Dae-yeop closes his eyes, expecting to be killed for stealing the secret agreement that would expose his family’s treason. But instead of killing him, VP Lee kneels and presents his sword (rather, Tae-chul’s sword), calling him a prince. Not only that, but Dae-yeop is the son of Prince Imhae, the elder brother of Gwanghae, and thus in direct line for the throne.
Dae-yeop runs to Lady Haeindang, hurt beyond words that the only person who was kind to him in that house lied to him all his life. Didn’t she ever think of calling him her son? Lady Haeindang says that she kept silent to save him, since he would have been killed like his father if his identity was revealed. She even tried to follow Prince Imhae in death, but VP Lee didn’t let her. Now she is watched every moment of the day. Still, despite her miserable existence, she was happy to be able to breastfeed Dae-yeop and live in the same house. Dae-yeop vows that he will never forgive her for deceiving him.
He stays up all night. VP Lee drops by, addressing him as a royal. Dae-yeop states plainly that he has no wish to be king. VP Lee tries to convince him that as the eldest son of the late king, Prince Imhae would have naturally inherited the throne had not the corrupt and treacherous Gwanghae killed him in 1609. Ming Empire also approved of Imhae. Dae-yeop replies that he thought King Seonjo had planned to hand the throne to his legitimate son Grand Prince Yeongchang, but VP Lee says the Western faction made that up. Besides, Yeongchang was a mere babe at the time.
[Historical note: VP Lee is leaving out the the important detail that Seonjo named Gwanghae Crown Prince in 1592 and fled with Imhae, leaving the more competent Gwanghae to deal with the Japanese invasions. Grand Prince Yeongchang was born in 1606].
Dae-yeop is still not convinced. Is there any proof of his identity? VP Lee explains that Prince Imhae’s wife is still alive, and even though she’s never heard of Dae-yeop, he is sure that she would vouch for him and seize the opportunity to become queen dowager. He stands up to leave, casually mentioning a final thought: “The king has no shame”. If Dae-yeop becomes king, he can even have the princess. Dae-yeop pulls out his sword in a rage. VP Lee seems pleased at his violent potential and leaves.
[Note: Historically Prince Imhae had a real son who became a Buddhist monk, Yi Tae-ung. Last episode I thought Dae-yeop was based on Yi Tae-eung but it seems he’s a fictional son from another consort. How in the world did Lady Haeindang get involved with Imhae? Also, royals cannot marry within the same Yi clan, so what VP Lee is suggesting is utterly scandalous].
Dae-yeop is in the stages of denial and grief. So, this is why Lady Haeindang kept telling him to stay away from the princess? Soo-kyung is his first cousin, so it would be unnatural and immoral for him to marry her. He blurts out that he will seize the throne, take the princess as his consort, and make his mother the Queen Dowager. After all, things don’t happen the way we want them to. He didn’t ask to be born her son and the son of a traitor. Lady Haeindang slaps him, crying that he knows nothing about his father or how he died. Dae-yeop wonders if there’s another secret he doesn’t know.
Lady Haeindang goes to VP Lee and directly accuses him of wanting a puppet king. VP Lee argues that the throne rightfully belongs to Dae-yeop, bla bla bla. Lady Haeindang can see through him: if Dae-yeop is not easily controlled, will he kill him too? She threatens to reveal the final secret which VP Lee has hidden from Dae-yeop: when Prince Imhae was in exile on Ganghwa Island, VP Lee sent assassins to kill him.
Meanwhile Dae-yeop cries over his collection of Soo-kyung’s drawings and burns them, together with his memories. (OST 9 makes this scene even more heartbreaking).
The next day Dae-yeop and Ba-woo are on palace duty. They talk at a quiet spot. Dae-yeop apologizes for failing to stop his father’s treacherous plot. Ba-woo doesn’t hold it against him. He says he dreamed they were friends who drank together, and who called each other “brother-in-law”. Dae-yeop says sadly that it might happen in their next life because his current life is a never-ending hell. “Why is a Confucian scholar talking about reincarnation?” asks Ba-woo.
Getting to the point, Dae-yeop says that Ba-woo’s status will probably be the first thing to be retracted (since they’ve failed to stop VP Lee). The princess will be targeted next. He advises them to leave Joseon. “But then you won’t see her ever again”, says Ba-woo. Dae-yeop replies that nothing matters if she can be happy. He rambles on that the princess was always bright and cheerful, and that he would love to swap bodies with Ba-woo… Hearing this, Ba-woo is concerned, but Dae-yeop can’t explain any more than that. Dae-yeop offers his help: “I may not be your friend, but I will be your comrade, at least”. He stops as he leaves and asks Ba-woo: “Was I happy in that dream of yours?”
Ba-woo keeps looking for the royal cook who helped poison the late king Seonjo. He asks his contacts, the gisaeng and his street friend, to look out for a man called “Kim Ik-su”, who should be around sixty years old now.
Chun-bae is happily smelling flowers when Ba-woo arrives at home. Chun-bae giggles that he’s doing well with Court Lady Jo, which the women happen to overhear. Court Lady Jo drops her basket and runs away.
Dae-yeop sits in his room brooding. Then he goes to VP Lee’s study and takes the upper seat. VP Lee is pleased as a pickle because that means that Dae-yeop has accepted his fate as someone higher in authority. Without wasting any time, Dae-yeop states that he wants to know VP Lee’s plans. VP Lee’s eyebrows go up. He replies that Dae-yeop doesn’t have to know.
