The royal palace is embroiled in political infighting. King Young-jo slowly executes
his own son, Crown Prince Sado (actor Lee Chang-hoon) by locking him up in a
small rice chest for unknown reasons. San (actor Park Ji-bin, 後 actor Lee Seo-jin),
Crown Prince Sado’s son, sneaks into Shimin Palace in the middle of the night to
visit his father who is slowly dying from starvation.
Meanwhile, the young Song-yeon (actress Lee Han-na, 後 actress Han Ji-min)
whose father was a former royal painter is brought to the palace through family
connections where she becomes a young court lady. In the still of the night, Song-
yeon is forced to go to the palace kitchen and bring back a snack for the older court
girls but gets lost on her way there.
Dae-soo (actor Kwon Oh-min, 後 actor Lee Jong-soo) is one of the trainees who
will become a palace official and eunuch but he tries to run away in the middle of
the night because he doesn’t want to be castrated. San, Song-yeon, and Dae-soo
wander the palace with different purposes and meet together by fate.
San (actor Park Ji-bin, 後 actor Lee Seo-jin) discovers the painting that his father,
Crown Prince Sado (actor Lee Chang-hoon), told him to locate inside the Hwagak
chest and then show to King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae). San seeks out Song-
yeon (actress Lee Han-na, 後 actress Han Ji-min) and tells her that he found the
painting that will save his father and Dae-soo. He then asks her for directions to find
Woonjongga where his grandfather is staying. Song-yeon tells San that he can just
ask one of his servants to guide him to Woonjongga but he tells her that he doesn’t
have anyone to turn to. She feels sorry for San.
Risking her life, Song-yeon offers to go to Woonjongga with San. As San and
Princess Hye-bin (actress Gyeon Mi-ri) head to Woonjongga, Song-yeon hides in
one of the carriages. When San’s carriage leaves the palace, San asks his servants
to bring him a bedpan to relieve himself. San makes noises to pretend that he’s
using the bedpan and tells his servants that he’s not comfortable with everyone
around him and orders them to stay several feet away with their backs turned around.
San (actor Park Ji-bin, 後 actor Lee Seo-jin) rings the cymbal of justice to announce
his grievance to the king and succeeds in stopping the king’s procession. San
pleads with the king to take a look at a painting that Crown Prince Sado (actor Lee
Chang-hoon) asked him to show to the king. With a stern expression, King Young-jo
asks him how it could be possible for Crown Prince Sado to give him such an order.
So San confesses that it was he who entered Shimin Palace against the king’s
orders and then he begs the king to spare his father’s life. But King Young-jo is
already enraged at San’s disobedience and has him arrested and taken away to
prison. At that very moment, a messenger riding a horse tells the king that Crown
Prince Sado is dead.
A weapons cache is found in the East Palace and San (actor Park Ji-bin, 後 actor
Lee Seo-jin) is in big trouble when King Young-jo is told about this potential threat
to his authority. King Young-jo declares that nobody can dare go unpunished in an
attempt to overthrow the king and flaunt the rules of the palace. King Young-jo
begins a criminal investigation of the people who served at Prince San’s palace and
demands that the officials get to the bottom of the matter to swiftly carry out justice.
The East Palace swarms with investigators and Prince San is shocked that
something of this magnitude could befall him. Princess Hye-bin (actress Gyeon Mi-
ri) Hong Bong-ha (actor Shin Chung-shik) strongly advise San to tell King Young-jo
that the weapons cache, which was found in his quarters, was amassed by Crown
Prince Sado and that he knows nothing of it if he wants to live. However, when San
is brought before King Young-jo, he stands up for himself and tells the king he did
nothing wrong and therefore he will not explain something he did not even do. He
also informs the king that his father Crown Prince Sado had no intentions to usurp
the king through a violent uprising. King Young-jo tells San that he wants to believe
he is innocent as well as his claim that Crown Prince Sado was never involved in
any kind of coup d’etat but San would have to show him counter evidence that
supports his claims. When San is at a loss of words, King Young-jo slams his fist
on the table and shouts at him.
In the middle of the night, San (actor Lee Seo-jin) is almost assassinated by an
assassin but when the assassin is caught, he commits suicide by swallowing a pill
before they can find out who sent him. San tries to get to the bottom of the
assassination attempt but the body of the assassin vanishes and the crime scene is
cleaned up when King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae) appears to see if his grandson
is alive. The king is confounded that he cannot see any signs of an intruder ever
entering San’s chambers.
