This is where you can read the manhwa. https://www.lezhinus.com/en/comic/painter But be aware that this manhwa is a mature Yaoi, which means, it is about homosexuality with explicit scenes. If you want to read more essays, here is the link to the table of contents: https://bebebisous33analyses.wordpress.com/2020/07/04/table-of-contents-painter-of-the-night/
Announcement: I updated the essay “Sins”
In the essay “Sins”, I had pointed out the parallels between episode 40 and 75. We had a stroll through town, and both main leads had a long conversation. But there’s another aspect I had overlooked, the reason why both episodes were connected to each other. While the first one stood under the sign of “responsibility”, the other embodies “regrets”. And now, the manhwaphiles can grasp the connection. The moment a person becomes responsible, he must make choices. And if the decision leads to a disaster, then the person will come to regret his choice. This explains why Jung In-Hun stood in the center of both episodes. Thus I will examine the characters’ decisions and regrets.
1. Definition of regret
But before starting, I would like to outline the difference between remorse and regrets, though these expressions are often employed as synonyms. What distinguishes them from each other is the nature of the action and decision. When the person did something wrong and now feels some remorse, it means that the person acknowledges the wrongdoing. On the other hand, there’s an absence of judgement in regret. It’s totally neutral. The person just wished, he or she had made a different choice. This signifies that a person can regret a decision, but feel no remorse. In other words, he has no guilty conscience. This indication might seem anodyne, yet it is the opposite, for in Painter Of The Night, many characters feel regrets, but are not suffering from pangs of conscience. They don’t see their actions as a crime or a sin. This truly exposes that these characters are not reflecting on their actions, even the absence of remorse displays their ruthlessness and selfishness.
2. Jihwa’s regrets and remorse
Naturally, remorse and regret can coexist. We had a perfect example with Jihwa. First, the red-haired master expressed regret concerning the painter’s abduction. (chapter 61) Observe that he has realized that Baek Na-Kyum’s disappearance doesn’t change the situation. Yoon Seungho will never come to return his affection. The abduction and even the murder are totally pointless. Yet, while confessing to his “priest”, he doesn’t acknowledge the wrongdoing perpetrated against the artist, for all his thoughts are revolving around his love for Yoon Seungho. He doesn’t see the pain afflicted to Baek Na-Kyum.
He only feels remorse, when it comes to his childhood friend. (chapter 61) For the first time, he is admitting his sins. He has always hurt his friend (the letter, the ruined painting, the topknot incident, chapter 59), that’s why the main lead could never reciprocate the feelings. And now, you understand why the young master Lee said this: (chapter 59) Since Yoon Seungho would always overlook his wrongdoings, the latter never felt the urge to reflect on his actions. Why should he feel regret or even remorse, for their relationship never changed? But with the painter everything changed. The noble would no longer close an eye to Jihwa’s sins.
Under this new light, the manhwaphiles can grasp why Jihwa made the following reproach to his friend. (chapter 59) Lee Jihwa used the name of lord Song on purpose, he knew definitely that this would scare and wound Yoon Seungho. I am even thinking that he imagined Yoon Seungho would behave like in the past, refusing to leave his mansion. Since I interpreted that the lord had a flashback in episode 1, I deduce Jihwa had planned with a letter to cause a flashback in Seungho, just like he had done in the past: the topknot incident. We had two clues for this signification.
First, Yoon Seungho had also triggered a flashback in his lover Na-Kyum unconsciously, when he trapped him under the bed in episode 66. Secondly, the childhood friend had discovered the main lead’s weakness (chapter 59). In this panel, Yoon Seungho has a flashback. Thus, Jihwa used this to his advantage, when he was displeased with the protagonist. Nevertheless, I suspect that Lee Jihwa was not truly responsible for the topknot incident, for he had been incited by Min’s words. Yet, instead of regretting his actions, the second lead preferred putting the whole blame on the victim, which often happens with perpetrators and accomplices. He didn’t want to be confronted with his terrible reflection. So back then the young lord Lee didn’t reflect on his actions, rejected his responsibility, for he didn’t want to feel guilty. Let’s not forget that the painter is just a low-born, the second lead didn’t see him as a human.