Dae-yeop scoffs: “As I thought, all this time, you have raised me as a tool, not as your son.” VP Lee seems a bit perplexed. Dae-yeop continues, getting more agitated. He always wondered why his mother didn’t like him and why VP Lee wasn’t hard on him like on his brothers, who were always jealous of him. Even a nephew is treated as a child of the family, but he received no affection from anyone. He storms out. Somebody hug this boy before he does something crazy.
At the palace, Gwanghae is drinking, and he’s in a bad mood because no evidence of VP Lee’s treason can be found. He latches onto Kim Ja-jeom. Didn’t he deceive the king a while ago by saying the princess had died? Kim Ja-jeom replies with the classic “Jeonha, kill me!”. Gwanghae throws his goblet at Kim Ja-jeom and screams that he should find evidence ASAP if he doesn’t want to die. Losing it, the king then crawls towards Ba-woo. “You said it was all crap. I am the king, but I cannot even kill the man who tried to kill my daughter!”. Ba-woo replies with the formal expression “Your grace is immeasurable”. Gwanghae laughs at the empty expression and calls for more alcohol.
As they leave the palace, Kim Ja-jeom counsels Ba-woo to not put his trust completely in Gwanghae. He invites Ba-woo to join the Westerners in their gatherings at the home of Prince Neungyang, another of Seonjo’s grandsons. The prince wants to meet Ba-woo.
Lady Jeong is worried that things are not going well between Ba-woo and Soo-kyung because they use separate rooms. Very awkwardly, she asks Soo-kyung if they are a real couple. Soo-kyung affirms that she is her daughter-in-law and her son’s wife, not a princess. In that case, says Lady Jeong happily, she looks forward to seeing Cha-dol’s little brother soon.
That evening Soo-kyung embroiders while Ba-woo reads, which seems to be their usual routine. He gets up to leave but she tells him to stay. His eyes go wide. She wants to know if he dislikes her or if the king commanded him to behave in a certain way. He replies that he wants to protect her. Ba-woo steps outside for a moment.
When he calls her outside, Soo-kyung finds a straw mat and a bowl of water in a corner of the garden. Ba-woo says that he has nothing to offer her but his heart. He asks her to be his wife for real.
She’s so happy that she cries. She replies that she would like to live with him forever. They have the sweetest simplest wedding ever. He places a ring on her finger and a flower coronet on her head, and they bow at each other to complete the ceremony. Lady Jeong is ecstatic to see two pairs of shoes outside the room that night.
The next morning Ba-woo and Chun-bae stake out the street where the royal cook might show up. An old man sees them and darts off, looking very agile for his age. Ba-woo and Chun-bae chase him across the city only to end up at… a meeting of VP Lee and the Northerners. The royal cook cowers behind VP Lee’s back and Ba-woo and Chun-bae are forced to retreat. The conspirators set a date for the revolt: the next full moon. They have enough troops, so they only need to persuade the general of training (Lee Hong-rip) to not mobilize the capital forces that day.
At the palace, Kim Gae-si is doing the king’s nails when VP Lee arrives with his three main supporters and the royal cook in tow. Kim Gae-si recognizes the man immediately. She whispers into the king’s ear. The king roars to get the cook out of the room. He also orders the other ministers to leave. Tellingly, they don’t leave when Gwanghae tells them too, only when VP Lee clears his throat.
Gwanghae observes that the ministers are acting like VP Lee’s subjects. VP Lee protests.
Gwanghae: “You don’t even bother to say, Your grace is immeasurable anymore, do you?”
VP Lee: “Your grace is immeasurable, Your Majesty”.
Gwanghae understands that VP Lee is threatening him with the cook. He asks if he should just retract the restoration of status of Kim Je-nam’s family (Ba-woo’s family). VP Lee remains silent… he wants something else. Gwanghae begs him to forget about the princess. He will make sure that she never leaves the Jeong Eob Won (temple for widowed consorts). VP Lee tells him to let it go. The princess is already dead. Broken, Gwanghae agrees to retract the restoration of Kim Je-nam’s family and hand over the princess if VP Lee kills the cook. VP Lee thanks him: “Your grace is immeasurable, Your Majesty”. The king screams: “What exactly is immeasurable?”
He orders the Royal Secretariat to revoke the reinstatement of Kim Je-nam’s status. What is more, he orders that the corpses of those executed in 1613 be dug up and beheaded.
VP Lee’s ministers wonder if it’s necessary to go to so much trouble regarding Kim Je-nam’s family. After all, the coup will happen soon. VP Lee smirks and says it will distract the king and be a good warning to the Westerners as well.
Once again, VP Lee heads to the Kim household. And once again, he finds no one. Royal guard Jung Yeong has taken matters into his own hand and warned Ba-woo. Jung Yeong gets berated by Kim Gae-si on his return to the palace for going against the king’s will without consulting her. Ba-woo and family hide out at the gisaeng house. He convinces Lady Jeong and Yeon-ok to take Cha-dol to Sangwon Temple.
As for himself and Soo-kyung, they decide to hide where VP Lee would never imagine. Soo-kyung suggests the Western Palace, where Queen Dowager Inmok is confined. It’s heavily guarded though. Ba-woo meets up with Dae-yeop and tells him their plan.
That night four figures scale the walls of the Western Palace. Unfortunately they take a bit too long to decide who goes first. Court Lady Jo and Ba-woo manage to climb over the wall, but soldiers arrive. They beat Chun-bae and catch Soo-kyung as she desperately holds onto Ba-woo’s hand. Ba-woo staves off a pike with his other hand.
End of episode
The stress!!! I hope Ba-woo doesn’t join the Westerners, and I hope Dae-yeop doesn’t try something crazy by himself. I want our princess to live as a proud and free woman for more than one day. Am I hoping for too much?