loyalty versus love

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I say again – Lee Jun Ki hands-down deserves the Daesang. He is absolutely breathtaking – in deed and in looks. The wealth and depth of emotions he is displaying as So is simply divine to behold and powerfully anchoring the entire production. His eyes tell the whole story. And he is helluva sexy while doing it. So finally gets his long-deserved kiss and acceptance from Soo. And this episode made me realised I’m not particularly shipping So with Soo – I just want So to be happy because he deserves every drop of it he gets. For all his hardship, his loyalty to his father and eldest brother, his yearning to lead a normal life…for all the sacrifices he had to make, is making, and has to make in the future. Yes, he can be ruthless, but he has integrity and compassion in spades to keep his morals intact.

Two years have past and Soo is now the head of Damiwon a.k.a Lady Hae, Chae Ryung is now a palace maid in the same place. Soo is now proficient in Hanja. It’s Soo’s birthday and she gets a knee support from the younger girl. Later, Baek Ah gives her rose oil from Bulgaria while So watches sourly. HEH. Baek Ah snickers knowingly that So didn’t know what to get Soo and that’s why he is empty-handed. So barks that a prince coming to see a court lady is a present enough, to which Soo replies unflappably agrees. HA. I luuuuuurve how So is practically squirming in discomfort as he eyes Soo balefully. HEHEHE.

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Later that night, Soo hears some howling and guesses it’s So. It is and how cute is he!!! So claims his howls sound so real that he was afraid that Soo might mistaken him for a real wolf. Soo retorts the sound simply sounds like an animal suffocating. And So just howls again in indignation. HAHAHAHA. Oh man… LJK just cracks me up. I can imagine him goofing around behind the scenes as he films this.

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So extends his hand and asks Soo to follow him – he has something special planned since it is her birthday. She places her hand in his, and his fingers gently fold over hers. Sigh. They end up star gazing as Soo tries to explain her future knowledge of constellations to So, who is more interested in gazing at her face.

So shares that when he was young, he returned from Shinju one day and saw Jung lying on his mom’s lap. He was so jealous that he wished Jung would just disappear. Did his mom suspect then that So was capable of killing his brother? Soo notes his darkening of mood and shares that people with younger siblings usually feel this way. She too wished her younger sister would disappear sometimes.

So stares at her indulgently and muses whether Soo is trying to make him give up on her or keep him pinning for her? Because she comforts him every time there is a need to do so. So states rather factually, ” I can’t live without you. If you don’t plan to come to me, don’t give me false hope. It would be torture to me.”

Soo is disconcerted by his words and the ever opportunistic So takes the chance to lean in for a kiss. Soo reminds him that he has promised to ask her permission and he adorably goes, “Can I?” GAAAHHHHHHHHH. LJK!!!!! Soo firmly states that he can’t but So cutely tries again and is chided by Soo, and he sulks like a little boy. My heart is bursting at LJK’s extreme cuteness. So grumbles he’ll complain to the King to which Soo confidently answers that nothing will happen since the King favours her greatly.

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So snorts at her arrogance and flops back on the grass with a smile. Soo watches him fondly. So asks Soo to meet him at the wishing tower on her day off – he has something important to tell her.

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Wook holds court when the king does not turn up for morning assembly and divulges that the king’s illness is worsening. So isn’t happy about the way Wook seems to be gloating about it and calls him on his hidden intentions. Wook deflects So’s accusations smoothly, and So states he has always been suspicious of Wook.

Meanwhile, Soo is ending to the king’s bath personally and he looks as if his last good day was when he interjected Yo’s rebellion two years ago. He sighs that he has feeling worse. Soo leaves Chae Ryung to service the king and she jumpily adds more herbs into the bath. We see that she is in cahoots with Won. I’m wondering whether she has been nursing a one-sided crush on him since long ago.

Wook is with the ill king who is suffering from insomnia and delusion. Wook says he knows his oldest brother’s condition is getting worse and suggests cynically that he abdicates in favour of him. WOW. That’s some sass Wook has. The king can’t believe his ears.

