And my attempt to recap this drama goes on!
These episodes highlight the acting of Nam Ji Hyun and Lee Hyun Woo, who play young Seondeok and Yushin respectively. Nam Ji Hyun has made a name for herself playing the younger version of Han Ji Hye in East of Eden and a young Han Ye Seul in Will it Snow for Christmas. Lee Hyun Woo appeared most recently in God of Study.
Deokman’s search for Munno has become fruitless, but she overhears an abbot talking about Munno. The abbot actually is Jukbang, who along with his son Godo, is a common thief. Jukbang is caught by a group of boys training to become Hwarang and accused of stealing a charm that belongs to Kim Yushin – the leader. Jukbang doesn’t have the charm (he slips it inside Deokman’s clothes instead) but the meeting marks the first for Deokman and Yushin – and of course it’s not a pleasant one.
Jukbang takes pity on Deokman and tells her the route to reach where Munno is at Yorae Temple – and that brings her crossing paths with a disguised Chunmyung. However, Misil has made arrangements with her lover, Sulwon, to have Munno assassinated.
Deokman and Chunmyung escape attackers but end up getting captured by a local town’s gang. The town is also associated with Munno. They are tied up and ready to be sent as slaves, but Deokman makes a deal with them – if she can make it rain and save the drought-ridden village in three days, then they are let go. Miraculously, it does rain – and Deokman and Chunmyung manage to escape with their lives as Sulwon’s troops arrive at the village to kill everyone there. However, they run to the edge of a cliff, and Deokman slips off, hanging for her dear life.
Deokman knows that Chunmyung can’t save her, and she lets go – falling into the deep waterfall. However, she wakes up to find Chunmyung trying to revive her – Chunmyung had jumped off the cliff in order to save her.
They reach Yorae Temple, only to find a bunch of assassins who have already killed everyone in the temple. One of the assassins recognizes Chunmyung, but before he can do anything Deokman kicks a ninja in between the legs and they manage to escape. However, in the midst of battle, Chunmyung is grazed by an arrow and as she tumbles down a hill, she separates from Deokman. Yushin and his group of trainees discover an unconscious Chunmyung at the riverside where they plan on bathing, and he ties her up at a stable. Turns out – he found his charm in Chunmyung’s clothes. It was actually in Deokman’s jacket, but Deokman had given it to Chunmyung to wear.
The fact that Princess Chunmyung has gone missing causes chaos in the royal household, and missing posters go up around the country. Yushin sees the poster and realizes that Chunmyung is that princess, and he releases her. He gets called to the palace and fears punishment, but instead Chunmyung praises him for saving her life and invites him into the palace to become one of the Capital Hwarangs.
Meanwhile, Deokman encounters Jukbang and Godot as they are searching for the charm that they had stolen. However – she has a bigger find. While escaping from the assassins, one of them accidentally takes an arrow for her, and she nurses him back to health. This soldier – who is the same one that recognized Chunmyung – is actually Sulwon and Misil’s love child, and so when he turns up missing, Misil secretly searches for him. Jukbang and Godo – in exchange for money – lead her to him.
Under the guise as Jukbang and Godo’s daughter and sister, Deokman goes into the castle to beg for their lives, claiming that she knows what truly happened at Yorae Temple. And boy are Bojong (the soldier she took care of) and Chunmyung surprised to see her. She identifies Bojong’s presence at the temple as part of her evidence, but he denies knowing her so she ends up arrested. But at least Jukbang, Godo, and Deokman are safe.
Chunmyung has Yushin join her side as a Hwarang (especially with most of the Hwarang under Misil’s thumb) and also has him take Deokman on as a trainee. Jukbang and Godo, not wanting to be left out, beg to join as well. A ceremony is held where flags are given to each leader of the Hwarang, and Yushin officially becomes the leader of the Dragon Guard.
However the other Hwarangs under Bojong aren’t quick to accept such a scrappy team and challenge them to a duel. The inexperienced Dragon Guards are soundly defeated, and their flag torn in half. Deokman is taken to see Misil that night, and Misil interrogates her about her knowledge of Munno’s whereabouts and of the princess (Chunmyung). Deokman has nothing to offer, and Misil gives no information herself to Deokman’s questions. But Deokman does see that a plaque in Misil’s apartments bears Chilsuk’s name – and she wonders about the connection between the two.
Training for the Dragon Guard begins, and Deokman being a girl (now disguised as a boy full-time) is the weakest and therefore always the last in reaching the end of their training run. As punishment, Yushin has her wrap another sandbag around her ankles for every time that she comes in last. The training goes on and on – and finally, she appears as Lee Yo Won – the grown up Deokman.
