is more sincere and compassionate, “I have missed you, Jae-yi.” But those words will remain unknown to Jae-yi, at least for now, despite her nagging for Hwan to say it loudly, just like he listened in on her rant at the lake before.
Jae-yi can now return back to the secret room. And with it comes a fancy dinner, Hwan asked Tae-gang to prepare for her. Since eating alone is no fun, Jae-yi tells Hwan to join, and the latter is delighted at the idea, although he tries to brush off any growing feelings he has for her.
A sober Jae-yi voices her thoughts as it is, but a pretty drunk Jae-yi is harder to handle. She tells Hwan to change the laws and make people marry out of affection. According to her, couples should hold and smell hands before getting married. Okay, holding hands is fine, but smelling is a little weird.
When Hwan finds that idea ridiculous, Jae-yi turns to pitying the crown princess, who may have to share a bed with that cold-hearted prince. Don’t be too harsh, Jae-yi, as you might hopefully be the one marrying Hwan. In the same style, Hwan feels bad for Sung-on for having Jae-yi as his fiancée. It is hilarious how those two keep feeling bad for their prospective partners when they will end up falling in love and getting married. Did you hear me, writer nim? Give them a happy ending, please.
Hwan suggests they tell Sung-on the truth before it is too late, but for Jae-yi, catching her family’s murderer comes first. Also, even after she clears her name, she won’t get married to Sung-on. Not that Jae-yi dislikes him. But she wants to live freely and solve mysterious cases. Before, she had to hide behind her brother’s name. But now, even though she is using a fake identity, she can do almost everything she wants to do and help save innocent people.
Also, when Hwan ascends to the throne, he can make Jae-yi the head eunuch. According to our bubbly heroine, living like that is more enjoyable than being confined to the kitchen for being born as a woman. Okay, this is a weird idea; yet Hwan will play along for now. Whenever things look fine for our leads, I worry that danger might approach them. And this time, the threat is coming in the shape of Tae-gang suspiciously snooping around and listening in on Hwan and Jae-yi.
We got many snippets of a mysterious guard leaving secret notes for a court lady informing her of Hwan’s secrets. Further, they didn’t show the face of the one who delivered Hwan’s gifts to Jae-yi’s family, nor the one who handed the dagger to the shaman. I am trying to brush off those thoughts and not suspect Tae-gang. I wish it is just a red herring. But it looks like the betrayal arc will be done by Tae-gang, not Sung-on, like we were led to believe.
Back to the mystery/curse/murders arc, earlier, Hwan stopped right-state councilor Jo from framing Sung-on’s father for the plum tree incident. Hence, preventing Jo from eliminating one of his enemies yet again. Jo isn’t someone who doesn’t pay back for what he gets. And when Hwan visits the king, urging him to punish Jo, their meeting is interrupted by Jo’s arrival, who puts Hwan in a difficult position and accuses him of trying to protect Sung-on as they are friends.
It isn’t like the king is strong enough to stand up to the right-state councilor either. That debate ends with the king unwillingly taking Jo’s side and telling Hwan to stay away from politics. Mad over what happened, Hwan tries to check the diaries from a decade ago to learn what exactly happened with the rebellion.
Were those people really bandits rising in arms? Or did right-state councilor Jo distort the facts and make up a fake rebellion so he could gain power and fame? Also, is it a coincidence that after Jo supposedly subdued the rebels, the king took a liking to Jo’s niece and made her the next queen, or was it a part of a thorough plan Jo made in advance?
Through flashbacks, we see a group of people led by a blacksmith from the Song family launch an attack on the government office in Byeokcheon and kill the soldiers and the petty officials there. After that, they took over the government office, stole grains and weapons, and let prisoners loose to strengthen their power.
Everyone who got in their way was killed. Even the women were assaulted. The governor of Byeokcheon, one of Jo’s relatives, was wrapped up in a straw mat and got tossed outside the village. As luck would have it, the governor was still alive. He got to report the incident after walking continuously for forty km while drenched in blood from the sickle wound in his stomach.
After that, Jo was sent under the king’s order to check the situation and subdue the rebels. The leader was captured after being shot by arrows. He was tied to a pole and died after 10 days. The village was burnt, demoted to a traitors’ land, and entirely blocked out.
But isn’t it too big of a coincidence that the shaman and the soldier in charge of bringing water to Hwan at the hunting grounds were both from Byeokcheon? Let’s get the facts straight. So after the leader was executed and the village was destroyed, the remaining people fled and lived in hiding, like the tavern couple did.
Aiming to take revenge for those who were wrongly killed and return to their hometown, the remaining people set up a secret organization. Thus, carrying out all the schemes from the ghost letter, shooting Hwan with an arrow, Jae-yi’s family’s murder, the serial murders case, and the plum tree incident. But according to the queen, the leader from the Song family didn’t commit the crimes Jo and others from his family are accusing him of. So what really happened a decade ago?
I don’t think it is a simple rebellion and revenge story, but a heavy scheme plotted by Jo to become the king over the king. He doesn’t even trust his niece and bribes her court lady to spy on the queen and the rest of the royal family. But is the queen’s court lady totally on Jo’s side, or is she a double agent pretending to help him while secretly working for the shaman’s group?
We got a faint clue about a woman in a veil visiting the shaman whenever the shaman heads back from Jae-yi’s hometown. Is that woman the court lady from the queen’s palace, or is she Hwan’s court lady, the one who was writing a note about Hwan meeting a eunuch from Byeokcheon?
The plot is thickening, and things are getting more interesting. We are now at a point where we must suspect everyone, as things might turn out utterly the opposite of what we were led to believe. A loyal bodyguard might be a traitor, and a suspicious best friend might be the one fighting by Hwan’s side till the end. One thing is for sure, Hwan is lucky to have Jae-yi by his side in that icy palace.