As you can imagine, Jihwa didn’t realize his wrongdoing, when he let the painter abducted. Since he was still alive, nothing had happened. But the moment Yoon Seungho barged into his room confronting him with his bad action, the other recognized that he had indeed hurt his friend again. But unfortunately, he didn’t learn the right lesson from this experience. He started regretting that the painter was alive. He had now in his mind this: if the artist vanishes, then his crime and sin will disappear. (chapter 61) Really silly regrets! As you can see, he decided to make the opposite decision. And now, you comprehend why Lee Jihwa remained silent, when he got confronted by the Joker. (chapter 76) Min had used his past to bind him to the second scheme. That’s his “punishment” for using the past as a way to tame his childhood friend. This truly shows Jihwa’s lack of intelligence. He never takes time to ponder over events and behaviors. He takes words and behavior as face-values. This is totally normal, for neither Yoon Seungho nor father Lee encouraged him to nurture his mind. Sure, the main lead was too hurt to take this burden. Besides, this is not his role, for he is not his guardian.
The irony is that unlike in the past, Yoon Seungho showed real leniency and forgiveness towards his friend. (chapter 67) He caused a commotion, but he never reported the incident to the authorities. Once again, we can detect father Lee’s stupidity, hypocrisy and superficiality. He didn’t scold or warn his son again despite the main lead’s request, allowing Min to influence his son in the bad way.
As a conclusion, as long as the red-haired aristocrat doesn’t acknowledge his sins towards Baek Na-Kyum, he will keep making mistakes and never learn his lessons.
Hence it is totally possible that Jihwa gets punished, when the second crime occurs, even if he is not participating actively. One might get upset and argue that he is innocent this time. But like I said it before, passivity and silence are indeed crimes! He doesn’t use his knowledge to stop a kidnapping and a rape, therefore it is failure to assist a person in danger. Moreover, the readers will certainly remember that The Joker’s second plan was to ask Jihwa to do nothing, while Min would impersonate him at the kisaeng house.
I can’t help myself thinking that Jihwa could obtain his friend’s forgiveness, though the former gets punished by the authorities. Let’s not forget that once the officers get notified, the system can not be stopped so easily. One thing is sure: Jihwa will learn to recognize the nature of a sin, real guilt and the importance of reflection. He needs to focus on education, exactly like Baek Na-Kyum. The only difference is that the latter never had the access to books and to a real good teacher. But let’s stop here with the predictions.
3. The priest’s sins
So the moment the young master Lee expressed his remorse in front of the criminal, the latter changed into a priest receiving a confession. Since the latter is an assassin or thief, he embodies sins and guilt. That’s why he could only become Jihwa’s mirror. The former definitely dirtied his own hands by accepting requests from nobles, while Jihwa accepted to “soil” his hands for Min’s sake by hiring No-Name. The “butcher” will teach to Jihwa the true meaning of guilt and sins. In addition, he shows him the ugly side from aristocrats through their actions. (chapter 61)
Naturally, I believe that No-Name is not different from Jihwa, putting the blame on others and not recognize his own culpability. He puts the blame on the aristocrats, as they are the masterminds behind the crimes. That’s the reason why he showed pity towars Baek Na-Kyum. (chapter 66) With these words, he expressed a certain remorse linked to pity, yet it was limited, for he viewed the nobles as the culprits. He never included himself in the reproach, he even showed himself in a good light (“I’ll let you go”). According to him, he was benevolent and generous. But he contradicted himself, as he threatened his prey. (chapter 66) Moreover, there’s no ambiguity, the painter didn’t pay attention to this confession. The Joker wanted his victim to remember his threat, thus Na-Kyum could only forget the helping hand’s “good heart”. This explicates why the painter got so frightened that he even got a nightmare, he kept remembering the mask of the Joker. (chapter 61) As a reminder: Baek Na-Kyum never saw Nameless’ face. This image is related to Jihwa at the tavern. (chapter 59) His pity for the noble Jihwa was stronger than for Baek Na-Kyum’s, hence he didn’t see the negative side of his last actions. In his mind, he had truly showed his good heart! But the painter let him see in chapter 76 the real impact of his so-called “good heart”.