Deokman is still lagging behind in the group, and Yushin pays particular attention to her – in the sense that he picks on her. The Dragon Guard as a whole are picked on by the other Hwarang troops, as they are seen as inferior. The Dragon Guards want to compete in a jinsong bijae, which is a competition of sorts among the Hwarang to see who is the best at what skill. Yushin doesn’t think the team is ready for that, even though he trains them on a grueling schedule and teaches them attack tricks such as a circle formation when surrounded.
However, some of the other Hwarang leaders pick on Deokman, wondering why she looks too pretty to be a boy. They assault her, but her fellow Dragon Guards come to her rescue. Yushin punishes her for instigating the assault (even though she didn’t) and their punishment is to do the laundry. Then, Deokman continues to meet Chunmyung, who still dresses as a nun. The others realize that she’s missing, but they don’t suspect her of anything… until the next day Bojong comes and says that a flag has been torn down, and it’s definitely by someone in the Dragon Guard. They will settle this dispute through the jinsong bijae, and suspicion is drawn on Deokman immediately.
Meanwhile, the Baekje forces are attacking Silla fortresses, and none of the generals can stop them. Misil asks that Sulwon be given an army and lead the fight, taking over from Kim Seohyun, Yushin’s father.
Yushin arranges his team based on their strengths and tells them how to fight for the bijae the next day. He tells Deokman to stay in the back – effectively protecting her, but the move is seen as him not trusting her at all. However, when they reach the compound courtyard, all the Hwarang are assembled there. A decree is made, saying that they will be sent out to fight against the Baekje. The Dragon Guards are assigned to follow Alchun’s troops.
Chunmyung tells Yushin to protect Deokman and to make sure the two of them come back alive. It’s clear she cares a lot for Yushin, but she doesn’t want to show too much of it for fear that it will jinx his safety. Chunmyung also tells Deokman to be careful, but Deokman is more casual about it, and complains about Yushin picking on her. (And here, it’s clear that Yushin and Deokman kind of like each other!)
At the battle site, Alchun’s boys and Yushin’s boys (and girl) can’t get along and start fighting with each other. Sulwon arrives and the dispute is broken up. He announces that Alchun and his men, and Yushin’s men will stay behind with Seohyun and defend the camp. Only Yushin will be going with him to attack Sok Ham fortress that the Baekje are in.
Alchun and the other Hwarang aren’t too happy to be stuck with the “dimwitted” Dragon Guard. They all – including Bojong, Sulwon’s own son with Misil – don’t understand why Sulwon is taking Yushin to fight alongside him, and it is implied that Sulwon is purposely leading Yushin to his death. Yushin has cautionary words for his men, and they promise to be on their best behavior.
Seohyun receives word from Sulwon to attack another Baekje fortress (Ah Mak Fortress) – it will be a double-pronged attack. But first, they need to get rid of archers that could impede their progress, and so Seohyun sends the Dragon Guard and Alchun’s Rising Phoenixes to take out the archers. For the first time the Dragon Guards are afraid – they’ve never been in a battle of life or death. They manage to succeed, but not without some casualties.
The Baekje are worried when they hear about the attack on Ah Mak Fortress and decide to send all of their troops there. That frees up the fortress Sulwon is planning to attack on, but also means certain death for all the troops deployed to Ah Mak. (Now it seems that Sulwon is purposely saving Yushin for future nefarious purposes, and killing everyone else.) Seohyun’s troops manage to conquer the first gate of Ah Mak fortress, but suffer heavy casualties. Alchun wants to kill one of the Dragon Guards because his screaming notified the Baekje of their presence. However, Deokman steps in to save the guy’s skin and says that they need all the men they can get – it’s not worth it to kill him now.
True enough, Seohyun wants everyone to attack and conquer the fortress once morning breaks. The problem is they don’t have enough men – so they all don’t understand what on earth Sulwon’s plan is. Yushin finds out and begs Sulwon to send reinforcements, but Sulwon says no – he never intended to take over Ah Mak fortress, and he faked a two-pronged attack. In the end, Seohyun and his troops are going to be annihilated.
Once Sulwon takes over Sok Ham Fortress, he sends Yushin back to tell Seohyun to retreat, but they are already in the thick of fighting – and losing badly. They retreat of their own accord, but at a river they meet even more Baekje soldiers who surround them (mostly Dragon Guards, Deokman, and Alchun).
Deokman is in the middle of all the guards, and she thinks hard, remembering back to Yushin’s training about the circle formation. From within the circle, she orders everyone into a circle and where to attack and where to set up defense. It works for a while, until finally people start getting wounded and the formation breaks apart. Yushin arrives to tell Seohyun the results of battle and to start a retreat. Soon, some stragglers start returning but Deokman and Alchun are nowhere to be found. Deokman is still at the river side, wounded and surrounded by crows eating the flesh of dead Baekje soldiers.
photo credit for episode 9 and 10 screencaps: luv @ soompi