An intense, sometimes breathtaking episode that thrives in its limited use of locations.
This recap of the Netflix K-Drama Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 18, contains spoilers.
As Park Jin vocalises his curiosity over Mu-deok’s agreement to die, we return to the events of yesterday’s episode. Here, Jin Mu tells the Queen to use the ice stone’s power to soul shift so that she can no longer be under suspicion, which in turn would also help put an end to the Unanimous Assembly and allow the shady characters to exit Songrim with their desired item. Then, the revelation that Mu-deok is Bu-yeon gets replayed, as we see that the woman once presumed to be a meek maid has gained control of the ice stone. With chaos ensuing, So-i decides to strike, hoping to ensure that her façade is not uncovered. Yet all that comes of the event is the disappearance of Mu-deok, the fake Bu-yeon, and the ice stone itself.
Alchemy of Souls season 1, episode 18 recap
Angered, Jin Mu wonders where the item has got to, allowing himself to be utterly confused by the situation. Meanwhile, Jang Uk and co. also find themselves attempting to piece together what unfolded until they are interrupted by the “fairy” Yun-ok. Soon, dubiety persists once more, with the young master puzzled by the appearance of flowers amidst the fake fog that masks the energy hidden behind it. Seo Yul deduces that this all means that there is a barrier around Jeongjingak, which we later find out is due to the ice stone’s energy entering the area. There’s another nugget too, that both Mu-deok and So-i appear fine, even if the latter is somewhat shaken. Outside, Jinyowon are blamed for what is happening, an accusation that isn’t necessarily helpful given the ongoing panic over who is trapped inside the barrier.
When the Crown Prince questions So-i about what happened at the training centre, the swindler feigns ignorance, skimming over the influence of Mu-deok to avoid being caught in a trap. It’s not the most convincing account, with the fake Bu-yeon attempting to claim that she fainted when the wind struck, and doesn’t know where she is because of her blindness, but Mu-deok intervenes to prevent suspicion, pointing to the fact that the interrogated woman is looking rather pale. As such, So-i is allowed to rest, yet we hear in the background Seo Yul’s vocal pondering on what is being hidden.
Realising that Mu-deok must know the truth, Jang Uk switches attention onto his maid, allowing her to be questioned by the Crown Prince. However, excuses over her whereabouts surprisingly land without any doubts from those gathered, leaving the former assassin firmly in the clear for now. Later on though, we see that Mu-deok has had her powers returned, and is more than willing to use them for a simple task like making tea.
Next, Mu-deok reflects on what allowed her to regain her strength. It was, as expected, a conversation with Bu-yeon inside the ice stone that helped, yet there is a warning that the item cannot be fully owned, just its power used. Additionally, the former assassin is informed that she will have to “endure” the consequences of overwhelming power, the likes of which cause a flood when a desire for rain emerges, but it appears like Naksu is up for the challenge. With that being said, it is clear that Mu-deok is not quite aware that she is Bu-yeon.
After Mu-deok humorously daydreams about the bodies she can inherit once able to soul shift, she returns to Jang Uk, dropping on him the bombshell that this is the end of the road for the duo. Confessing that she has regained her powers, in addition to the fact she plans to move her soul’s location, Naksu puts an end to any talk of a future between her and the young master, willing to sacrifice their relationship for her strength.
However, we soon see that this was all a hypothetical interaction, and the real one goes nothing like it was meant to. Instead, Mu-deok finds herself stunned at her pupil’s realisation that they are currently in the ice stone, alongside his determination to try and steal the item without anyone knowing. Then, Jang Uk reassures that he is willing to take responsibility if Naksu ever ran away with the ice stone once regaining her powers (he does not currently know that she already has), but does admit that he is afraid of being left by the person he loves. “Please do not abandon me. If you do, I will cry a river,” the young master states, flustering his pseudo-maid into what appears to be a confession.
Yet, it is not allowed to come. Unfortunately for Mu-deok, Lady Heo has arrived on the scene with the key to the room of forbidden books, where Jang Uk wishes to look up some information on sorcery. So the former assassin is left alone, seemingly caught in some kind of regret. Elsewhere, Heo Yeom attempts to maintain calmness outside of the barrier, though it becomes clear that the respective other members of the Unanimous Assembly are all hatching their own plans that could see a fight erupt over the ice stone. As for the King, during this time of uncertainty, he remains laser focused on the impending appearance of the King’s Star.
As Dang-gu and Cho-yeon return to Songrim to become aware of what’s happening, we return to So-i. The swindler is worried that she will get caught, only to ease in her noticeable tenseness when Seo Yul arrives with a honey biscuit. There is a warning given here, that the genius mage should not tell Jin Mu that the two have met before, causing Seo Yul to wonder if he has been spared purposefully. With that in mind, the subsequent scene demonstrates an understanding between Jang Uk and his friend that the “pitiful” So-i is being used in a similar vein as Naksu once was. In the background, Master Kang watches as the fake Bu-yeon wanders off.
