It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!
Capital outskirts. A lone peddler walked down the road by himself before he was joined by a disheveled man, who started feeding him some of the rice ball. The man was Jeong Do-jeon (Kim Myung-min), also referred to using his pen name, Sambong.The peddler was friendly enough to chat about the living condition at the capital, which had gotten worse over the years. He soon realized that Sambong had actually stole his rice ball and got angry when he was given a carved wooden figure by Sambong, who offered to repay his ‘debt’ later. Walking further into the forest, Jeong, who was alone by that time, went up a rocky little hill beside the waterfall to reach his secret lair.
It was dark, save for the candlelight and the sun shining through the big hole on the cave wall , but Jeong felt someone’s presence behind him: a young man who introduced himself as his disciple. Weird, since he didn’t even know he had a disciple that looked like the young man. There were not alone, as there’s another man (Byun Yo-han) who were also waiting for Jeong to appear for a long, long time, claiming to have been tricked by Sambong. Only the young man seemed delightful with the meeting since he knew both of them, and he formally introduced himself: Yi Bang-won (Yoo Ah-in), later the third king of Joseon, Taejong.
8 years ago. Hamju.
Three guys ran through the grassy field with bated breath, and it soon became clear that a man was being chased by another man and a teenage boy. The man almost escaped, but he couldn’t avoid the blunt arrow shot by General Yi Seong-gye (Chun Ho-jin). The teenager was the younger Bang-won (Nam Da-reum), and he claimed that he was the one who caught the man. General Yi reminded his fifth son to learn the standard speech instead of using dialects, but the boy didn’t really mind it. His second brother, Yi Bang-gwa (Seo Dong-won), chided him for using Mongol language, but Bang-gwa couldn’t deny that their father was a real man.
Night fell over the place that looked like a military camp, and Bang-won continued to recall his experience earlier to the crowd in front of him. When asked about his studies, he answered that he didn’t want to continue it since he aspired to become like his father, who always went back home after war with victories, one after another. General Yi knew it well that his young son was still green, and showed him what war actually meant. The man they caught earlier was a spy, and General Yi proceeded to behead him in front of Bang-won, teaching his son an important lesson of the day: war is a job which requires one to kill. Bang-won was comforted by Bang-gwa and Jo Young-gyu (Min Sung-wook), his bodyguard, but he was only taken aback by what happened earlier. Bang-gwa and Young-gyu recalled the story of General Yi’s past encounter with another betrayer that was Jo So-saeng, whom he regarded as his real brother. That was more than enough to bring back Bang-won’s spirit, and learned not to forgive a betrayer.
While his men were wondering why someone who was as powerful as Yi In-gyeom sent a spy to their camp, General Yi actually looked a bit uncomfortable, as if knowing the real reason behind it. Soon, a messenger reached the camp bearing a royal order for him: it was his official appointment as a part of Supreme Council for Defense Matters (Dobyeongmasa or Dodang), a move instigated by the scholar-officials led by Poeun Jeong Mong-ju (Kim Ui-sung). Although the powerful ministers like Yi In-gyeom (Choi Jung-won) and Gil Tae-mi (Park Hyuk-kwon) were not pleased with the matter, the Sungkyunkwan officials were in joyous mode save for one person – Jeong Do-jeon. He warned them not to trust General Yi too much, but Poeun was positive that it’s just because Sambong had not met Yi Seong-gye yet. But then, Sambong had his own plan to stop the war…
General Yi and Co. were preparing to leave for the capital and a messenger was to be sent to Poeun beforehand. Bang-won insisted that he followed the messenger to the capital first so that he could learn the capital dialect better, but he was actually thinking of doing some sightseeing in the city. Meanwhile, a group of beggars had a briefing session with their leader, among them the siblings Boon-yi (Lee Re) and Ddang-sae (Yoon Chan-young), who were the latest addition to the group. They were aiming for people who were unfamiliar to the capital: those who wore extremely flamboyant clothes and turning their heads non-stop, and that’s what Bang-won was doing exactly at the moment.