The next day, he forces his daughter out of the palace to a waiting palanquin – he is marrying her off to the Kitans to ensure his and her survival. So watches the whole scenario, which reminds him if how his mother cruelly sacrificed him for her own good. When So protests that sending the princess to Kitan is as good as making her hostage, the king wildly proposes So marries her, and therefore protect his family.

Soo waits for So in anticipation at their meeting place, wearing the hairpin he gave her those years ago. Awwww… So arrives, looking grim, but his expression turns bittersweet when he sees the hairpin in her hair and its significance. Soo is all ready to accept So’s feelings for her. But when he approaches her, he is all casual and blithe, which confuses her. Didn’t he say he had something important to tell her? So brushes her off, saying he has forgotten what he had wanted to say. But to make up for his sudden amnesia, he takes out in a boat on the lake.

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It’s a very picturesque scene, almost dreamy with the exception of its down-to-earth hues to remind us it is very real. So playfully rocks the boat when he notices Soo clutching the edge worriedly. Beautiful shot of LJK against the sun and that smile…considered me melted 100 times over.

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Soo asks whether the boat belongs to So and he confirms he has had it since he was young. But because he likes it so much, he didn’t want to use it. Soo shares that she is happy that he doesn’t have to stay away from things that he like now. So apologises – his heart in his eyes. He is sorry that he forgot the words he had wanted to tell her. Soo smiles beatifically that the words will come back to him soon and asks him to take his time. So turns more distraught at her words.

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That night, Ji Mong acknowledges So has made a tough decision on marrying the princess. So gripes stonily that though his pending union would prevent the clans from attacking the king, most would think he is doing this to be the next king. He resumes dully whether he has to been the king’s guard dog forever – he is getting sick of doing such and giving up things he owns dear as a result. Ji Mong quietly thanks So for protecting the king.

Wook is with the king and claims that the latter has misunderstood him when Wook asked him to abdicate in his favour – he simply wanted to share his kingly burden. The king isn’t convinced and summons So. The king announces he is marrying his daughter off to So and will install So as his heir. With So as his brother and son-in-law, he would make the best candidate. So is disturbed at the king’s proclamation while Wook is noticeably stunned.

Soo makes sheet masks for Seon Deok and Jung using the rose oil given by Baek Ah. Baek Ah is indignant that the fragrant precious oil is being used on Jung, who just fights in battle all day. HEH. Eun appears and blurts out that So is getting married to the king’s daughter.

Soo broods that night and So appears before her, guessing that she has found out about his impending marriage. And I LURVE the honest conversation he has with her:

So: It’s fine if you hate me or blame me. It’s all my fault.
Soo: There is no reason for me to hate or blame you. You did not promise me anything.
So: When I told you I’ll take you out from the palace, when I said I wished for your freedom… they were all promises from me to you. I can’t keep those promises.
Soo: Aren’t you not going to explain at all?
So: I’ve already let you down and hurt you. No further explanation is needed since it won’t make you feel better.
Soo: I understand. I won’t question you further.

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DAMN. This is what I call taking responsibility for your decisions and actions. I admire and appreciate So’s practical, hard-hitting, truthful manner of thinking and how he tells it as it is, and doesn’t find excuses.

The next day, adorable puppy Baek Ah acts as So’s messenger and delivers a letter to Soo. It’s a poem he has written – When I sat by the water’s edge, the clouds had already risen. It roughly speaks of one being too late – or of missed chances, missing the boat, of helplessness. Was Soo too late in confessing her love for So? Have they missed their golden hour? Soo is moved his heartfelt words and muses with regret that she never knew So wrote so beautifully. There is so much she doesn’t know about him yet all this while, she pretended that she knew. Baek Ah vouches for his beloved older bro – So was sincere when he said that he wanted to leave the palace with Soo.

