We return to the banquet/match being held by the King for Kenjo. The Prince arrives with the presentation gift of a bow. Kenjo is presented with the bow and asks to test it. That being granted, he strolls out and pulls back the bow. Then he spins and fires it towards the King. Dong Soo fails to grab the arrow as it passes him, and the court reacts in shock.
The arrow hits the creepy bodyguard! It seems he was sneaking up behind the King in an assassination attempt. A flashback informs us that Hong had chosen the bodyguard as his fall guy. Hong gave him a particular sword to use – it’s engraved with a saying “Be the tiger every year, month, day and hour.”
In the chaos that follows, the royals are all hustled off, and Kenjo is surrounded by guards. Dong Soo puts a sword to his neck and Kenjo asks him if this is really where he should be. Dong Soo runs to the Prince’s quarters.
In the Prince’s courtyard, the giant Jung and Sa Mo are fighting. They both throw down their weapons and go at it hand to hand. Sa Mo turns out to be quite the fighter. However, Hong1 and Hong2 show up with the palace guard and arrest them both.
The mountain boys get a closer look at the attackers they’ve killed, and realize they are all wearing the uniforms of the Prince’s guards. Hong1 and Hong2 arrive and arrest the mountain boys as well.
Dong Soo and Gwang Taek see this and report back to the Prince that it was all a trap. On the other side, Lord Hong is satisfied that all is going according well. Kenjo asks what they are going to do about Jung, and Hong says that he’ll be helped.
Over at the Assassins, Ji Sun and Un are sitting around when Un receives a report of the goings on. He goes to Gu Hyang to find out the details and hears that it was some sort of plot and that Kenjo was involved. He orders her to find out more information.
Lord Hong claims to the King that the assassins were all former guards of the Crown Prince. However, in a flashback, we see that in truth, Hong was handing out the guard uniforms and setting up creepy bodyguard. Hong says it was Jung, the giant, who took out all of the other assassins, who were going to the Prince’s residence for reasons unknown (although he’s implying they were somehow in league with the Prince and meeting up there). He claims that he had called on Jung as a back up to Gwang Taek in the match against Kenjo.
He also claims that Sa Mo is one of the assassins, alive and in jail. And indeed, there are the mountain boys and Sa Mo in one cell, and Jung in next one. Jung laughs at them, saying that he’ll be taken care of, but they’ll all die. Jung is released, much to the shock of Sa Mo.
The King demands to know who plotted all of this, and Lord Hong pins it on the Prince. He brings forward the sword the bodyguard used. It turns out to be one that the King had personally given the Prince.
The King drops the sword and firmly tells the court that one thing is clear. The Prince would never stoop to such treason. He orders them to keep silent while it is all investigated. Anyone who gossips will be killed.
Lord Kim asks the Queen what is going on. She tells him that it was Lord Hong’s plan, but that she was the one who took the sword from the Prince’s quarters. Lord Kim asks her if perhaps they should use Dong Soo to help them out in this situation. Since he saved the Queen’s life, she thinks about it and agrees.
Seo tells Dong Soo and Cho Rip to find out who the assassins really were. Gwang Taek has an attack of pain but goes home and tells the others what happened. Jang Mi gets upset at the thought of her Sa Mo in jail. Jin Ju reports that she hasn’t found Ji Sun yet.
She also pays a visit to Chun, who is out by the lakeside. She tells him she was just checking up on him because she was worried. And vice versa it seems. Chun gives her a box of things that belonged to Ji. Hong’s toady eavesdrops on their conversation.
Jin Ju takes the box home and goes through it. Hong Do, the artist, happens to see her and notices that she’s left one of the hair jewels behind and keeps it. This particular hair ornament is pretty, fairly thin and pointy.
The toady reports back to Hong. Hong then goes out to see Chun. He makes small talk about visiting and the weather. Hong asks him if he’s planning on leaving the Assassins. Chun replies that he’s thinking of leaving “this place altogether.” Hong takes this to mean Joseon. He asks if Chun won’t stay a little longer. He tries to bait Chun with his promise to kill Gwang Taek.
Chun stops him and tells him never to go behind him again. (Explanation 1 – literally, don’t physically do that or he’ll take it as a threat. Explanation 2 – don’t try to use him and hide behind him.)
Gu Hyang reports to Un the details of the plot, that it’s looking bad for the Prince. He wonders to himself what Dong Soo will do. Gu Hyang notices that Un has Ji Sun’s hair ornament.
Un gives the ornament back to Ji Sun. She realizes that he was behind her being able to get the original fur hat that started her business. She tells him the ornament was given to her by the Crown Prince. He asks her if she still blames him. She replies that she no longer hold on to hate like that, as Dong Soo had taught her.
Over at the palace, Dong Soo and Cho Rip are waiting for Seo. One of the palace ladies comes to get Dong Soo. He follows her, as Cho Rip remains, dozing off. It was a summons from the Queen. She tells him that she wants to repay him for saving her life. She asks if he has anything he wants. Nope, he didn’t want a reward. Lord Kim tells him he can’t refuse an offer from the Queen. She tells Lord Kim to take care of him.
