10 Gold Prizes
Episode 11 of Alchemy of Souls starts with Mu-Deok deflecting Jang-Uk’s feelings. She realizes that she’s in love with him but can’t bring herself to face the truth. Instead, she claims that this feeling of missing someone and of love is likened to poison. He should see this as her “poisoning” Jang-Uk. Our mage is understandably hurt and proceeds to give her the could shoulder for much of the first half of this chapter.
Meanwhile, after surprising everyone by winning the Songrim contest, Dang-Gu is handed Mu-Deok’s bag to give back. Curiosity gets the better of him though and he looks inside. There, he notices that familiar whistle from the past with Naksu. Dang-Gu quizzes Yul about this, who in turn hands the whistle back to Mu-Deok personally.
Yul believes she’s in love with him and this whistle is indicative of that. Naturally, this causes Jang-Uk to feel jealous when he learns about their romantic ties.
Meanwhile, Hemp Master Lee admits to Yeom that he has a fondness toward Jang-Uk and wants to watch his progress carefully. Yeom conversationally reveals that Jin just wants to lock him up. Before they can continue, Yeom ends up splashing food over Lee, who’s horrified and hurries off, desperate to get the stains out his new clothes.
The revelation about Yul and Mu-Deok’s closeness affects Jang-Uk, who’s not exactly enthusiastic while talking to the other mages. He’s sleeping poorly and clearly jealous of Mu-Deok. Of course, this is only compounding their earlier chat where she shrugged off him admitting to missing her.
Meanwhile, Park Jin speaks to Jin Ho-Gyeong about the lineage of Jinyowon and who could be taking over the throne from her when she steps down. Although one would think it’s going to be Cho-yeon, her unaccounted-for eldest daughter (Bu-Yeon) could also be a pick. Now, we’ve heard whispers about her in the previous episodes, but interestingly, Ho-Gyeong reveals that she was born on the exact same day that Jang-Gang picked.
Ho-Gyeong hides secrets of her own though, given we see from flashes that she actually asked to use the ice stone to save her baby’s soul. She conveniently doesn’t tell Park Jin this.
However, Park-Jin does realize that Jin-Mu is in collusion with House Jinyowon, having done some research and realized that he was the previous guest before him.
With a scroll showing Hi-Gyeong’s daughter, Jin-Mu walks through his ranks in Cheonbugwan to find who this could be. When he learns So-I isn’t actually blind, she looks set to meet a messy end… until So-I gives him an interesting decision.
She saves her own skin by promising to act as Ho-Gyeong’s eldest daughter Bu-Yeon – and Jin-Mu’s puppet. She passes the sorcerer’s test, pretending to be blind through a series of goosebump-inducing tests, and readies herself to deceive Jinyowon.
Meanwhile, the Crown Prince and Mu-Deok agree on a bet together. Mu-Deok promises to wager the most precious thing she has – the jade stone pendant. She has complete faith that Jang-Uk can prove himself. And as for our star mage, he receives a pep-talk from Maidservant Jim, which convinces him to head off and study.
However, he’s cornered by the other maids who bring him in to fight at the Training Center. This is, of course, all of Mu-Deok’s doing.
Completely unprepared, Jang-Uk heads into the center and he’s thwarted by numerous different mages. Despite Jang-Uk not being interested in competing, Mu-Deok has essentially pushed him into this. If Jang-Uk can’t beat at least one of the 10 total mages before all the gold toads are swiped up (the mages’ reward for beating Jang-Uk), then he’ll lose that precious jade stone he gave Mu-Deok last episode.
Speaking of fighting for love, Dang-Gu lets his feelings be known to Cho-Yeon. He tells her that he’s been sincere in his feelings and hopes that Bu-Yeon returns. If she does, then it means Cho-Yeon will be free to marry who she wants – including Dang-Gu. He admits he’d be happy to get her some flowers so he can properly propose to her.
The love triangle between Maidservant Kim, Lee and Park Jin continues, with the Hemp Master getting her some flowers and growing flustered. Park Jin is clearly jealous, with Kim telling him he should be getting her something to show how much he cares.
Outside Kim’s place, he notices the man’s shoes are smaller than his and deduces that it must be a guy who’s shorter. Of course, at this point he’s unaware that Hemp Master Lee is this man. Anyway, Park-Jin checks over some flowers to get her, unaware of the intricacies of love and not just “buying” someone’s affection, and decides to send the whole shop’s worth to her.
When Dang-Gu and Cho-yeon show up, the truth is revealed. But Park Jin is not happy, pointing out that he’s the heir to Songrim. When more details about Jin-Mu are uncovered too, Park Jin brings his concerns to Hemp Master Lee. He’s worried that Jin-Mu could become powerful enough to attack Songrim if he manages to take over Jinyowon. Not only that, but he believes the sorcerer is in possession of the ice stone too.
As we cut across to Jin-Mu, we see the power this stone has as he enacts the alchemy of souls once more. The poor young man is defenceless as his soul is switched, and another mage in Cheonbugwan is saved. He’s determined to make sure all of them live forever. Eventually, they’ll be able to overcome death and become eternal.
Part of this plan stems from using So-I, whom Jin-Mu has groomed into serving as his puppet. Specifically, he wants her to target Ho-Gyeong, win over her heart and bring her to this dingy, unnerving basement. As the green flames flicker, an ominous shadow is cast over our characters.
There’s also a shadow over Jang-Uk too, who continues to fail in the face of these different mages. They’ve scouted out his moves, including Tansu, and have been beating him for 7 days now.
With only 3 gold toads left, everything is hanging precariously in the balance. Mu-Deok watches on, as Jang-Uk continues to fight. After all, what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger…right?
The Episode Review
Alchemy of Souls returns this week with another good episode, this time deepening the romance between the different characters. There’s a nice ebb and flow to a lot of the plotlines for the supporting characters, including Dang-Gu and Cho-yeon who both express their true feelings for one another.
There’s also the triangle with Lee, Kim and Park-Jin, which continues to feed into the comedic core of this chapter, and balance out some of the more serious elements.
It’s clear that Jin-Mu is prepping for a much darker plan, one that could potentially see Ho-Gyeong meet an untimely demise. With Jin-Mu serving as puppet master, he’s primed to use So-I to his advantage and infiltrate Jinyowon. Not only that though, but he could also become powerful enough to strike Songrim, which is something Park Jin is concerned about later on.
It would appear that this could well come to fruition, with Jang-Uk learning valuable lessons in this constant fights with these mages as a way of thwarting them and hitting back against Jin-Mu.
So far the story has been really well-worked across the chapters and the extended 20 episode run is certainly welcome, given how deep and rich the lore and worldbuilding is in this weekend K-drama.
Everything at the end is left hanging in the balance though, with plenty of questions left hanging over where this one could go next.