A near flawless episode that excitingly sets up the story for the remaining weeks
This recap of Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 11 contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Picking up where we left off with Jang Uk and Mu-deok’s heart-to-heart, the maid wishes to forget what has been said, burning her love letter in the hopes that what has been exchanged can be dismissed. The young master states that he can now read what is unable to be seen, though, causing some introspection in Naksu that she is in love with her pupil. A compromise is then seemingly found, that the two are able to share the “weakness” of affection, but Mu-deok changes her tone swiftly, claiming that the love Jang Uk feels is a result of her cruel poisoning of him. What follows is a much rawer back-and-forth about the mistreatment the mage has suffered at the hands of his love interest, as well as the fact that he still misses his “antidote” constantly. From now on, Jang Uk will continue to tell of his “symptoms” to Mu-deok, a person he has no shame in front of.
Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 11 recap
Next, Dang-gu welcomes the new Songrim servants, kickstarting their new lives with alcohol and meat. He’s then asked about his familiarity with Mu-deok by Maidservant Park, so that the bag she brought with her to the exam, in addition to the entrance plaque, can be returned. Elsewhere, Seo Yul reflects on Jang Uk’s appearance during the fitness test, surmising that only the young master has been on his crush’s mind. Soon though, the genius mage is interrupted by Dang-gu, who shows him the bird whistle found in Mu-deok’s bag, curious as to why she possesses it. No answer is shown, but we do see later on that Seo Yul confronts the maid over why she has his prized possession, claiming that her love for him is enough of a reason. Then, he gives the whistle over to Mu-deok once more when she asks for him to keep it, wanting her to do a better job of showing him that she loves him this time around.
Concurrently, Dang-gu irritates Jang Uk over the alleged romantic feelings between Seo Yul and Mu-deok, with the gossiper happy to share details of private meetings between the pairing. Such revelations trouble the young master, who wonders about the potential truth of his friend’s words when trying to sleep, starting to believe that his love for his master is purely one-sided. “I should just poison myself and die,” Jang Uk dramatically states as he tosses and turns in bed.
At that point, we return to Seo Yul’s conversation with Mu-deok. Here, he is explaining his thoughts about not needing to inform someone you love them often as it will be hard to say it even once, as well as the context behind the whistle that belonged to “a friend I once failed to confess my feelings for.” With a revelation that he always wanted to tell Naksu that he liked her, and another flashback to their younger days, the genius mage departs, telling the maid that he can be approached for help at any time now that they will be seeing each other more often in Songrim.
When told about Jang Uk’s success with ‘Words of the Heart’, Master Lee asks Heo Yeom to get Park Jin to hand the book over to Jinyowon. It’s due to his understanding that Seo-gyeong must have been frustrated that everybody is privy to his love letter, though Heo Yeom skims over that fact, instead pointing out that Lee has a fondness towards Jang Uk. “He is a special young man, so I have my eyes on him,” the teacher says, well aware of just who the young master is, and the context behind his birth.
Next, we see that Mu-deok has become annoyed over Jang Uk’s newfound lethargy. “Stop being stubborn with your spite,” the maid says when told that the demotivation in getting out of bed is another symptom of the poisoning. With that being said, a surprising breakthrough is made in getting the young master up and about when Mu-deok puts on a cute act which is cringeworthy enough to ensure Jang Uk starts moving.
While studying, the young master is given an offer by one of his contemporaries. If Jang Uk can teach a fellow mage how to read ‘Words of the Heart’, then he will be taught the Hyeongong Technique of swordsmanship. Afterwards, he’s informed that should he participate in a duel with a different mage, a sapphire training mat that can double energy shall be lent to him. However, both of these proposals are rebuffed, with Jang Uk eager to go against Mu-deok’s will at this moment in time.
When the master and pupil eventually end up bickering about the missed opportunities, Jang Uk comes clean, saying that he needs to sleep to recover from the shock of being told he’s been poisoned, so Mu-deok should stay away for a bit. “You just want to make me feel frustrated,” the Songrim servant replies, hearing back that she should at least feel irritated over her pupil’s agony.
As such, Mu-deok complains to Sang-ho about her young master, only to be told that there will be no interference as long as the rules are kept to. Elsewhere, Park Jin is informed that Jang Uk has gone home, relieving the leader of Songrim who wishes for the mage to remain lazy. Park Jin is currently waiting to be seen Lady Jin to return ‘Words of the Heart’, and when the pair do eventually come together, it’s clear that the earlier meeting she had was with Jin Mu, the assistant Gwanju hoping to manipulate Jinyowon’s leader.
During the exchanging of the book, we do find out about Bu-yeon’s extraordinary birth (she was born after 13 months of pregnancy, on the day Jang Gang picked as blessed). A later scene then seems to show that the alchemy of souls was used to ensure that the child who had died was brought into the world. “I will find you,” Ho-gyeong says that night when looking at a portrait of her eldest daughter, just as Park Jin, who knows that something suspicious is going on, is informed of Jin Mu’s presence in a meeting with Jinyowon’s leader.