Soo keeps reading the poem while So marries the little princess. Later, he watches over his eldest brother as he sleeps. My heart is breaking for So. He loves Soo – but he knows his brother needs him more. Soo keeps tracing So’s poem. Lee Hi’s song playing in the background…why does my heart ache for the two of them so much???? In the Chinese version, Ruo Xi keeps practising her handwriting until it is the exact replica of Fourth Prince’s – that was how 14th Prince realised just how deep her love ran for the Fourth Prince. If the Korean version uses this element of the drama at the end, I swear I’m going to bawl my eyes out, especially if it is the very same poem.

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Jung discovers Yo is still alive and is planning a rebellion. Jung opines that though he doesn’t want So to be king, he doesn’t approve of Yo revolting either. His loyalty is to the king.

So is patrolling the palace with guards when he spots Jung entering Damiwon. He immediately heads there and is stopped by Soo from checking her room. Soo refuses to let the guards search her room, and when So announces he will search the room himself, she holds her hairpin to her neck, stating she is unmarried and having men sweep her quarters is a huge insult. When she refuses to relent and pricks her neck, So gives in, but not before he sends an incensed glare her way. He knows she is lying through her teeth.

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It is indeed Jung. Soo chastises him, pointing out his relationship with So is already strained as it is. Jung realises Soo isn’t giving him special treatment – she would have helped any of the princes. When Jung queries whose side she would take if the princes were to battle, Soo sighs resignedly that she won’t be taking anyone’s side. Meanwhile, So stands outside Soo’s quarters, looking like he is physically preventing himself from storming her room.

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His anger obviously did not abate through the night and he seeks Soo out the next day at Damiwon. He drags her to a secluded place and confronts her. It was Jung in her room the night before, wasn’t it? When Soo doesn’t admit to that, he riles that she should speak the truth. Soo turns his words on him and asks him to do the same. Everyone is saying he married the princess because he is after the crown – is that really true? So confesses the truth that if he didn’t marry the child, she would be sent to Kitan as a hostage. Marriage was the only option left.

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Soo grouses that he should have been truthful from the start so that she wouldn’t have gotten so upset. So retorts that he knows that she hates polygamy and that’s why he has been avoiding marriage till now. But he had no choice. GAAAAAAAAAAH. SWEEEEETNESSSSS. Soo, feeling chastened, admits that Jung was in her room. He had forgotten about the night curfew and hid at her place to avoid getting caught.

So stresses that she shouldn’t lie to him ever again. No matter how desperate and detestable the situation, they both shouldn’t lie to each other since they both want the truth. Soo asks what she should do if she doesn’t want to share the truth? So says she can just say she doesn’t want to share the truth – lying is more despicable. He promises he won’t lie to her either and sweetly asks whether she is still angry with him. Soo shakes her head.

Soo hesitantly asks whether So regrets marrying the princess. He looks straight into her eyes and shakes his head. He doesn’t regret it one bit since he did it to protect the king. The princess has been sent to a temple – it was part of the deal. I guess she’ll be summoned at a later age when she is old enough to perform her wifely duties.

So brings up her previous confession that she liked someone else. Was it Jung? OH MAN. Does he really not know and can’t guess??? I guess this is aligned with the Chinese version but I found it more believable then than now with the way the Korean version is written.

Soo opines that day they met, So didn’t forget what he wanted to say, did he? So nods….and there is something so super duper sweet about LJK in this scene when he nods or shakes his head. Soo asks what were the words he wanted to say. So steps into her and states succinctly, ” I love you.” OMO OMO OMO!!!!!!!

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Soo smiles and tiptoes to kiss him and instructs him never to forget his words again. So’s happy smile is sooooo sweet as he realises Soo is finally accepting his love. That’s all the encouragement So needs and he does his So Hug Manoeuvre, and kisses her tenderly. ARGHHHHH. WHY DID THE PD PAN OUT THE SHOT? I mean he was shooting the actors up-close so why pull away for this long-awaited, well-earned kiss? GAH. So I never get why the ladies always take a few beats to return the embrace…I mean that’s a bloody hot guy who is kissing you. Just grab and don’t let go!