On the next day, Princess Hwa-wan (actress Sung Hyun-ah) goes to see her
father, King Young-jo, who is full of worries. She tries to soothe his feelings and
brings up last night’s incident. Princess Hwa-wan meets Choi Seok-ju (actor Cho
Gyeong-hwan) at the market and gives him instructions to carry out.
Tired of fending of numerous assassination attempts on his life, San passes by the
royal kitchen and remembers the time when he first met Song-yeon as a young boy.
He meets Nam Sa-cho (actor Maeng Sang-hoon) and asks him to find out the
source of the pill that the assassin swallowed to commit suicide.
While inspecting the goods included in the tribute that will be sent to China, San
(actor Lee Seo-jin) confirms the identity of a dead body that is floating in the river
and gets enraged. He tries to decipher the words in the writings of the dead man
and realizes that members of the Ching Dynasty delegation are involved in a
conspiracy to assassinate him.
Meanwhile, Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) is framed for stealing supplies at the
workshop but Park Young-moon helps her prove her innocence. Song-yeon is
chosen as the Sujongdamo and is thrilled that she will be able to meet San again.
Chobi (actress Lee Lib-sae) gets jealous of Song-yeon and decides to teach her a
lesson. Due to Chobi’s scheming, Song-yeon loses the chance to appear at the
Jinyeon Gallery but she stills gets to see San when she follows Park Young-moon
on an important errand.
When San (actor Lee Seo-jin) learns that Wang Yu wants to bed Song-yeon
(actress Han Ji-min) by having her come to his chambers, San tells Song-yeon to
go to the government office to fulfill her official duties as a palace painter. Wang Yu
is unhappy about this and tells Song-yeon to prove that she really is a painter as
San says she is. So Song-yeon is tested on the spot by being asked to draw a
painting according to a theme selected by Wang Yu.
San has a hard time dealing with the Ch’ing Dynasty delegation because of their
demands and is troubled about the disappearance of the baekwupo. When they face
a problem with their negotiations with the delegation because they do not possess
the baekwupo, Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) intervenes.
Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) was part of the bandits who stole the baekwupo from
the ship laden with tribute gifts for the Ch’ing Dynasty. When Song-yeon tells Dae-
soo that San is in grave trouble because the baekwupo were stolen, Dae-soo is
quickly tries to rectify the situation by seeking out the Gakjung bandits. Meanwhile,
the merchants simmer with anger when they are told they must donate more of their
goods to make up for the stolen baekwupos. When the merchants begin to blame
San for being careless in letting bandits steal the baekwupo, Song-yeon gets
worried and comes up with a plan...
San (actor Lee Seo-jin) is astonished when he sees the painting that Park Young-
moon (actress Shin Guk) brings to him. After seeing the painting, he realizes that
the damo he met at the banquet was Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) and searches
for her whereabouts.
On her way back from helping Lee Chun (actor Ji Sang-ryeol), Song-yeon meets
Queen Hyo-eui (actress Park Eun-hye). Queen Hyo-eui asks Song-yeon to help her
make maejak treats. On her way back home after making maejak treats, Song-yeon
is kidnapped by the Gakjung bandits.
San visits Dal-ho’s (actor Lee Hee-do) home together with Nam Sa-cho (actor
Maeng Sang-hoon) and he not only does he meet Dal-ho but also meets Dae-soo
(actor Lee Jong-soo). Dae-soo confesses his role in the disappearance of the
baekwupo from the ship carrying tribute items. San sends troops to rescue Song-
yeon from the Gakjung bandits. Concerned about Song-yeon, Dae-soo goes alone
to rescue Song-yeon. Dae-soo finds himself in a dangerous situation but a
thunderous sound suddenly erupts behind him. San orders his men to catch the
Gakjung bandits while he himself looks for Song-yeon.
San (actor Lee Seo-jin) is flabbergasted when he is shown an official permit that
was signed in his name with handwriting that is nearly identical to his. The ministers
bicker amongst each other in King Young-jo’s presence to debate San’s fault in
signing such a permit. The painters and calligraphist are given the task of verifying
whether the handwriting on the permit is actually San’s. Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo
yeon-woo) finds it odd that San would deploy royal troops to capture the Gakjung
bandits and orders Oh Jung-ho to look into the matter.
