Episode 5 of Alchemy of Souls starts with us in the past, seeing more of Mu-Deok’s history. As a child, she was amazed by her father, who happened to be a constellation recorder mage for Cheonbugwan. Unfortunately, he was killed, and she witnessed this happen, tears stinging her face in shock.
With the young girl looking over her deceased parents, she was approached by Jin-Mu who actually offered to train her. He took the girl out to the dark recesses of the mountains, where she trained and honed her skills.
When she returned to the world, she showed up as Naksu but of course, she’s now returning to that very place as Mu-Deok, which is pretty poetic. And that place in question is called Danhyanggok.
Mu-Deok and Jang Uk head there but the latter can smell chicken. It turns out it’s actually being cooked at a cabin nearby, as it soon becomes apparent someone else is staying there. There’s even dog outside too. Jang Uk queries Mu-Deok whether this is an elaborate ploy from Mu-Deok to set up a home for them. She’s quick to write off that idea though!
Meanwhile, the leader of Jinyowon gathers the mages of Daeho to hold a Unanimous Assembly. Aside from Jang Gang and his family, all eleven convene together and have a big meeting. This is all in preparation for the upcoming duel between the Crown Prince and Jang Uk.
With the head of the families gathered together, they hear that Uk has been stripped of his title. As he’s had a lot of teachers – some of which sitting around the table – they write off Uk’s abilities and claim he has no power. Park Jin speaks up though and decides to shoulder the humiliation for Songrim should Jang Uk lose this duel.
Over in Danhyanggok, the owner of the cabin returns, learning from his faithful mutt that there’s a soul shifter inside. This explains the red aura it was able to see earlier on. He thanks the dog for his help, given the soul has no malice right now and wouldn’t have been able to see her.
Just before using his powers to kill her, he thinks twice. When he turns around, he finds Jang Uk standing before him with his sword. He removes the bracelet and lunges at the guy. However, the stranger effortlessly shrugs our protagonist off and easily thwarts him with magic of his own.
Jang Uk refses to answer the guy’s questions, and calls for Mu-Deok to flee. She does not, and this conflict spills over in the morning.
Mu-Deok and Jang Uk begin bickering about who this guy is; he instantly believes they’re married from the way they’re talking to one another. This guy is certainly something though, having mastered Jipsu and operating way above the Ryusu level given he can control fire. Not only that, he also shows off his powers in controlling water through the Chisu technique too.
However, there are bigger problems afoot. Given Jang Uk has been drinking all the water from the pot of tea, he’s shocked to learn this actually lowers sexual libido through the use of chaste herbs. He’s shocked and believes the guy is lying. As for Mu-Deok she realizes this mage is the infamous Hemp Master Lee. He too has cut off his libido to focus more on magic.
Mu-Deok thinks it’s a good idea Jang Uk follow suit, telling him that “impotence is a small sacrifice.” Jang Uk is frustrated and slams his fist down on the table; the bowl flies across and smashes Mu-Deok in the face. Despite blood trickling down her face, she smiles warmly as she realizes this is his Chisu energy trickling out.
While this is going on, Yul seems to find Songrim’s spirit plaque after chasing a wagoner. Park Jin tasks him with finding out for certain whether it’s actually his or not.
At the same time, Jin-Mu continues to scheme, deciding to move Kil Joo’s soul into a eunuch shortly. Interestingly, Jin-mu has a soul ejector he could use too.
Back with Jang Uk though, he continues to learn under the guidance of Master Lee. He encourages Jang Uk to lt him be his teacher properly, pointing out that his last pupil head off and work at an infirmary. And that guy? None other than Heo Yeom of course! Small world!
As for Mu-Deok, she happens to be in town wanting to spread the rumour that Jang-Uk has already mastered Ryusu. Unfortunately, she’s stopped by Kil-Joo and his men who grow suspicious of her, believing her to be Naksu. Only, she obviously doesn’t have a blue mark and that throws him off her scent.
Mu-Drok drops to her knees before the Crown Prince, asking for help. She claims that Jang-Uk is shaking in fear at the prospect of fighting the prince. She also doesn’t want the guards to be sniffing around her from now on. The Crown Prince eventually agrees to help.
Yul and Dang-gu arrive at Danhyanggok intending to find out about this Spirit Plaque. On the way though, Yul finds the spot that he and Mu-Deok shared in the past and reminisces. Speaking of which, Mu-Deok and Jang-Uk do eventually show up but when they do, Mu-Deok is still drunk from her encounter with the Prince and falls into Yul’s arms.
Back at the palace, Park Jin learns that an unknown guy has broken through the barrier and is currently at the gates. It’s Master Lee! He’s shown up to see Yeom and asks for his help, presumably with the corpse he earlier escaped with that floated down-river. This one is also petrified like the others we’ve seen.
As the episode closes out, Mu-Deok reminisces on an old tree she’s fond of from her past, one she was able to ascend when she was Naksu. With no way of reaching the top by simply climbing now, Jang Uk promises to help her ascend. This is his motivation going forward, intending to reach Chisu level in order to make this a reality.
The Episode Review
As the weeks pass, Alchemy of Souls really does feel like a live-action version of Demon Slayer and Avatar. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though as this show has its own flair and style, something that we’re starting to see more of now that we’re five episodes in.
The worldbuilding in this show has been great, and Alchemy of Souls has managed to deliver deep, rich lore in a relatively short space of time. However, it does also complicate matters, especially with four different families, lots of interpersonal drama and the different locations too.
Interestingly, it appears that Naksu’s father may actually have been killed for something to do with prophesying Jang Uk’s birth or a significant element of his life going forward, especially if constellations are involved.
Although there isn’t a massive amount of development plot wise this episode, this chapter does help to deepen the character ties and introduce Master Lee, whom I’m assuming is going to be an important character going forward.
Either way though, this unique weekend drama is certainly shaping up to be one of the must-watch shows this year.
You can read our full season review for Alchemy of Souls Season 1 here!