Episode 12 of Damo opens in the mountain forest. It’s daylight, and soldiers are nodding off all over the camp. Hwangbo announces that he’s taking over the search and starts to rouse them, but the local commander demands that he allow the soldiers some rest after searching all night. Hwangbo starts to argue, but Officer Lee intervenes and takes him aside for a private talk. He agrees with the local commander, and accuses Hwangbo of being obsessed with Chae Ohk, not Jang Sung Baek, and running his men into the ground because of it. Officer Baek, looking on, is shocked at Officer Lee’s audacity. Hwangbo doesn’t deny obsession, but insists it’s all about Jang Sung Baek.
Hwangbo has just questioned whether Officer Lee has enough faith in Hwangbo to serve under him when they are interrupted by the arrival of forces from the district office. Their leader praises the local commander and sends him and his troops home. He tries to do the same with Hwangbo, but Hwangbo refuses to leave. They debate jurisdiction and authority. Officer Baek butts in, ignoring Hwangbo’s orders to keep quiet. Hwangbo finally shuts him up, then turns on Officer Lee and orders him to return to camp.
Officer Lee stalks off in a rage, with Officer Baek close behind, trying to calm him down. Officer Lee speaks of his relatives who were killed by rebels, how his remaining family struggled to survive, and how he thought his life had stabilized when he met Hwangbo. But now Hwangbo is losing it.
Officer Baek points out something that Hwangbo and Officer Lee were too riled to notice. The forces that are supposedly from the district office have arrived far too quickly. There is no way a message could have gotten to them and soldiers could have reached the search site since the previous afternoon. They must’ve known Jang Sung Baek was on his way here before he even arrived, which means they are answering to someone at court who has sent them to rescue him. The Left Police officers decide to take some action of their own. Meanwhile, Hwangbo tries to work with the new forces, but seethes when his men are ordered to stand guard rather than participating in the search.
In the cave, Jang Sung Baek is feverish, and Chae Ohk is exhausted from trying to find an exit. Finally, she discovers a small pool. She takes a little water to Jang Sung Baek, whose lips are parched and cracked. He asks her to help him to the water so he can clean his infected wound. She hesitates, but she can’t leave him like that. When she puts her arms around him to help him walk, they are both still for a moment, moved by the contact. She drops him roughly by the water, and he accuses her of cruelty. Then he asks her for help to clean his wound. Again she can’t refuse him.
The King is instructing a handful of attendants on his son’s forthcoming marriage. Chief Joh is present, and the King rebukes him for not having brought security to the court. Chief Joh asks to speak with him privately, and tells him they discovered a spy at the Left Police Station, which led them to a suspect at the court. Chief Joh is reluctant to name the culprit, but when the King insists, he reveals it is the Minister of Defense. The King hands him a letter from the Minister of Defense, in which he protests his innocence, but offers to resign for the King’s sake, and names Chief Joh as the only man the King can trust. The King asks Chief Joh who he is supposed to believe in.
Officer Baek tells Hwangbo that Officer Lee has gone to the district headquarters the new soldiers claim to have come from to suss out who is involved in the conspiracy. Hwangbo tells him to keep his sword ready. When Jang Sung Baek is found, they will take down the conspirator forces.
The Magistrate and the Japanese soldier are playing a board game when the rebel who retrieved Gak Chool’s body breaks through the door and throws the coffin at their feet. He shouts at them, and at Soo Myung, demanding that the Magistrate remove the government forces that interfered with their attempt to rescue Boss Jang. The Magistrate advises him that those men are on their side. Meanwhile, they are searching for Jang Sung Baek with arrows drawn, plainly not expecting to find him alive, but determined to find his body.
In the cave, Jang Sung Baek speaks of his past sorrows, including the abduction of his 7 year old sister, the hardships he and his mother experienced, and his dreams of a normal life in a better world. He asks what is wrong about treating the sick and feeding the hungry, and points out that this is treason to Chae Ohk. She says she doesn’t know about such things, but she is obviously affected by his words.