The latter got a flashback because of the mask and the clothes. Baek Na-Kyum noticed the mask and the colors (purple/beige), visible in the nightmare. Nonetheless, even if the aristocrats are schemers, the assistants are by no mean pure and innocent. They are accomplices, and their silence is one of the reasons why the lords are not punished. In addition, without helping hands, the nobles wouldn’t be able to commit so many wrongdoings easily, for they would be forced to witness the consequences of their own actions. (chapter 61) They might feel remorse. Jihwa got so horrified by the brutality, he had to vomit. As you can see, both second leads have a similar attitude in the beginning. This explicates why neither Jihwa nor the Joker recognized the real nature of their wrongdoing, when they took away the artist.
Yet, the incident in town served as an eye-opener for the Joker. (chapter 76) The latter could realize that his action had affected Baek Na-Kyum. He definitely sensed that the artist had a panic attack and he couldn’t act, as if nothing had happened. This explicates why he kept looking at his previous target. (chapter 76) He could see with his own eyes that both main characters had an affection for each other. Consequently, I deduce that he made the opposite decision from Jihwa. The low-born recognized his sin and guilt. This is the other reason why first he rejects Min’s suggestion and even gets infuriated (chapter 76), when he gets threatened by Min. He won’t act, as if nothing happened. In fact, now he has every reason to get involved again, though he is refusing the participation. He is well aware that he could get framed. Min already warned him. (chapter 76) That’s why exactly like in the beginning of the second season, he will remain passive by monitoring the nobles’ moves. He will definitely use other channels to get updated. And one more time, I am confirming my prediction that Nameless will play a key-role in Min’s defeat. He will definitely help the two protagonists and even Jihwa indirectly by confronting him with his true image.
As you see, I judge Nameless in a better light, though he’s a murderer. He is slowly recognizing that this world is not black and white. His actions are truly condemnable, but I have the impression, he will become Yoon Seungho’s hand of justice. As long as The Joker supports a crime, he is not blameless. His courage, patience and intelligence are his strengths, hence he was able to make the right decision in episode 76. He was no longer willing to dirty his hands for others. Hence I connect him to “pitiful regrets”.
4. Baek Na-Kyum’s regrets
In episode 75, the painter expressed many regrets.
4. 1. The guilty Yoon Seungho and Heena
One of them is that he regretted his decision to stay by the lord’s side. Remember that in chapter 68, he announced to his sister that he wouldn’t follow her. This could only upset his noona, hence she said this: (chapter 65) She implied that her brother would come to regret his choice, as he had not realized that he was pressured and it was a rushed decision. She instigated fear in her brother letting him know that such a “love” is just a trivial and temporary emotion. Since the lord had changed, exactly like his noona had predicted, the painter was starting regretting his choice, for he was getting more and more swayed by the noble’s good and kind behavior, while the other had a different evolution: he would love him less and lose his interest for him. The painter was interpreting the inexistence of love sessions as a sign of disinterest from Yoon Seungho, for the latter had always expressed his love through sex. The artist feared a change of heart from his lover. Hence the former felt awful, while in reality he was responsible for his own misery. He just needed to approach the lord himself, as the latter had already declared that he would view Baek Na-Kyum as a lord. But notice that though he was regretting, he put the blame on his lover. He didn’t want to assume the responsibility of his choice, he preferred blaming his companion. Since he had refused to listen to his “mother”, he needed to find someone else for his wrong decision.
Yet, we all know that in chapter 69, Yoon Seungho had planned to let him go, visible thanks to this image: This was a new version of this situation: (chapter 34) The problem is that in episode 69, Yoon Seungho never let his companion know. He didn’t even show it by opening the door for him.
