It's a testament to my obsession with kdramas when I find myself squeezing time to churn out a recap in the midst of crazy wedding preps. But here it is - the concise version.
There's a long queue of ladies all here for the famous priest but the party is interrupted by an important looking man looking for Dae-bok (Jong-dae's son @ Ji-sang @ fake Lee Han Baek). That man claims Dae-bok has stolen his Letter of Appointment, which allows passage to the palace. Jong-dae immediately senses that something is wrong. He checks their cash stash which turns up empty. Fuming, he checks the room which is empty as well. He rummages through the drawers and finds a drawing which triggers a flashback.
Flashback shows Ji-sang who's quite intrigued by the drawing. We get a glimpse of father-son relationship which is anything but heartwarming. Jong-dae treats him like a money-making machine. At present, Jong-dae finds a bunch of drawings of mythical creatures on the wall and zeroes in on the one of the black tortoise. Cue another flashback where Ji-sang had asked him about the meaning of the drawing. Jong-dae is so furious he looks like he's going to fit. Me thinks his anger is unfounded but that's just me.
Ryun-gae is performing a dance/divination? Still the trusted royal shaman. It's apparently a special rite to curb evil spirits for the Queen is now pregnant (but looking pale and weak).. Choi-young and In-nim both offer their best wishes in words/actions. An overeager Seong-gye presented his wife's undies! LOL. Still as crude as ever. He means well, since it's a peasant custom to share the undies of a "productive" mother to the expectant mother (Seong-gye boasted he had 4 sons. Heh.). He receives a ribbing for his lack of finesse. Aw...
Yuan. The evil Envoy congratulates Deuk-Heung Gun (King Gong-Min's uncle. Ahh I remember him from Faith!) on his appointment as the new King. As the two deliberate on how to remove their biggest obstacle - Lee Seung-gye, Jung-geun (Song Chang Ui) volunteers his input. They would need to capture his Right Hand, because Seong-gye is known to treasure his sworn brothers the most.
Hae-In leads the fake Lee Han-baek (Ji-sang) through the market. A little beggar boy stole some food and runs towards Ji-sang. He shielded the little boy from his pursuer by pulling Hae-in close by the waist. This small act of kindness does not escape Hae-in who smiles despite being a little annoyed earlier.
The Queen is weak. She has trouble sleeping and eating. And she is still lobbying for Yeong-ji's release. Too bad the King still couldn't forgive Yeong-ji and refused her request.
Ji-ran ask Seong-gye if his present went well. He guesses correctly that Seong-gye presented the gift in front of all other ministers. He should have done it in secret instead of embarrassing the Queen (and himself) in public. Heh. So much for delicacies. Someone please give our general some lessons already.Anyway, our naive general still believes the King wants him away from court to avoid being tainted. On the way out, he crosses path with Ji-sang and Hae-in.
The guard is dubious about Ji-sang's credentials since he looks kinda young but since he's got the proper documentation, he was allowed passage. They pass the exact building where the Black Tortoise logo is imprinted and he asks Hae-in casually about it. She explains that particular symbol is only used by royalties but she's not sure why. The books in the library might have records of that.
Meanwhile, Jong-dae and wife are making their way to the capital, He's still bloody furious though wife does try to speak for Ji-sang - they've managed to live comfortably these years because of him.
Young-suk arranges a test to distinguish between the real and fake LHB. They are to discuss the factors determining what kind of houses are not suitable for living. Real LHB picks the right book and starts of confidently but Ji-sang steals his thunder by listing the other factors by heart. Young-suk is impressed and seems to take Ji-sang's side but real LHB asks for another chance. He's been to Gansu,Yuan and seen the grave chosen by the famous priest Yang Jun-sung (and it's in the letter), so why don't they discuss the Ha's family tomb principles. Ji-sang looks a little unsettled - will he be fine?
The baton is passed to Ji-sang who is told to start. Ji-sang hedges that he wasn't there for the graves, he was there for the famous hills. Young-suk asks if he's been to the famous waterfall there then. Ji-sang tries to bluff his way but nope. He's caught. And done for! Young-suk orders the guards to amputate his hand as punishment.
At the last moment, a man who claims to be Lord Choi Man Ho appears (the father of whom the real LHB had supposedly found the burial site for, and the person who had secured the appointment for LHB). It's a fake - Ji-sang knows it, real LHB knows it - but Young-suk doesn't! Now it's two against one and the real LHB is taken for a fake. At least, Ji-sang does plead for his case and spared his hand. In the end, real LHB just gets kicked out of the palace.
