We jump right back into the fray, as Dong Soo, Un and Cho Rip fight the training squad of the palace guard. Commander Im arrives to see the three boys wiping the ground with the squad. Along with standard martial arts, Dong Soo takes a hopae (an ID block) out of his robes, and starts to use it as a weapon, just as he had seen Gwang Taek use it. Un is making do with acupuncture needles. while Chun is make good use of Un’s sheathed sword as a blunt instrument.
As the two sides regroup with real swords, Commander Im orders them all to stop. Hong2 asks how the three boys can be allowed to join since they haven’t passed the exam or been in training with them. Commander Im claims that they are exempted from the exam as the disciples of exempted officials. Hong1 objects he was also exempted, but he attended the training, so this is unfair. Im agrees that Hong1 has a point and says he’ll discuss it with the other commanders.
In the meantime, Ji Sun arrives at Sa Mo’s house. She meets Gwang Taek and Sa Mo and apologizes for having to put them in harms way by being there. Sa Mo thinks it’s a pity that she’s becoming a nun since he thinks she’d be a nice wife for Dong Soo.
Im confers with the other commanders and the boys about what should be done with them. He also asks where Dong Soo learned the technique of fighting with the hopae. Dong Soo says he learned by watching Gwang Taek a few times. Im dismisses them to finish deciding what to do. He tells his officer that only someone very talented could learn the hopae techniques just by watching a little, it took him a year to learn it.
Im tells the gathered trainees that normally the they are sorted into their jobs by their test results. Since the 3 boys hadn’t taken the exam, they are sent to where the lowest grades go – to be beacon guards. While Un takes this somewhat philosophically, Dong Soo finds it insulting, and Cho Rip just wants someone to explain to him exactly what a beacon guard is.
Im, on the other hand, reports in to the Prince that he’s making them beacon guards. But not just any guards. They are headed to a particular beacon, which makes some sense to them (but we aren’t told about yet). Im also tells the Prince that Gwang Taek has returned and is at Sa Mo’s house. The Prince requests that Gwang Taek come see him.
As Ji walks through town, she sees wanted posters for Jin Ki. She goes to Lord Hong and asks why he didn’t wait longer, as he’d agreed to. Lord Hong tells her to just bring him Jin Ki’s head. Instead, she pulls out Jin Ki’s broken sword. When the Qing envoy asks how they know it’s Jin Ki’s sword, we get a flashback partially explaining why Lord Hong keeps calling him a traitor. Jin Ki is dressed in black robes and is slaughtering some of Lord Hong’s guards. He finishes with a flourish in front of Lord Hong, who clearly remembers this sword.
Ji tells him that Jin Ki actually killed himself by fire after Ji had defeated him, so the scroll that was stolen went up in flames. Both the envoy and Lord Hong question whether this is true, and it is partially true, because Ji had ordered Jin Ki to burn the scroll, and he had done so a little later. But Ji guarantees the whole statement with her life.
Back at Sa Mo’s, Gwang Taek gives him a book that details various types of martial arts that he has been compiling, 18 different styles in all. Sa Mo asks for a demonstration, but Gwang Taek says he can’t perform most of them with just one arm. Jin Ju arrives and Sa Mo introduces her as the daughter of that traitor Jin Ki (clearly there is more to this story). Jin Ju protests that he wasn’t a traitor and greets Gwang Taek. Sa Mo elaborates that she’s followed Dong Soo around as a kid, to which Jin Ju again protests that following isn’t really right. Sa Mo asks if she’s here to see Dong Soo again, and she claims that she was just passing by and scuttles away.
On her way home, she spots the house of Lord Hong and sizes it up as a rich looking place. She talks her way in as a vendor, and gets Lady Hong interested in some perfumes. Instead of perfume, Jin Ju is armed with a fragrant knock out perfume, and as Lady Hong is out, Jin Ju scouts around the room for things to steal. She arrives back home to find her father ticked off at her being out thieving again.
As Jin Ki grounds Jin Ju for life, little do they know that Chun has followed Jin Ki, and is lurking on the roof of their house, getting his first look at Jin Ju.
The three boys leave the palace to hike out to the beacon post they’ve been assigned to. Basically they have a few tents to live in and some stone chimneys to tend if needed. They are met by Seo Yu Tae the beacon keeper. (We met him very briefly at the beginning of episode 6. Instead of a commander of a border post, here he is, the sole keeper of this beacon. The King wasn’t kidding about demoting people who had met the Crown Prince on that journey.)
Yu Tae tells them their duties are to keep change the firewood and keep it dry, to collect wolf dung and put it in the fire box. Un, ever organized, asks if the firewood must be changed daily. Yu Tae says only if it isn’t raining. And if they can’t find wolf dung, then they go down the list of other available dungs, right down to their own (eek!).
Dong Soo asks him how long he’s been at the beacon, and Yu Tae says 30 years. He says he was deployed out here when he was an exam qualifier and here he is now. Dong Soo asks him if he ever took the next level of exams. Yu Tae says of course, but how could he beat out the ones with backing of other officials. And not only that, Yu Tae says, but if they fail in their duties at the beacons, they’ll be executed. Yu Tae sets them to work doing chores, He dangles the thought that he may know ways of passing the next exam over them to get them to work.
Back at the Hired Assassins headquarters, Chun and Ji discuss what to do with In, who is drunk and wreaking havoc. Ji tells him to do whatever he wants with In, but asks why Chun seems changed. He tells her that he met with Gwang Taek. He asks if she wants to meet him, and suggests that she pay a visit.
In comes by and rants about wanting to chop Gwang Taek to pieces. Chun calmly asks him what good that would do him? Acting rationally and not for personal reasons is their basic rule, so what is In doing, he asks.