Then he goes into convulsions and the damo works desperately to revive him, tearing open his shirt so she can put water on his chest. A slower, sadder version of the opening theme music plays (translated as Destiny or Fate, #9 on the OST). She finds her headband next to his heart, and covers him with her clothes and her body to keep him warm. After awhile, he seems improved, though still unconscious. She looks at her sword and smiles ruefully – she is trying to save him, not kill him. She curls up to sleep next to him with her head on his chest.
Jang Sung Baek awakens to find her sleeping. He sees the headband in her hair, and that she has used her own clothes to warm him, and cuddles her, stroking her face and hair. She wakens suddenly, jumps up and runs away from him. She sits out of sight in a corner of the cave, shaking her head at her own behavior.
Hwangbo is sneaking quietly through the woods with just a few men.
Jang Sung Baek caresses the outer robe that Chae Ohk covered him with and smiles. His infection crisis seems to have passed. He tells her that he was happiest when they were living together on the mountain. After carrying himself ready for battle his whole life, he wanted to throw down his sword the first time he saw her. He dreaded that they might have to fight each other, and wished he could lead an ordinary life. Even if he dies there, he won’t be able to forget her.
She tells him not to misunderstand, that she only wanted to capture him. She suddenly gasps and falls back in the middle of her sentence, and he drags himself laboriously across the cave on his stomach to see what happened. She has been bitten by a centipede.
Above, Hwangbo stops suddenly, listening intently as if he has sensed something. He looks around and sees the hole in the ground that the damo fell into.
Jang Sung Baek reaches Chae Ohk and sees the centipede as Hwangbo begins calling down the hole, asking if anyone is there. Then he starts calling more loudly, for Chae Ohk. Jang Sung Baek urges her to hurry up and answer him, so she can get help. He starts to call out himself, but she stops him, covering his mouth with her hand and shaking her head. If they come for her, they will kill him.
Hwangbo stops calling. His moment of hope and intuition has passed, and in a voiceover he asks himself whether Chae Ohk is alive. His life without her is nothing.
Jang Sung Baek pulls the clothing away from Chae Ohk’s leg and finds the bite on her ankle. It’s already swollen. She hands him her dagger, and he cuts open the wound and sucks out the venom (don’t try this at home). Later, they are lying side by side, recovering from their respective wounds, and he asks why she didn’t call out, and at least save herself. She answers him the same way he answered her when she asked why he he tried to save her from falling into the cave – if he was in her place, what would he have done? She acted instinctively. She turns away from him, but tells him she is cold, and asks him to hold her. He gathers her up in his arms.
The leader of the conspiring soldiers is addressing his troops. They have combed the whole mountain and not found Jang Sung Baek. As they pack up to withdraw, the former thief nags them to continue searching for Chae Ohk. They ignore him, and Officer Baek takes him aside and tells him to follow them and see where they go. Then Officer Baek goes to tell Hwangbo about the withdrawal. He thinks they know that Hwangbo’s small remaining force has been discreetly searching on their own.
Chae Ohk awakens alone. Jang Sung Baek is sitting nearby. He asks for her name – he is very ill again. There were cuts inside his mouth from her hitting him previously, and the centipede poison has gotten into them. He didn’t think, but he would rather die than be left behind. He tells her he loves her, but if he is reborn, they should not meet again. They are both weeping. Suddenly he falls over. Chae Ohk throws herself on him, weeping. With his last ounce of strength he lifts his clenched hand. Chae Ohk opens his fingers. He is clutching something he found in the cave earlier. It is damp dirt.
Chae Ohk runs to where she saw him digging and scrapes away at the soil around a large rock. When she works the rock free, she finds an exit from the cave with running water beyond it. As the daylight shines in on her face, and she listens in vain for a sound from where she left him, she answers his question, Jang Jae Hui is her real name. She wonders why he stopped fighting and gave up when they could have escaped together. She goes back to him, and begs him to open his eyes, reminding him of his dreams for a new world, and for them to live together, and that she hasn’t answered him yet. She loves him too. She’s sick of being alone. She starts to sob, begging him not to die.
Hwangbo and 1/2 a dozen men meet the departing forces at the waterfall. Their captain says he’s evacuating, since Jang Sung Baek seems to have gotten away, and Hwangbo should too. Hwangbo draws his sword and confronts them, although he is absurdly outnumbered. Just at that moment, Jang Sung Baek and Chae Ohk come shooting down the waterfall, landing in the pool between the two forces.