In the secret room of Cheonbugwan, Jin Mu is filtering through candidates to play the role of Bu-yeon. He settles on So-i, but the trickster is swiftly exposed as being able to see, meaning that she must be killed. Or at least it seems that way until she practically begs to complete the task given, leading to a challenge which shows off her unflinching willingness to acting blind. Thus, So-i is afforded the opportunity, and is deemed to now be Bu-yeon.
As Mu-deok contemplates what she needs to do to motivate Jang Uk, she is interrupted by a watching Crown Prince. Ready to potentially expose her cheating in the servant exam should she not be thankful, the maid soon puts on an act of gratitude while the royal brags about the test sheet he helped complete. The Crown Prince then begins to complain about Jang Uk’s lack of skill, allowing for Mu-deok to capitalise on the situation with a bet the audience is currently not privy to.
After Maidservant Kim discusses her pride in Jang Uk, and his likeliness to Jang Gang, the young master is touched, unable to be bothered by the gossip that once troubled his mind. However, she does strike a cord too, reminding the young master that he was at his happiest when returning from training, not slacking off. So Jang Uk heads out to study, reinvigorated in his quest to achieve.
When the young master arrives back, he is directed to the training centre, where he is greeted by a waiting duel opponent. What follows is a quick loss for Jang Uk, and the awarding of a golden toad from the Crown Prince to the victor. Here, we find out the details of the bet too: that the rookie mage will fight every day for ten days, and should he be unsuccessful in all duels, Mu-deok will hand over the egg jade originally gifted to her by Jang Uk himself.
Following this, Dang-gu and Seo Yul hear of the harsh bet, as the young master takes out his frustrations on his teacher, upset over the motivational tactic employed. He doesn’t believe the sincerity in Mu-deok’s words either, wishing instead that he did not share such a precious item with the person he loves. Meanwhile, the Crown Prince talks with Jin Mu about putting Jang Uk in his place, but the assistant Gwanju is more interested in the jade, which he knows contains yin energy, and has a red partner containing yang. Realising the meaning of the item, the Crown Prince subsequently becomes irritated by the prize of the bet, later wanting Eunuch Oh to smash it to pieces.
After Master Lee affectionately gifts flowers to Maidservant Kim, we see that she really is ignoring Park Jin, causing the leader of Songrim to be in distress. So he heads to her, hearing that he should be gifting Kim beautiful things if he wants to show that he cares. Vocalising his wish for her to visit him next time she is in Songrim, the Maidservant abruptly leaves, still evidently rather frustrated.
As Dang-gu spends time with Cho-yeon, with the two appearing to bond more intimately, the Jinyowon Lady soon expresses her happiness in potentially being free to marry who she loves should her sister be found by Jin Mu. As such, a deflated Dang-gu talks about how the two should end their fake engagement, before adding that he never pretended to have feelings for his pseudo-fiancée. Rather, his affection is sincere, so much so he is happy to lose his rights to become Songrim’s heir for a marriage. Touched by the words, Cho-yeon then follows Dang-gu after he departs, claiming to have met the man she desires already.
“I will never give up on you,” Dang-gu states, ready to commit to his love interest for life. Elsewhere, Park Jin struggles to figure out which flowers to send to Maidservant Kim, settling on purchasing an entire row prior to spotting his nephew holding hands with Cho-yeon. A meeting between leader and heir ensues, where Songrim’s main man coincidentally discovers Jin Mu’s involvement in trying to “find” Bu-yeon.
While Maidservant Kim speculates further that Lady Heo is the woman Jang Uk has love towards due to her heart-to-heart with him, Park Jin talks with Master Lee about Jin Mu’s potential masterplan to become strong enough to fight Songrim, something that would see the ice stone used to make the Soul Ejector revealed to the entirety of the world. Hearing once more about the power such an item holds, which includes allowing someone to get out of one body and into a desirable new one, we see how the alchemy of souls is being used in the present as an evil act to preserve “valuable” mages.
Claiming that sooner or later, a day will come where those involved in Cheonbugwan’s schemes can show people that they were right, Jin Mu evokes a visceral reaction of intense applause from his willing audience. Then, he officially gives So-i her mission, which is to win over the heart of Ho-gyeong, and then bring her to the secret room so it will be easier to reveal the ice stone to people. Here, though, we see the more cynical side of things too, as Woo-tak is working with the assistant Gwanju.
Meanwhile, Master Lee compares Jang Uk with Seo-gyeong, hypothesising that he may have appeared to deal with the chaos brought from the ice stone. “I am curious to see if this new star will slowly fade away, or start shining brightly,” he says, as we see the young master battle intensely with his contemporaries, hoping to win back the jade. And, even though he struggles, the interest of the Crown Prince, who cannot quite believe the persistence of his adversary, is piqued.
Hoping for Jang Uk to “fight and perish,” knowing that it will make him stronger, Mu-deok’s words bring a close to the episode, just as her pupil faces another setback in the quest to reclaim the jade.