The crazy politics out of the way, Gwanghae has sort of settled into his rule. That’s not to say that there is finally peace in the kingdom, as he still has a lot of enemies. However now Jungmyung is out of his way and can grow up outside of her brother’s shadow. I can’t say I really enjoy how Jungmyung’s story is so fictionalized by now, but I understand that what happened to the real Jungmyung probably isn’t very interesting. It’s just that sending her to Japan as a slave is too unbelievable of a path for her.
The volcano erupts, engulfing everyone in smoke, rocks, and ash. Jungmyung tries to save a young slave who’s been nice to her ever since she got there, but the two of them get lost in the rubble when they don’t cross a wooden bridge in time. One of the older boys, Ja Gyung (later played by Gong Myung), digs her out of the rubble and helps tend to her injuries, but that’s when Maruno discovers she’s actually a girl.
Maruno’s about to sell her to a brothel when Jungmyung reveals that she’s actually the princess of Joseon. He believes her for half a second because of her authoritative voice and her clear eyes, but then he thinks she’s lying because he heard the news that the grand prince and princess are dead. Jungmyung is shocked to discover that her own baby brother was suffocated to death under the orders of her older brother Gwanghae.
Meanwhile Gwanghae confronts Lee Deok Hyung about the autopsy report. Deok Hyung just discovered that someone is covering up the assassination and suspects it’s Gwanghae, even though the king is clearly grieving and shocked by the news. He learns that it’s Gae Shi’s doing, and hurries back to the palace to confront her. Gae Shi and Lee Yi Cheom are already waiting for it, as they realize two things: 1) Deok Hyung didn’t send the bribe because he wouldn’t have bribed them to begin with, and 2) since Gwanghae went to visit Deok Hyung he will probably learn the truth soon.
Gae Shi has marks on her wrist, effects of the poisoned beetles that she had been feeding the king, and so she admits that she would do anything to protect Gwanghae and make him sit on the throne. Her loyalty to him prompted her to do all these treasonous acts, even though he didn’t ask for it. But at the end of the day, Gwanghae orders her and Lee Yi Cheom to go and kill Deok Hyung, as was their original plan before they got caught. Why? Because though Gwanghae tried to convince Deok Hyung that there’s a greater power involved that puppeteering his people to kill others, Deok Hyung’s morals make him more stubborn than ever and he refuses to believe that Gwanghae has no control.
So Gwanghae orders him to be killed. And Deok Hyung dies from an “illness.”
We learn that the Ming Dynasty is also involved as they’re working with Kang Joo Sun to take down the king. Joo Won wants to kill the king because he’s beside himself with grief over the princess, but Gwanghae tells him to be a man and face him in the future when he’s learned to fight his own battles. The Queen Dowager is officially kicked out of the palace now, and Ja Gyung convinces Maruno to let Jungmyung stay in the mine instead of going to the brothel. (Nothing like a knife and some force to convince these people…) Jungmyung becomes Hwa Yi, and she decides to work hard just to survive rather than kill herself. She also decides to take back her claims of being the princess, saying instead that she came from a rich household in Joseon.
Ten years later, Joo Won has become Seo Kang Joon, and Hwa Yi is now Lee Yeon Hee saving others from another explosive volcano at the mine.
Joo Won has risen to be the head of the Weaponry Bureau, where research and the development of gunpowder for muskets are being done. He hates working for Gwanghae, as he still believes he’s not the worthy king for Joseon, but at the same time he wants to protect the country and will do anything to beef up Joseon’s defense. Joseon is threatened at all sides – from the Nurhaci of the Manchus to the Ming Dynasty – so they need as much sulfur as they can get. However someone is buying up the sulfur from Japan and dumping it, not selling it to Korea at all.
Maruno and his men are also one of those sulfur merchants who are unwittingly selling their goods to that evil middleman (most likely someone working for Kang Joo Sun and the Ming Dynasty, as they don’t want Joseon to have the materials for gunpowder). Jungmyung, as Hwa Yi, has become one of Maruno’s trusted aides along with Ja Gyung, so she goes with him on smuggling deals and has noticed that the middleman doesn’t know anything about sulfur but is still purchasing it at a premium price. She then goes with Maruno to Edo for a deal opportunity, but Edo is very strict about women entering the city.
Just as Jungmyung gets caught for being a woman trying to enter the city, Joo Won and his envoy of Korean officials have arrived. Gwanghae has sent him personally to purchase the sulfur so that they don’t have to rely on a middleman anymore. Joo Won doesn’t want to do this mission for Gwanghae, as he also doesn’t want people thinking that he’s close to the king, but he does understand the need for gunpowder in the country. Because of Joo Won’s presence, Jungmyung and all other traders trying to enter the city are given a free pass just so Edo won’t be seen as a mess of a city bureaucratically.
The two of them encounter each other at a nearby tavern, when Joo Won and his assistant nearly get into a fight with some criminals. Jungmyung helps him escape, gaining his trust by speaking to him in Korean. The two of them run, not unlike when he saved her those many years ago when she ventured out of the palace, and leave the criminals behind in the dust.
They introduce themselves, and Jungmyung recognizes him instantly. Of course.
It’s interesting how the king and his supporters find victory over the gunpowder’s success, and his detractors are not happy. If I just ignore what really happened in history, what’s going on implies that Gwanghae is advocating for independence from Ming influence, and his detractors don’t like that. I don’t really understand why, in the historical sense as I am not a student of this time period, but from what I gather based on this drama – in this world – his critics don’t like him having power over the army and they want him to continue their relations with the Ming, politically and economically. Kang Joo Sun is actually understanding of Gwanghae’s intentions to beef up the army, but the others believe they could just ask Ming for help. At the end of the day, his detractors are allowing the Ming to continue their dominance.
I’m liking how Gwanghae is more willing to use the people around him, as he holds the fact that Gae Shi killed his father over her head all the time. He is willing to use Joo Won as well to achieve his means, knowing that he doesn’t have a supporter in him. I’m almost wishing that Joo Won will side with the king in the end, but I’m also not really crazy about Seo Kang Joon in the role. He is really not believable.
It is pretty hilarious though that there are three 5urprise members that have appeared in this drama, and all of them care for Jungmyung: Lee Tae Hwan as the younger Gwanghae, Seo Kang Joon as Joo Won, and Gong Myung as her best friend Ja Gyung.