But the low-born’s reaction to make Yoon Seungho into the guilty one is normal, because the young man was actually imitating Heena. When the latter met her surrogate son, she put the whole blame on her brother. (chapter 68) He is now in this situation, because he didn’t come back to the kisaeng house and he didn’t write to her. When the artist dismisses her reproach, he was just following her request, she diverts his attention by saying: (chapter 68) With these words, she implies that that this is not the time for regret. They have more urgent matters. Because she worries so much for him, they should quickly leave the mansion. And note, at no moment she expresses regret, when she sent him away from the kisaeng house. The absence of regret and remorse from Heena is palpable in this panel too: Here, she makes an allusion that if anything, Jung In-Hun is accountable for that situation, for he was supposed to look after him. As a conclusion, the head-kisaeng has never regretted her decision. She even had not the impression that she had done something wrong towards her son. Let’s not forget that she never contacted him herself during their separation and this for a long time (more than 15 months). This means, she doesn’t view herself as a sinner. Her remorseless and regretless attitude really exposes her selfishness, for she is blind to the wounds she afflicted to Baek Na-Kyum: abandonment issues.
And now, you comprehend why Baek Na-Kyum copied her afterwards. Her behavior tainted on him. Furthermore, I believe that her words and attitude must have wounded her son unconsciously. He must have sensed her lack of sensitivity and selfishness deep down, explicating why he decided to put his fate into Yoon Seungho’s hands, though he feared him. With this new interpretation, it becomes understandable why the painter felt regret later. It was a combination of fears initiated by Heena’s words and his intuition, which he mistrusted now. As you can imagine, I judge his “regret” as quite silly, especially because he was contradicting himself. On the one hand, he had been pleased with the change (chapter 74), on the other hand he judged the change as something bad: futile and superficial. So in the tavern, the artist was wishing that he had listened to his noona . But fortunately, his random encounter with Nameless made him realize that such thoughts were totally pointless. (For more, read the essay “Sins”) Because the lord had changed, he saved and comforted Baek Na-Kyum. He had acted the exact opposite to his attitude during and after the abduction. He rushed to his side, exactly like Baek Na-Kyum had hoped (chapter 60) With this incident, the painter experienced that the noble’s feelings had not changed at all, and he was indeed reliable and trustworthy. That’s why he closed his eyes at the end. His intuition had not misled him. This signifies that from that moment on, the painter will stick to his initial choice. He won’t leave Yoon Seungho’s side. At the same time, this incident with Nameless destroyed the little power Heena still had over her son. Now, the son is living his life as an grown-up without his mother’s interference.
4. 2. The remorseful painter and scholar
But before regretting his decision to stay in the mansion, the low-born expresses his regret concerning painting. But it only occurs, when the lord gets curious about the reason why he dropped his passion. (chapter 75) He was missing painting. Deep down he wished, he hadn’t vowed to stop painting, because he was so sad and hurt. Though he felt so miserable, he saw it as an obligation, for it was his punishment. Because of him, Jung In-Hun had failed to secure a position. (chapter 75) This means, Baek Na-Kyum felt remorseful. He had the impression, he had done something wrong. It was, as if he had sinned, therefore losing his passion was the price he had to pay for his sin.
This topic came to the surface, because Baek Na-Kyum had started talking about his past and more precisely about his lessons revolving around sin and afterlife, reinforcing my interpretation that the kisaeng house was a place full of Christians. This truly shows that the young artist only received a religious education, because he still can neither write nor read.
In this scene, the painter looks really pitiful, for he is blaming himself entirely. The sin is so big that he accepts the scholar’s hatred towards him. (chapter 75) This explicates why for each bad action Jung In-Hun did towards him before, the latter would still overlook the betrayal and abandonment. He accepted all of this deep down, as he felt culpable. Thus the manhwaphiles can comprehend why Jung In-Hun is still so sure about his power over the painter, (chapter 44) and even left him without biding goodbye, though he had hurt him so deeply before. He knows the artist’s weaknesses: his adoration for him and his so-called sin. Thus the teacher appears as remorseless. He has no regret either. He never suffered from huge pangs of conscience, when he beat him or abandoned him. (chapter 6) His attitude resembles a lot to Heena’s.