Cho Rip and Seo examine the dead attackers again. Cho Rip gathers up their id tags. Dong Soo returns and Cho Rip asks if anyone recognizes any of these dead guys. Seo tells them to go check the records office to see if the names are in the official register. The officer there plunks down the registers for them. Cho Rip notices that the registers smell new. Meanwhile Dong Soo stares down the official, making him nervous. Cho Rip asks if these are the real registers, and the official says they are. Cho Rip asks to make a copy for himself.
When they leave, Dong Soo tells Cho Rip that the official was lying. Cho Rip confirms that the ink on the pages was new. The official overhears them as they plan to check out the names. He runs off to tell Hong’s toady.
Gwang Taek waits in the courtyard at Sa Mo’s. Jin Ju and Mi So arrive, but Jin Ju leaves after seeing Gwang Taek. A delivery of supplies comes from Lord Kim as a present for Dong Soo. Gwang Taek, Jin Ki and some porters leave with the cart.
Cho Rip and Dong Soo check the library files and find that the names are all for people from rural areas with no local relatives, so they are hard to trace. However, one is listed as a son of an official fairly nearby. Cho Rip sets out to find them and tells Dong Soo go meet the official in charge of the registers again. The Prince shows up with the mountain boys, and tells Cho Rip to take one of them along. Sa Mo, however, is still in jail.
Jin Ju stands in front of the prison and ponders who would have been able to break Ji Sun out. She goes down the list, and ends up concluding it must have been Un. She, however, is still being followed by Dae Ung. She goes through the market asking if anyone has seen a little skinny woman (HAHAHA!), but no one has. She runs into Hong Do, who gives her a little satchel as a present. She overhears people gossiping about the palace, and quickly thanks him and runs off, still followed by Dae Ung.
Gwang Taek and Jin Ki return the cart load of gifts to Lord Kim’s house, along with the message that the gift was unnecessary.
Jin Ju goes to Sa Mo’s looking for her father, when she is ambushed by Dae Ung and two minions. As they haul her off, she drops the little red pendant that Chun had given her. When they get back, Jin Ki finds the pendant, but they can’t find her at the house.
Ji Sun asks Un to let her leave. He tells her that people are still hunting for her. She says she feels she has abandoned the rest of the trade group. She is thankful to him, but just can’t abandon them. He asks for more time to make sure she’ll be safe.
Un goes out to a lovely spot by the river and meditates. He recalls Ji telling him that the only way he can live freely is to become the next Chun Joo, and Chun telling him to do as he wants, and lastly Dong Soo telling him not to be a slave to his supposed fate.
He meditates more and then uses his sword to etch a saying into the rocks – thankfully with a caption, giving the meaning more or less as – to solve a problem with resolve.
Un watches Ji Sun, as she in return ponders his promise to let her leave safely. He goes to see Lord Hong at the gisaeng house. He reminds Hong of their agreement that she would be safe. Un tells him that he should consider that Ji Sun’s life is the same as his. Hong accuses him of using Ji Sun as an excuse to attack him. Un tells him that he’s not wrong, but first he needs to use Hong. Hong admits this is an answer he understands.
Hong asks him if he heard about the palace incident. Un says yes, and he knows Hong was behind it as well as this guy – and he picks up a chopstick and flings it behind him, through the door and right by Kenjo’s face. Kenjo enters, and Hong laughingly introduces them.
Hong tells him to kill Sa Mo. Un replies that he learned from Chun that even an assassin needs a reason to kill someone. (implying that he isn’t just going to jump and do Hong’s bidding). Hong tells them there is something else, and another way to deal with Sa Mo.
The registry official tries sneaking off, but Dong Soo is on his tail. He escapes from Dong Soo, but Un tracks him down. The official begs for his life, but Un isn’t inclined to listen. The official grabs a book, says it’s the original register and hands it to Un.
Un slices the official’s hand and tells him that he’s dead – get out of town and never return. The official hands Un his id block, the proof of his life.
Dong Soo arrives and sees Un with the official. Dong Soo tells him to put his sword up, and the official scuttles off. Un tells him that he’s doing this for Ji Sun’s sake. Dong Soo asks where she is, and Un replies that she’s safe, which is more than Dong Soo can say when she’s with him. Dong Soo asks again where she is. Un tells him that if Dong Soo can’t keep her safe, he should just give her up.
Un asks – Sa Mo is in prison, right? He’d better go because the killers will get there soon. Un leaves, and Dong Soo runs towards the prison.
Back at Jang Mi’s, Jin Ki arrives to ask if they’ve seen Jin Ju. Nope. Hong Do arrives with flowers, also looking for Jin Ju.
Kenjo releases Sa Mo from jail. They go out to the courtyard and Sa Mo asks Kenjo why he freed him. Kenjo draws his sword and attacks Sa Mo. Dong Soo shows up to defend Sa Mo.
