A steady chapter that favors methodical plot progression and subtle character development.
This recap of Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 5 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
After a flashback scene shows a young Naksu bear witness to the four families of Daeho killing her father, in addition to the offer from the shady Jin Mu that eventually shaped her into becoming an assassin, we return to the present day, where she and Jang Uk arrive at Danhyanggok to train. Judging by the master’s harsh words, which include statements about sleeping wherever her pupil collapses, it appears that it’ll be an intense regimen, even if the young master is more intrigued by the cooking of chicken. Confused, the woman now living as Mu-deok wonders why things that do not belong to her are where her old house was, and vocalises the fact that someone else must be living there.
Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 5 recap
As it turns out, the man residing at the house is Teacher Lee, the magician who is currently harnessing the spirit of Sapsali inside a dog, which flusters Mu-deok, due to her concern that the canine will confront her. That is until a confident Jang Uk intervenes, ready to flirt too, with him humorously confessing that should the animal have wagged its tail, he would have believed that the décor and hospitality was all part of a plan to have him live with her, not necessarily train. Meanwhile, there’s an assembly of mages brought together to agree on the duel set to take place between the Crown Prince and Jang Uk. Here, it’s established that such a fight will only to be to settle any misunderstandings, with Park Jin explaining that it has nothing to do with the position of Gwanju, while the other mages talk about the competitor fleeing the area.
Riled up, one of the mages suggest that Jang Uk’s rights as a mage are disqualified to prevent the duel, but such a request is outright refused, and Park Jin tackles the burden of holding Songrim responsible for the clash so that nobody else can suffer. Though, it is further established that the mages believe that no matter where the young master goes, he will never be someone’s pupil. Of course, that’s wrong, and the next scene shows the domestic life Jang Uk has with Mu-deok, with the former’s care emphasised when he props his master on the bed instead of himself.
Returning to the house to inspect the soul shifter inside of it, Master Lee gets ready to kill Mu-deok, believing it is better for her to die in his hands than run in fear. However, he finds himself intrigued by Naksu’s unique loss of energy, and overall fair health instead, until Jang Uk stunts his vocal ponderings. A small-scale conflict then occurs, but it’s obvious that the experienced magician has more than just a slim advantage on the rookie mage. Even more curious now, this time over both of the house’s residents, Master Lee brushes Jang Uk aside.
The next day, we find out that there was more to this confrontation, as both of the men involved remember Naksu watching, whereas she only recalls waking up after experiencing a vision of the woman she overthrew the soul of. Calling her a “special” soul shifter, and confiding in his companion that there is a “great soul” dwelling inside of her body, the magician wishes to get to know Mu-deok first, instead of pursue any further action. Elsewhere, Dang-gu and Seo Yul gossip a little about what their two friends are up to, with the latter finding himself rather concerned by the idea of them being in the dangerous Danhyanggok.
Seeing that Master Lee has mastered even Chisu, Jang Uk and Mu-deok are fascinated by the man who resides at the same place as they do. That is until he comes with a warning for the young master, which is that he has been drinking tea full of chaste herbs, meaning there’s a lower libido in store for the man who is just starting to learn the tricks of the trade. Shocked, Jang Uk cannot greet the ‘Hemp Master’ who Mu-deok is enamoured with, and wishes for the tonic to help up his sexual desires. With that being said, it’s Naksu who has a more important matter to discuss, as she wishes for the magician to help with her pupil’s unreliable right arm energy control.
Not wishing to accept the compromise that he must continue to drink chaste herb tea in exchange for teachings about the energy control, Jang Uk finds himself in a stroppy mood, one only subdued when energy trickles out in a big enough fashion to cut the forehead of his master. Naksu is not fussed, though, knowing that it means her pupil is getting stronger, which will in turn lead to her own powers returning. Meanwhile, Park Jin recalls being told that nobody can find out about the King’s Star, or the secret regarding Jang Uk’s birth, only to be interrupted by a curious Jin Mu, who wishes to look into the constellation himself. Instead, he is antagonised about starting his own family line, and the investigation he is required to cooperate with involving the soul shifting constellation recorder in Cheonbugwan.