Meanwhile, Nam Sa-cho (actor Maeng Sang-hoon), Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-
soo), and Dal-ho (actor Lee Hee-do) inspect the hideout of the Gakjung bandits and
get worried about Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) who hasn’t been found for days.
While discussing ways to find Song-yeon, they post wanted posters around the
village and when the bandits converge around the posters, Dal-ho gets perplexed.
When Nam Sa-cho reports to San that they haven’t found Song-yeon yet, San gets
grim and orders Nam Sa-cho to continue the search.
Locked in a warehouse, Song-yeon gets afraid when she sees other kidnapped
girls sent to brothels and tries to find a way to run away. When Lee Chun (actor Ji
Sang-ryeol) comes by to meet Chun Hwa-nam, Song-yeon yells out to him to save
her but Lee Chun doesn’t hear her cries and leaves. Song-yeon runs away but gets
Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) looks at a painting she drew based on a theme
selected by San (actor Lee Seo-jin) and she finally meets San when he comes to
the workshop to see her. Song-yeon cries after being overwhelmed with emotion
and. When Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) sees Song-yeon with San, he gets teary-
eyed, too. But they cannot stay together for long because the workshop artisans will
return soon. While seeing how lonely San is, Dae-soo becomes determined to pass
the military service exam to become San’s personal guard.
King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae) asks San again whether he issued the official
permit. He then orders a servant to bring the equipment prepared by the ministers.
King Young-jo shows how royal seals can be forged in front of the ministers and
San and then proceeds to check the authenticity of the official permit.
When Princess Hwa-wan (actress Sung Hyun-ah) hears that the king can prove the
authenticity of a permit from Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo), her face turns
pale. She calls an emergency secret meeting with her conspirators under a tense
mood and Jung Hoo-gyeom comes up with a scheme.
Dae-soo sees the signs announcing the test for the military service exam and he
starts to study with other potential applicants. Dae-soo learns from Hong Guk-young
(actor Han Sang-jin) how to efficiently memorize facts and is amazed at what Hong
Guk-young tells him next. After hearing from Hong Guk-young that there is a way to
see the test answers before the actual exam, Dae-soo seeks out Lee Chun (actor Ji
While reading a poem, King Young-jo’s (actor Lee Sun-jae) face turns ashen. King
Young-jo gets furious and orders his servants to capture the poet who mocked him
in the poem. San gets disturbed when he reads the passages in the poem.
While Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) is taking the military service exam, the exams
are suddenly canceled. Afterwards, Dae-soo seeks out Hong Guk-young to confer
with him about a wrong verse in one of the poems. Hong Guk-young tells him that
Prince San’s life is in danger.
Worried about San’s safety, Nam Sa-cho (actor Maeng Sang-hoon) guards the East
Palace at night. But under Oh Jung-ho’s orders, warriors explode gunpowder. The
guards are shocked by the sound and San is also roused by the sounds. Park Cho’
s warriors enter the East Palace and start killing the palace guards. When San
hears that the enemies are heading towards the Main Hall, he goes there, too.
Worried about San, Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) goes to Chugukjang in Shibi’s
place. But the palace guards stop San from going anywhere because he is under
suspicion of attempting to overthrow the king. While held back by the guards, San
sees Song-yeon. After allaying Song-yeon’s fears, he heads to Pyeon Pavilion
where King Young-jo tells him to personally go to the torture chamber and find out
who’s behind the attack by interrogating the captured warriors.
San (actor Lee Seo-jin) enters the torture chamber with a grim expression and he
orders the men to stop torturing the prisoners. Queen Hyo-eui (actress Park Eun-
hye) is told that San disobeyed the king’s orders to force answers out of the
prisoners. She goes to see San and overhears him talking to Princess Hye-bin
(actress Gyeon Mi-ri). Princess Hye-bin advises San to meet King Young-jo and
ask for forgiveness.
San meets King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae) and asks him for a few more days to
prove that the accused are innocent. As San defends the late Crown Prince Sado’s
honor, King Young-jo gets enraged at this and tells San that he will be banished if
he is unable to prove their innocence.
Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) calls Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin)
and offers him a high-ranking government position. Hong Guk-young asks Jung Hoo-
gyeom to give him some time to think it over because it is such a big promotion.