Kenjo and Dong Soo start sparring. Sa Mo spots guards coming, and they break off the fight. Sa Mo and Dong Soo head off, and Kenjo nods to Hong1, who had been watching.
Dae Ung has Jin Ju held captive. He makes little name tags of all the people Jin Ju holds dear and that he hates. He tells her to be quiet and when she continues to struggle, he first slaps her and tells her again to be obedient and quiet. She headbutts him. He viciously beats her.
Dong Soo and Sa Mo escape the guards, and Sa Mo teases him for using his name again instead of a title (and we get a little of the old Dong Soo grin). Sa Mo then ponders the events and gets a worried look. Meanwhile, the toady sets the guards out to catch Sa Mo. Hong and Kim show up to ask what is going on. They officially hear of the escape and go to check the prison.
They are surprised to find Sa Mo still in jail. He asks them what brought them there so late at night. Sa Mo taunts them by saying that Gwang Taek should be there any old time now.
Indeed, Dong Soo and Sa Mo arrive at the palace. Gwang Taek reports to the King that they have the evidence and that Dong Soo will present it publicly the next day. The King agrees, but wants to know in advance if the Prince was really involved. He is relieved the answer is no.
Gwang Taek has another attack of pain. The King sends for the physician, who diagnoses stomach cancer. He leaves and Dong Soo tells him Sa Mo is still in jail. He coughs more and Dong Soo asks if he is ok. He makes the excuse that he’s worried about Sa Mo.
Un reports to Hong that he killed the registry official. Hong asks if he got the original register. Un says he didn’t. Back at Assassins HQ, Un goes to see Ji Sun. She notices he’s bloodied and cleans his hand. He tells her to get ready to leave.
Dae Ung continues whittling name tags, while Jin Ju wakes up again. He ungags her to show her the tags, and she spits in his face. He viciously beats her again.
Un takes Ji Sun home and tells her to go. Mi So shows up at Sa Mo’s asking where the load of gifts went. He has no clue what she means. Cho Rip comes in, saying that Gwang Taek returned all the gifts to Lord Kim. He also reports that he found a witness about the names.
Cho Rip warns him to be wary of people bearing gifts, and then Mi So drags him off.
Ji Sun enters, much to Dong Soo’s relief. He runs over and asks if she is ok, and finally hugs her. He lets her go and asks about Un. She hands him the register and tells him that Un told her to give it to him.
Dae Ung throws a bucket of water on Jin Ju to revive her, and shows her 5 name blocks – Gwang Taek, Chun, Dong Soo, Jin Ki and Sa Mo. These are people he wants to kill, but will all come for her. Jin Ju vows to kill him herself, and spits in his face again. He gags her again. He throws the blocks in the air, and picks up the one that landed face down. He shows it to her and says it’s her father.
At the palace, Seo arrives with Cho Rip and Dong Soo in tow to present the results of the investigation. First, the original of the register and the name tags carried by the attackers. Hong demands to know how they can prove this is the original, not the one in the office that has the names in it.
He demands that the official report on it’s authenticity. That would be the official who is now supposed to be dead – he’s reported to have failed to appear at court today. Cho Rip says there is another way to confirm it. He brings in one of the people who matches the id. He confirms that he was never a guard, and in fact never had any such training. Cho Rip reports that the other names are similar rural folks who have never been near the palace.
Well, then, who are those dead guys? Japanese, it seems. Dong Soo presents one of their swords. It’s a Japanese sword, which are much different than Joseon swords. As the King asks if that is true, Kenjo arrives to confirm that it is true. He has a guy with him, all tied up. Both Kenjo and Lord Hong claim that this is the guy behind it, he was also behind the josam and ship nonsense. He’s already confessed!
Kenjo goes down on his knees to beg pardon for all this. He says it wasn’t the Japanese government, but he will take the blame and will kill himself. The King pardons him on the grounds that he’s the one who saved him. He orders the fall guy beheaded. And that’s that as far as the court is concerned. Dong Soo and Seo are amazed that Hong had a back up plan to his back up plan.
Sa Mo is released, and they head all home, where Sa Mo is happily greeted by Jang Mi. Gwang Taek asks if Jin Ki found Jin Ju, but she’s still missing.
Dae Ung bribes a little kid to deliver a message to Jin Ki. He reads the bloodstained note and runs after the kid. He can’t find him, so he runs to find Jin Ju.
And there we end episode 21.
I want to mention here that the beatdown Jin Ju got from Dae Ung is one of the worst I’ve seen a female character get in a k-drama, excluding the occasional cable drama like Girl K. I’m including a couple of shows that had really nasty beatings and rape scenes, and many a sageuk where people get tortured and killed. Because they kept repeating it, it was disturbing to watch.
Thank goodness, on the other hand, for the final exit of the creepy bodyguard. That’s one evil lurking character down. Now if only someone would put an end to Dae Ung.