Ban-ya (Lee Yoon-ji) is all grown up now and still with Shin-don who brings her to a Gisaeng House, who is run by Bong Chun (former shaman and rival to Ryun-gae for the royal shaman position). Oh great, I had wondered what happened to her. A flashback shows how she was tortured by Ryun-gae and cast to the streets, where she was eventually rescued by Shin Don, thus beginning their acquaintance
He assures her that revenge won't be long now because he's found a girl who would bear the King's son. Bong Chun is wary since it is known that the Queen is currently pregnant. Shin Don explains that he's met the Queen once and from her features, she would bear no children. Bong Chun wants to meet Ban-ya alone.
Bong Chun examines Ban-ya carefully like she's an ornament on sale and asks if she knows man. Ban-ya says no. Ban-ya asks if she is to become a gisaeng. The fire is still there - she accepts her due but requests to be the best gisaeng out there. She thinks being the best means all men would love her but Bong Chun corrects her - being the best means to be loved by the most powerful man in Goryeo.
Young-suk is still curious about the fake LHB. He asks if Ji-sang knows of any good land in Gaesung, ostensibly curious of his true abilities. Ji-sang remembers the land he found for Ban-ya's mum and leads him to it. He is suitably impressed because he know it's the land which breeds King/ Queen. Ji-sang explains that it had an owner previously but since the descendants are gone (he thinks Ban-ya is dead) the land doesn't have one currently/
In the next scene, we see Young-suk explaining the land to Ryun-gae. But instead of informing the King and getting rewarded, Ryun-gae wants the land for herself. She's been burned once and now wants the power herself. Young-suk tells her there's already a grave there. So what. They can have it exhumed. Ok, this lady has evolved to another level of evil.
Seung-gye and his sworn brothers are having a drinking session back in his post at the borders, discussing about the messy politics. Seung-gye wants no part in all that scheming - in fact, he detests people like Hyo-myung (who's still hanging around his side observing him) because he keeps so much to himself, not unlike a politician. No-suk excuses himself to take a leak but gets ambushed.
The same masked men, led by a girl called Yoo-sun surrounds Seong-gye's campfire. He doesn't fret much until the girl warns him that they've got No-suk. Seong-gye tells him men to hold back and agrees to meet whoever's asking for him.
Young-suk tries to find out if others knew of the sacred land and offers an official position to Ji-sang. Ji-sang assures him it's a secret just between them but declines the position. He's more interested in the fengshui books in the palace. Young-suk agrees readily to have it arranged. In fact, Hae-in is in charge of the library.
Seong-gye finally meets the man behind the elaborate kidnapping and it's none other than the Envoy. The Yuan has already appointed Deuk Heung King and bestowed him a ten thousand strong army. Ji-ran is confused - there is a change of Kings? For once, Seong-gye is quicker on the uptake - it just means war. At this, Jung-geun speaks up. Any resistance means rebellion to the Yuan's sovereign. War can be averted if Seong-gye agrees to help their cause. Seong-gye is incredulous because Jung-guen is suggesting that he kill the King.
The Queen has a nightmare where a disheveled Kim Young (Coldfeet) is trying to kill her. She wakes up, almost hysterical and pleads tearfully to the King for Yeong-ji's release. She only trusts her. The King hugs her comfortingly.
Envoy and Jung-geun threatens Seong-gye with No-suk's life. Seong-gye laughingly agrees, startling Ji-ran and No-suk. Yeah I hope he has a plan too. But Jung-geun is no fool. They will keep No-suk hostage until Seong-gye kills the King. Outside, Hyo-myung is still tied up. Envoy wants him dead but Jung-geun speaks for him. By now Hyo-myung also recognizes Jung-geun but doesn't understand what he's doing here. Jung-geun whispers that he will get him back to Gaesung safely.
Seong-gye wants to go back for No-suk but a calmer Ji-ran talks him out of it. They'll come back for him when they're ready.
Yeong-ji (Lee Seong-yeon) is summoned by the King. He makes it clear that she's only released until the Queen safely delivers and will be held accountable if the Queen is unwell in any way. She accepts.
Yeong-ji bumps into Ryun-gae in the hallway and share a heated exchange about Jung-geun. Yeong-ji is adamant Ryun-gae will never have her son's heart no matter what she does. Ryun-gae retorts that at least she kept her son alive. The same cannot be said for Yeong-ji. Thankfully she clamps her mouth and said nothing of Ji-sang being alive.
As he roams the library he notices these little squares on the floor board with funny mechanics. From above, the little squares form the character :"wood".
Everyone is here...all the adult cast. But it's such a large cast that everyone gets relatively little screentime. I'm not sure why but I'm still not feeling the pull. This drama has all the right ingredients but it lacks the all important pulling factor. I wonder if that's the reason for its dismal ratings, I mean dismal because with this kind of budget and cast, I'm sure expectations were higher. Anyway, I'm still willing to give it some time so hopefully I'm more invested because it would make my recaps that more pleasant if I could gush or be excited about something. Anything.