Boon-yi was the younger sister, but she’s brighter and more reasonable compared to her brother, who scooped her to the capital to find their mother without any plan, except for her name (Kan-nan, which sounded similar to the word “poor”), a song no one could recognize, and a symbol he saw on the person who took their mother away. They teamed up with another girl, Gap-boon, whose mother had also disappeared days after giving birth to a baby, leaving young Gap-boon to carry her sibling around. They soon saw their target that was Bang-won, and Ddang-sae was to keep his eye on him. But then, the hungry Ddang-sae had his eyes on the candy in their hands and ended up following after the messenger into an alley.
Young-gyu was still starstruck with all the rare trinkets at the market, but Bang-won saw something: behind the splendour of the city’s main road, there were smelly corpses hidden at the back alleys. He was taken aback and suddenly, someone threw a sack over him. As for Ddang-sae, he saw the messenger hiding a letter inside a pillar before going back to Young-gyu, but Bang-won had gone missing. Curiosity got the best of Ddang-sae, and he saw the symbol on the letter.
The beggars were taking away Bang-won’s clothes, but lucky for him, his bodyguards managed to track him down. However, Ddang-sae confronted the messenger, demanding to know where he hid his mother and showed the letter to everyone. Bang-won recognized the symbol and realized that the messenger was the real spy, but the guy managed to escape with the letter. Bang-won wondered what Ddang-sae would do if he got hold of the letter, but the not-so-bright Ddang-sae was again, without any plan in his head. They only knew Yi In-gyeom’s name and thank God, Gap-boon knew where his house was.
Tae-mi, in between munching the super delicious meat served in front of him, wondered why In-gyeom was so worried about Yi Seong-gye, when he’s the one who had Choi Young and the entire court in his grip. According to him, General Yi was hard to read because he displayed no greed and had no weakness; hence, it was hard to control the man without the knowledge pertaining either one of the two things.
The kids went inside In-gyeom’s house through the drain hole sans Gap-boon, and they saw lots of food in front of their eyes since they were at the kitchen. The three of them – Ddang-sae, Boon-yi, and Bang-won – stuffed themselves with lots of food, including meat of young pigs, and all of a sudden, they saw Gap-boon’s mother being dragged to a room. They secretly followed after and what they saw was shocking: a number of women nursing piglets inside the locked room. That was the secret behind the tender meat O.O
In-gyeom went back to his study and realized that someone had dropped by to give him the letter, possibly containing what he’d like to see at that moment. Servants were ordered to find the messenger and the gates were closed, forcing the kids trio to be separated. Boon-yi and Ddang-sae were accidentally locked inside a storage room while they were hiding, and Bang-won was caught. Thanks to the beggar clothes he was wearing at that moment, he was mistaken as one and released, but he went back to the beggar’s abode only to see them mourning over the death of Gap-boon’s sibling, who was hungry without his mother’s milk. Bang-won was disgusted with the knowledge that a life was lost because of the piglets, and he cried in despair.
General Yi and the rest of the family finally reached the capital, and Tae-mi went out of his usual way to greet them at the city gate to convey In-gyeom’s invitation to a feast on that night. Bang-won told his father about what he saw before, but their discussion was interrupted with Poeun’s presence. Poeun wanted to know if his friend had the same intention with him in avoiding the war with Ming and focusing on their suffering nation, and General Yi assured him that they’re on the same page regarding the matter.
The Yi family attended the feast at In-gyeom’s house and Bang-won made sure his face was clearly seen by the nasty man. Of course, In-gyeom recognized him but denied the accusation made by Bang-won. They were ushered to their seats and Bang-won threw away the meat he saw on the table. The highlight of the feast was a play, but the content was aimed to make General Yi uncomfortable. In-gyeom clearly knew the real message while General Yi’s right-hand man, Yi Ji-ran, also looked disturbed. Only Bang-won seemed to notice how tense his father was, despite not understanding the real message of the play.
The play illustrated the event in which General Yi (mokja 木子 refers to the Hanja character of Yi family name 李) ‘betrayed’ his sworn brother Jo So-saeng (Jeokrang in the play) instead of the other way around, and General Yi almost lost his temper right there. The flashback confirmed that the real betrayer was General Yi and his father Yi Ja-chun, and it remained his only Achilles’ heel. In-gyeom knew that the secret not known to many was the reason why the brave general stayed away from the central government, and General Yi had to give in, without knowing that Bang-won was there to witness the whole exchange..
[END of Episode 1]