Chae Ohk stands up in the water, trying to figure out what is going on. When she sees Hwangbo, she looks guilty, and seeing that, he grows angry. Officer Baek says the other soldiers are rebels, and urges her to quickly join the Left Police soldiers. The conspirator captain orders his men to capture her.
The damo looks back at Jang Sung Baek, who is floating in the water unconscious. One of Hwangbo’s men grabs him and holds a sword to his throat. Officer Baek jumps in with his sword, and threatens to kill Boss Jang if the conspirator soldiers come any closer. The Left Police officers call again for Chae Ohk to join them, and one of Hwangbo’s men heads in her direction. She looks back at Jang Sung Baek and runs the other way, attacking the leader of the conspirator forces, and almost immediately allowing him to capture her. Under her breath, she tells him to offer to trade her for Jang Sung Baek.
The conspirator captain holds a sword to her throat and orders Hwangbo to throw down his sword. Hwangbo does, but he eases a knife into his hand, as he threatens to kill the captain if Chae Ohk is hurt. He refuses the trade of a convicted traitor (when was he convicted??) for a mere damo, however, and tells the captain to do what he will. Officer Baek intervenes and urges Hwangbo to make the trade. Chae Ohk is family. They can always recapture someone who is alive, but they can’t revive the dead. Hwangbo orders him to stop, but makes no attempt to intervene as Officer Baek drags the floating and still unconscious Jang Sung Baek towards the conspirator forces.
Chae Ohk is released, and can’t help looking anxiously at Jang Sung Baek as he is dragged past her in the water, under the eye of Hwangbo, who understands all too well what her look means. It is breaking her heart to separate from him, but he will have a chance to live. She weeps on Officer Baek’s chest, but as soon as the conspirators have gotten Jang Sung Baek safely away, their captain orders his soldiers to kill Hwangbo and his men. Officer Lee has arrived with backup forces just in time, however, so it is the remaining conspirators who are killed.
The former thief runs out to tell Chae Ohk how happy is to see her, while Office Baek bows down to Hwangbo and asks to receive his punishment for trading away Jang Sung Baek. To everyone’s shock, Hwangbo orders the officers to confine Chae Ohk immediately.
The Defense Minister is meeting with a small group of veiled men (making me realize that I have never seen a man in a veil before). Jang Sung Baek will be reproved for his rash behavior, but it is Chief Joh who is their greatest threat, since he has high moral standing and the trust of the military.
Chief Joh sits alone, contemplating his sword gloomily. The spy is listening for sounds from his office. When he hears the sword drawn, he goes running in, just in time to hold Chief Joh back from stabbing himself. Nan Hui appears in the doorway and asks what has made him this way. Since she has already lost her brother, she begs her father not to leave her all alone. Or, she will go with him. She pulls out a knife. He slowly lowers his sword. Nan Hui sinks to the ground weeping, Chief Joh lowers his head in shame, and the spy looks pleased.
All of the Left Police forces are asleep in their overnight encampment except Hwangbo, who is torturing himself with the memory of Chae Ohk’s face as she watched Jang Sung Baek being torn from her side. He goes to the tent where she is being held, relieving the guard. He unties her and tells her to sit up. She does, but won’t meet his eyes. He asks why she caused them to lose Jang Sung Baek. When she doesn’t answer, he asks again, angrily, then asks more quietly if she loves that man. She nods.
Hwangbo looks stricken, but then says he’ll resign from the Left Police immediately and take her to where his mother lives. Chae Ohk says she can’t be his wife. He shouts that he’ll decide that (!). She tells him she can’t bear children. This shocks and grieves him, but he says he needs only her. She reminds him that he’s already engaged. He says he was deceiving himself. She says she is too lowly in status for him. He says he’ll lower his own status. She tells him she doesn’t know why she is so strongly drawn to Jang Sung Baek, but she can’t help herself.
He gets down on the floor with her and again proposes that they go far away, where she can forget about the rebel. He’ll go back to being the son of a concubine and they can live as commoners. He reminds her that she once said she was living only for him, and tells her he feels the same way. She replies that he can have her body, but her heart is already gone.
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