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OKAY. Baek Ah hangs out at the place where Woo Hee used to practise her sword dance, thinking of her. AND she suddenly appears. They both gush that they didn’t seek out the other because they were worried the other party was still upset. But Woo Hee couldn’t help herself and had to seek Baek Ah in the end. OKAY. Officially the lamest couple in this drama though I LOVE Nam Joo Hyuk and I LOVE Baek Ah. Plus, acting doesn’t seem to be Seo Hyun’s forte at this point in time. This scene was just so random.

Anyway, Won brings along a surprise visitor to Wook late one night. It’s Yo. Though Wook is shocked to see him, he recovers pretty quickly. Yo storms the palace the next day and heads straight for Damiwon where the king is taking his bath. Jung is stopped by his mom from stopping Yo – and I seriously hope he disobeys her though she pleads/threatens him. Yo has to be king in order for the sake of Goryeo and for them to live in peace.

Anyway, Yo finds the king, who pleads for his life. Yo ruthlessly pushes him into the water where he struggles and finally drowns. Soo, who is being restrained by Yo’s men, watches in horror as the king meets his demise. So storms in with Ji Mong and while he is shocked to see Yo, he is furious when he sees the king’s lifeless body floating in the bath. He screams at Yo and fights his way through. BAD ASS LJK is HOT.

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Ji Mong jumps into the bath and cradles the king’s body. He starts by addressing him formally as king before completely breaking down and addressing him by his name, “Moo-ya!”. This is heartbreaking. So takes in the scene with devastation – Moo has always treated him well and with respect. He faces Yo, who divulges he didn’t kill the king. Someone has been poisoning his bath with mercury. Since Soo is the only person allowed to attend to the king in private, the culprit must be her.

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So attacks Yo, who asks Won to hold Soo at sword point. So has two options: 1) defend the king’s honour and retaliate against Yo, and Soo will be killed. 2) Leave the palace with Soo and never return. Plus, Yo can haul Soo in for treason anytime if need be. So struggles to make a decision while Soo looks as if she is prepared to die, knowing that So is willing to sacrifice almost anything for his late brother.

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Ya know, So’s warning to Soo – though made almost playfully – to never lie to him is genuinely worrying me since he has no idea that she used to love Wook and shared a romantic relationship with him. This was the reason why Fourth Prince chased away Ruo Xi – and I think it is going to happen here, too. Soo had her chances to tell him since he asked her twice – though I don’t understand why So can’t make an educated guess by the process of elimination.

Again I say, LJK is simply incredible as So. His eyes…they say and emote so much, doesn’t matter if he is being cheeky or bloodthirsty. I am able to emotionally relate and connect to So in every scene – especially loved the scene where he watched over the sleeping king, aware of what he had to sacrifice in order to protect him. He pains him but he doesn’t regret the decision.

It was a little abrupt how Soo suddenly fell for So. I know two years isn’t a short time but it would have been nice to see how her feelings for him developed – or what he did for her that finally convinced her he was worth loving. But I won’t complain since So was swoony from start to finish in their scenes together and remains consistent in character. I love how he has been respectful to her throughout the two years, patiently waiting for her to return his feelings. I also liked that he asked her to make up her mind whether she wanted him as a lover. His sweet confession that he avoided marriage because he knew Soo hated polygamy…melted me. He really wants her – but he doesn’t want crumbs of her affection.

We see that So has already sacrificed Soo once for the king by marrying the princess…which leads to the discussion whether he will sacrifice her again for the throne later on. We know he does eventually – be it for himself or for the nation – but I’m interested to view his thought process. Also, Soo’s earlier visions are coming to fruition. But her visions are a little inaccurate. She sees the old king floating in the bath in her version when it is the later king who dies in the bath in reality. So I’m wondering how accurate her visions are in terms of detail – or are they influenced by her poor knowledge of history.

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