Hong Guk-young goes to Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) and ask him if he
remembered the wrong verse he found in the test. When he analyzes it, Hong Guk-
young realizes that it is a hidden code. Hong Guk-young and Dae-soo realize that
someone is scheming to frame San for an attempted coup d’etat and they try to figure
out who the ringleader is.
San (actor Lee Seo-jin) learns from Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) that Han Joon-
ho, a high-ranking minister of the Byeongpan rank, is the ringleader of the plot to
frame him for attempting to overthrow the king, he is shocked. Nam Sa-cho (actor
Maeng Sang-hoon) tells San that they should arrest the minister at once if what Dae-
soo is saying is true. However, San says they need to find proof before taking such
a course of action.
When San, Dae-soo, and Nam Sa-cho head to the south of the city, Jung Hoo-
gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) offers to accompany him with three military officers.
Dae-soo guides them to the training grounds where the royal police were trained
and deployed as a private army to kill San. San becomes deeply disturbed when he
sees the actual training grounds. He is filled with rage and tries to enter the training
grounds but the place is empty and no soldiers are seen.
Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) receives a letter from the Byeongpan-rank
minister and is astonished to see the minister visit Princess Hwa-wan (actress
Sung Hyun-ah) at her private residence. Worried about being seen together with the
minister, Jung Hoo-gyeom asks him what he has done and the anxious minister
says he sent a person to Mt. Myojeok.
San (actor Lee Seo-jin) grieves over the fact that Princess Hwa-wan has been
trying to get him killed. Chae Jae-gong (actor Han In-soo) feels pity for San but
advises him that he must not let emotions interfere with his judgment to mete out
punishment to criminals of the kingdom.
After making up his mind, San goes to meet King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae) with
his guard and reports his findings at Mt. Myojeok the night before. King Young-jo
believes that more people are involved in the plot besides Byeongpan-rank minister
and asks San if he found other collaborators. San hesitates before telling the king
that Princess Hwa-wan is one of the minister’s collaborators. King Young-jo
becomes enraged. At that moment, the sound of the drumbeats that Princess Hwa-
wan said she heard begins to ring throughout the palace.
Princess Hye-bin (actress Gyeon Mi-ri) visits Princess Hwa-wan (actress Sung
Hyun-ah)’s private residence and offers her a special herbal concoction, telling her
it was the same kind that she drank when she grieved over her husband’s wrongful
execution. With contempt in her voice, Princess Hye-bin tells Princess Hwa-wan
that she will not lose her son like she lost her husband.
Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) learns that San has a special connection
with Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min), one of the palace painters, and finds the
piece of information very interesting.
Meanwhile, Court Lady Kim (actress Kim So-I), who keeps a close eye on Song-
yeon, reports to Queen Hyo-eui (actress Park Eun-hye) that Song-yeon met with
Jung Hoo-gyeom. Court Lady Kim tells the queen that she has suspicions about
Song-yeon but the queen tells her that she is wrong. However, the doubts about
Song-yeon linger in the queen’s mind.
Princess Hye-bin (actress Gyeon Mi-ri) orders the palace painters to make a folding
screen drawn with a painting of Seokrudo, which is a good luck charm for having a
baby, to give as a present to Queen Hyo-eui. As the new damo assistant for Park
Byeol-jae, Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) is assigned to the project and gets to
meet Queen Hyo-eui (actress Park Eun-hye). Queen Hyo-eui personally calls Song-
yeon and asks her how she first met San (actor Lee Seo-jin). The queen also asks
her how she happens to know Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo).
Court Lady Park interrupts their conversation and announces that the crown prince
will be arriving at Queen Hyo-eui’s chambers. Arriving at the queen’s chamber
unannounced, San greets his queen lovingly but is surprised to see Song-yeon
Stricken by a mysterious malady during a trip to the royal tombs, King Young-jo
(actor Lee Sun-jae) tells San (actor Lee Seo-jin) that they should return to the
palace whereupon San should oversee the royal affairs. After hearing about the
situation, Empress Jung-soon (actress Kim Yeo-jin) dispatches a messenger to Lee
Pan to make sure to assassinate San if King Young-jo doesn’t recover from his
Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin) tells San that the only way to safely make it
back to the palace would be to divide the procession into two parties. But San
refuses to use that option because it would make the second procession vulnerable
if it came under heavy attack.