Before long, Park Jin is told about Kang’s escape, with the leader of Songrim instantly aware that the soul shifter could be inside the barrier. Then, we cut back to Jeongjingak, where the monster halts his pursuit of So-i when she tells him that she is aware of his identity. Quickly stating that they’re on the same side, the swindler offers to find someone for Master Kang to steal the energy of, kickstarting a makeshift alliance between the pairing that persists beyond just one fatality. Cunningly, the fake Bu-yeon does realise a potential benefit to the partnership, hoping to use it for the disposal of Mu-deok.
Following on from Cha Beom’s energy being drained from a sword, one which appears to be affected by the barrier given that it has the same effect on the Crown Prince, the group hand their weapons in and agree not to cast any spells while inside. Concurrently, Maidservant Kim holds out hope that Jang Gang will return given the fuss going around, something that does not appear far fetched given that the Gwanju is shown to have appeared at Cheonbugwan. In their Secret Room, the once disappeared mage reflects on his past with Jin Mu, where he had told him of his plans to destroy the Soul Ejectors, and seal the ice stone in Lake Gyeongcheondaeho. Most importantly, the gwanju internally expresses his regrets at not cutting his assistant’s energy flow off, as well as the fact he did not come clean. Stood in contemplation of how the ice stone was retrieved, we move on.
After Nasku unsheathes her sword, admitting to herself that the only difference she feels is that she is a soul shifter, the former assassin debates whether she would be taking the other mages’ energy from them if she took the energy of the ice stone. Knowing that this loss of strength would cause death to those in Jeongjingak, Mu-deok seems torn at the idea of having to take responsibility for such wrongdoings. She is soon greeted by the Crown Prince too, causing some deeper reflection that those who are close to her would not be spared from passing away. As such, Naksu accounts for her woes by gifting the royal a honey biscuit, hoping that it can express her gratitude towards him aptly. Tenderly, here there does appear to be an unspoken acceptance between the two that the affection the Crown Prince holds towards the maid will not be reciprocated when he knocks back the confectionary.
That night, So-i tasks Mu-deok with fetching her a new blanket, knowing that this will lead the real Bu-yeon into Master Kang’s grasp. However, a warm interaction with Seo Yul prevents this, as the genius mage becomes flattered by his temporary servant’s remembrance of his life/personality to the point he takes over the task. So, Mu-deok, who is dwelling further on the idea that those close to her will die if she chooses to drain energy, and is attempting to rid herself of guilt, is left to find Jang Uk.
Outside, the Crown Prince notices that the barrier filters what is allowed to exit while thinking about why none of the other mages have broken it down yet. Jang Uk is on hand to reply that this is likely because everyone else is fighting over the ice stone, before asking the royal if he could still get rid of Jin Mu and the Queen if he was offered the power of the item. Admiring the admittance of greed when the Crown Prince says that it would be “difficult to decline such grand power,” the young master is honest too, saying that he would want to save someone out of sincerity if he had access to the ice stone’s energy. Following that, the two team up to send a stone through the barrier which would notify those outside of their need to conduct a rescue.
Upon hearing that Seo Yul has gone to get the blankets, So-i rushes to stop her crush from meeting with Master Kang. Confused that the swindler may be able to see, the genius mage stands still until the soul shifter appears, ready to kill. An intense fight ensues, one which looks set to see Seo Yul disposed of until Lady Heo intervenes. Burning the monster does not appear to deter it, though, as Master Kang soon wipes the genius mage out, and feeds off the energy of two others.
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While Seo Yul is treated, Lady Heo explains the situation to Jang Uk and co., helping them realise that the ice stone’s presence increases the power of soul shifters. Naturally, the young master also surmises that Mu-deok’s abilities may have returned too. In time, the former assassin looks set to prove her recovered strength anyway, as she heads out to come to Jang Uk’s aid when finding out that her pupil has a high chance of dying once trapping himself and Master Kang inside the secret room.
Noticing blood on the floor, and a closed door which could signal death, Mu-deok tears up at the potential loss of her student. Though composure is soon regained, as the overwhelming power of Naksu takes out the monstrous Master Kang with ease. Then, upset returns, until Jang Uk arrives behind the former assassin, wanting to know why the regaining of strength was hidden from him. Pushing Mu-deok for an answer on what she will do now that the sword is unsheathed, the maid withdraws it, ready to hear the young master’s other promise. This, as we see, begins with an emotionally charged kiss, which draws an end to the episode.
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