The boys do their chores, interspersed with daydreaming and doping off, when Yu Tae sends Dong Soo off to a cave to get some kimchi.
Dong Soo finds the cave and makes his way to the back where the kimchi is. As he scoops out the kimchi, he gets a look of horror – he’s pulled out a snake! He throws it down, but the snake bites his arm as he reaches for his torch. He lifts the torch to reveal the floor covered in snakes. (“SNAKES! Why did it have to be snakes!?”)
He comes marching back, kimchi in hand, in a foul mood. He accuses Yu Tae of knowing there were snakes there, to which Yu Tae agrees. It’s a nice cool cave, great for kimchi and snakes. When he asks if Dong Soo was bitten, he denies it, since he’s been bragging about how well he dealt with the snakes. Dong Soo complains that they haven’t had any meat, it’s hard to stay fit with just veggies. Yu Tae tells him to go catch some meat if he wants it.
Dong Soo stomps off, saying fine, I’ll catch it and you won’t get any. (HAH! So petty!) Dong Soo heads out to hunt and shoots down a hawk, cleans it and brings it back to eat. (’bout like owl – a reference probably one reader of this will get, but I just had to go there) Meanwhile, his snake bite is getting redder and looking pretty bad.
On the other hand, Un is out scanning the sky and whistling. Uh oh! When he gets back Cho Rip hands him some leftover meat. As he’s eating it, he’s told that it’s not chicken, it’s hawk. And a messenger hawk at that. Poor Un! He looks ill as he realizes he’s eating Chun’s messenger hawk. Dong Soo shows him what was left of the message – “Kill”.
Dong Soo starts looking very ill, and Un spots the bite on Dong Soo’s arm. Dong Soo collapses, and Cho Rip prevents Yu Tae from amputating Dong Soo’s arm. Un weighs in his mind the message to Kill – person not specified vs the fact that previously Dong Soo had blocked a sword with his bare arm to prevent it from hitting Un. Un takes the knife and does the incise the snake bite and suck out the venom routine.
Back at the Hired Assassins headquarters, In is still drinking. Chun berates him, but In is still wallowing in self pity. Chun warns him not to screw up again, this is his last warning.
Gwang Taek arrives at the palace to see the Crown Prince. He gives the manual of martial arts to the Crown Prince. The Crown Prince offers him a court position, but Gwang Taek refuses, and suggests that Commander Im is a better candidate. As they are talking, Gwang Taek hears someone lurking outside. Commander Im finds a palace lady there, who claims she was sent to bring Gwang Taek to the King.
Gwang Taek visits the King, who also offers him various court positions. Gwang Taek refuses, saying he just wants to marry and lead a quiet life. However, the court lady also reports Gwang Taek’s presence to Lord Hong,
Un finishes his treatment of Dong Soo, and they wait as Dong Soo recovers. Yu Tae asks him why he didn’t say anything about the bite, and Dong Soo replies that he’s read about poisons and snakes and as far as he knew, that kind of snake wasn’t poisonous. Yu Tae tells him he read the wrong books.
At the Hired Assassins headquarters, In is still wreaking drunken havoc. Chun confronts him and In makes the mistake of continuing to rant and draws his sword on Chun. Chun blocks In’s sword and as In begs for forgiveness, saying he knows how to catch Gwang Taek, Chun tells him not to blame him for this, and slashes him with the sword.
In collapses and Chun tells the assassins to clean things up. They dump the body in a ditch, but In is still alive, saying he’ll fight even with no limbs (already minus a thumb, an arm and slashed….it’s like Monty Python’s Black Knight but not as funny).
Commander Im reports to the Crown Prince that Ji Sun is living with Jang Mi, and that he’s tracking down how to remove tattoos. He’s heard of a gisaeng who knows how.
Jin Ju, who is still grounded, sneaks out a window to town, when she comes across Lord Hong’s sneaky underling beating a child for bumping into Lady Hong. As Jin Ju goes to help the girl, the underling spots Ji Sun’s palanquin being taken to the palace, and sees Ji Sun going to see the Crown Prince. The Prince tells her that he’s going to have an artist copy the tattoo, and then someone will remove it and this will free her from her burdens.
Chun gets the report that In’s body has disappeared, so it’s possible he’s still alive. Chun takes it philosophically, remarking that it’s In’s fate to cling on to life. Being reminded of fate, Ji stops playing her instrument and thinks of Gwang Taek.
The artist shows up at the palace, but isn’t the one that the Crown Prince had requested. This artist, Kim Hong Do, says that the elder one was ill and sent him, and assures the Prince of his loyalty. He starts to copy the tattoo.
Lord Hong’s underling reports that all he’s found out about Ji Sun is that she’s been at various temples for 10 years and has been to Qing as well. Lord Hong thinks about it and realizes that 10 years would add up if it was Lord Yoo’s daughter.
The artist takes quite a while, and produces not 1 but 3 maps. He explains to the Prince that this seems to be the secret to the tattoo. And as the Prince looks over the maps, to the threatening foreshadowing of a thunderstorm…..we end episode 9!
This was an episode with less action and more plot movement. There was actually quite a bit of beautiful scenery and musical interlude as the boys do their chores and generally hang out at the beacon site.
Sadly, In managed to survive AGAIN, so we are saddled with him and his screech for more episodes, but hopefully we won’t be seeing nearly as much of him as we did this episode.
Now, for those of you who are susceptible to such things, (not me, between So Ji Sub and little So Ji Sub, I’m going for the real thing), I will just note in passing that Yoo Seung Ho’s birthday is August 17, making him 18, and therefore slightly more legal. Some of you may be able hang up that bucket now. For you, an extra screencap.