The conspirators who wish to eliminate San agree that they must stop the crown
prince from taking over the throne so they try to bring King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-
jae) back to the palace as soon as possible. Seeing that the king can hardly stand
up, San (actor Lee Seo-jin) asks the doctors about the king’s condition.
Catching San off guard, Empress Jung-soon (actress Kim Yeo-jin) approaches him
and asks why he isn’t happy that the king has safely returned to the place.
Princess Hwa-wan (actress Sung Hyun-ah) pleads with San (actor Lee Seo-jin) to
repeal his order of forcing her to drink the deadly herbal concoction. Princess Hwa-
wan asks him to give her one more day to live and if the king’s condition doesn’t
improve, then she will forfeit her life. San does not know what to do and dwells on
Meanwhile, Empress Jung-soon (actress Kim Yeo-jin) orders Jung Hoo-gyeom
(actor Jo yeon-woo) to have his private army ready in case the king dies.
After King Young-jo (actor Lee Sun-jae) designates San (actor Lee Seo-jin) with
the responsibilities of overseeing the kingdom, the ministers from the three fields (議
政) (臺諫) (玉堂), give their monthly reports to San.. After questioning the ministers
with piercing questions, he gains an advantage over his enemies.
Meanwhile, Choi Seok-joo (actor Jo Gyeong-hwan) tells Hong In-han (actor Na
Sung-gun), to become friends with Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin)...
When Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) hears that Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min)
came in fifth place in the art contest he goes to congratulate Song-yeon. Park
Young-moon (actress Shin Guk) orders Song-yeon to paint another folding screen.
Meanwhile, San (actor Lee Seo-jin) meets with the merchants of Nanjeon and
promises to relax business restrictions if they could help him. Hong Guk-young
(actor Han Sang-jin) tells San the if they want to find proof that merchants of Shijeon
conspired with government officials then they need to find the secret accounting
books kept by the Noron faction.
Song-yeon (actress Han Ji-min) seeks out Park Young-moon (actress Shin Guk)
and tells her she would like to teach damos who want to learn how to paint. Park
Young-moon worries that if she allows Song-yeon to teach such a class, the other
artisans might complain about it but she relents when she sees how determined
Meanwhile, Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin) finds out that Jung Hoo-gyeom
(actor Jo yeon-woo) will deploy people to Honghwa gate to create a disturbance.
So he sends a message to Han Seong-boo to prevent the riot from happening.
However, Jung Hoo-gyeom, the person who is leading the riot behind the scenes,
tears up the message that Hong Guk-young sent and tries to persuade Han Seong-
boo to come over to his side with promises of bigger promotions.
Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin) meets with San (actor Lee Seo-jin) and asks
him to let him resign because he made a grave mistake. With a sad heart, San
accepts Hong Guk-young’s resignation.
Meanwhile, Princess Hwa-wan (actress Sung Hyun-ah) feels confident about her
recent success and tells Jung Hoo-gyeom (actor Jo yeon-woo) that the only thing
that remains to consolidate their power is to make their collective voices heard in the
royal court. However, Jung Hoo-gyeom tells her that it is not an easy matter because
Kim Gwi-joo (actor Jung Myung-hwan) has returned to the royal court. Princess
Hwa-wan gets furious that she wasn’t told about his appointment sooner...
Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) goes to the bar where he met a strange old man who
told him that his life was in danger and questions the man. The old man grimly tells
him that he saw a vision where screams came forth from a bonfire that was
surrounded by numerous people. So he warns Dae-soo to avoid danger. When
Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin) hears about the old man’s vision from Dae-
soo, he inquires about the duties of minister Lee Geon-tae. Dae-soo tells Hong Guk-
young that minister Lee is in charge of organizing the Naryehee Festival and there
will be a fireworks display and bonfires at the event. Hong Guk-young’s face
freezes up when he hears this...
Choi Seok-joo (actor Jo Gyeong-hwan) tells Empress Jung-soon (actress Kim Yeo-
jin) that it is dangerous to use fireworks at the Naryehee Festival and argues that the
fireworks display should be cancelled. But Empress Jung-soon disagrees with him
and says that she wants to see the act executed before her eyes this time and
moves ahead with the plan.
Flanked by Dae-soo (actor Lee Jong-soo) and Kang Seok-ki (actor Jang Hee-
wum), Hong Guk-young (actor Han Sang-jin) inspect the plans for the Naryehee
Festival and senses something amiss. He tells them to find the plans for the
previous year to get to the bottom of his suspicions...