While the investigation brings about nothing suspicious, a flustered Jin Mu heads to the secret room to take care of the dead body Eunuch Kim absorbed the energy of. Predictably, when Park Jin arrives to inspect it there is nothing suspicious around, as the assassins are already one step ahead. Or so it seems, as the leader of Songrim had already instructed Dang-gu and Seo Yul to watch and follow Jin Mu’s men, knowing that they would attempt to remove anything hiding in the secret room. A battle ensues, intense in the way it seems to almost end up fruitless for the young pairing, but surprisingly allows for them to reclaim the lost spirit plaque as the dead body floats in the water beside them.
Back at the secret room, an irritated Jin Mu sends Eunuch Kim out to deliver a chest, waiting until he is gone to admit that he will have to be “discarded” soon, and that another Eunuch should be found, this time to house the soul of the assistant Gwanju’s underling. In this scene, we also discover that such menacing soul shifting is all done as part of Jin Mu’s serving of the Queen, who he obviously wishes to impress.
As Park Jin tasks Dang-gu and Seo Yul with finding Jang Uk to quiz him about the spirit plaque he lost, the Crown Prince watches his mother receive her usual gift from Jin Mu, while Jang Uk settles into a more domestic lifestyle with Master Lee to the dismay of Mu-deok, who believes this goes against the two’s agreement. The young master ends up irritated himself too, wishing for his teacher to leave should she want to disrupt the peace he has begun to enjoy instead of worrying about the imminent duel he must return for.
Next, Sapsali stumbles across the dead body floating around, before we cut to Ho-kyung offering a marriage with Cho-yeon as a potential route out of the duel for Jang Uk. It’d work due to the plaque they own which allows them to defy royal orders, but Maidservant Kim still appears flustered by the suddenness of such a request. Meanwhile, Master Lee wishes for Jang Uk to become his pupil, with a humorous anecdote over his celibacy-breaking former student Heo Yeom thrown in for good measure. The experienced magician realises that the young master is just holding back in his current role, a point made with the shock offer for his energy flow to be cut off so that he can live a normal life. Concurrently, Naksu has returned to her former employers so that a rumour can be spread about her pupil’s mastering of Ryusu, ignoring the idea that it could backfire on the in-demand trainee.
Narrowly avoiding questioning from Cheonbugwan officials because of the Crown Prince’s surprise appearance, Mu-deok instead finds herself moaning about Jang Uk with the royal, with the cocky man happy to play some seemingly harmless tricks involving her dislike of cinnamon in return. Elsewhere, Jang Uk and Master Lee head to the dead body affected by a soul shifter, and we find out that the only way one of these monsters cannot run wild is if they have mastered Hwansu, something only few can do. Oh, and the experienced magician attempts to make the man he is so fond of his pupil once again.
While Master Lee steals the wagon holding the dead body via his rainbow distraction, Dang-gu and Seo Yul arrive at Danhyanggok, and Jang Uk collects the drunken Mu-deok, who has been busy flattering the Crown Prince. As they are returning to the place their friends are waiting for them, Seo Yul once more recalls his days alongside Naksu, and the way she wished to try summoning his bird from a rock he once thought was high. In the present, he gets to hug the woman he once loved as she falls from the same height he was fearful of, as Dang-gu gushes over the action.
At the house, Mu-deok begins to realise just how much of her shared past with Seo Yul is remembered, but any sentimentality is seldom enjoyed as Dang-gu begins to drink the chaste herb tea. And, even though Jang Uk lies about it being good for his friends, his drunken master is able to intervene with the true medicinal nature of the beverage. At the same time, Master Lee exits the place he is currently occupying along with his dog, and the wagon.
Following a discussion about Jang Uk’s spirit plaque that sees the young master plead ignorance to when and where it was lost, Heo Yeom gushes over the idea that a marriage may soon be on the horizon. Yet Park Jin and Maidservant Kim aren’t so keen on the idea that the rookie mage is tied down, believing that such a thing should only come when there’s true love involved. Any stalemate isn’t able to reach a resolution anyway, as before long the trio receive intel that Master Lee has broken the barrier, and wishes to speak with his former pupil. Then, with a heart-to-heart between Jang Uk and Mu-deok involving tree climbing together, and whether or not the woman formerly known as Naksu should be saved if captured by one of Danju’s men, the episode ends.