But remember how I described this conversation in the inn. I compared it to a confession, and Yoon Seungho was a priest embodying Truth.
Back then, he just said this to Baek Na-Kyum (chapter 75). He tried to free his lover from his guilty conscience. But I doubt that these words were enough for liberate the painter from his remorse. Therefore I am suspecting that in the next season, Yoon Seungho will be forced to reveal the true reason why the scholar failed to secure a high position and expose his lie to Baek Na-Kyum.
Remember how he sent a black man to dig information about the learned sir. For this story is going in circle, we have to anticipate that the protagonist will repeat this action. However, this time he could ask for the learned sir’s dirty secrets. Another possibility is that he mentions the Christian religion, for I am suspecting the scholar of using this religion to get free support from low-borns. And this attempt of separating the learned sir from the painter would definitely serve Kim’s interests, as the latter had already tried to ruin the relationship between the artist and the teacher during the first season. The butler’s initial goal was that the main lead doesn’t meddle in politics and official positions. He had to lie low in order not to attract the attention from the king.
While the painter is still attached to the scholar by his sin, the moment the truth is unveiled, the artist has no reason to feel responsible for the scholar’s fate. And now, the readers can comprehend why the artist said this to the head-kisaeng. (chapter 68) It was not just, because he wanted to hide his true emotions and thoughts from his mother, he was still bound by his “sin”. Besides, he has other “sins” to cover up: Heena is still unaware of his illiteracy. Remember how the painter felt embarrassed. Once Baek Na-Kyum is freed from his guilty conscience, no one can stand in the way of the lovers.
Therefore I conclude that the scholar has still power over the painter, but it is just a matter of time, until the scholar’s lie is unveiled to Baek Na-Kyum. Byeonduck has already announced that Jung In-Hun’s secret and past will be revealed soon. With such a prediction, Kim will appear in a good light, as he will give the impression that he is helping his lord and the painter again. His stans will come to the deduction that I was totally wrong. However, the explanation is quite simple. Kim’s interests will be just aligned with Yoon Seungho’s. But this doesn’t mean that once the learned sir is sent away, Kim will remain passive again. In fact, this could lead the lord’s next mistake. He trusts the butler one more time, and since the butler has achieved one goal, he can let the second kidnapping occur without dirtying his hands. That way, he can become the unofficial lord of the mansion again. Since I am predicting that Jihwa will do nothing, I am expecting that the valet fakes a letter, for the butler was always connected to a fake letter.
4. 3. Painting and regrets
In chapter 75, the painter felt regretful, when he had to renounce on his passion: painting. And I started pondering about this aspect. I wondered if Heena didn’t regret herself that she allowed her son to draw such erotic pictures. (chapter 1) We know that she neglected him, as she was too young to assume her responsibility as a mother. So maybe she regretted adopting him, hence she wanted to share her burden with others (kisaengs and the scholar). She must have resented him at some point for painting such images, as she despises sex. But then I realized one important aspect in the following panel. Heena could only see the lewd pictures, not the boy’s passion for painting. She never realized that if she had encouraged him to paint something else, he would have picked up a different topic: painting nature and landscapes.
However, since the kisaeng was overwhelmed with the task, the orphan was trapped in a kisaeng house. Besides, the young mother viewed the kisaeng house as a prison. Secondly, in this place people only come for entertainment, yet they act behind veils and closed doors. Hence he could never witness what was going on there. And if the door was open, he witnessed violence. (chapter 68)
So since Baek Na-Kyum was encaged in such a house, he could only seek for topics within his reach. Hence at some point he caught two men having sex as peeping tom. This topic fascinated him so much that he started painting. But deep down, his true desire was just painting. Since the kisaeng neglected him, she couldn’t change the topic of his drawings. That’s why she blamed Baek Na-Kyum for this passion. She associated painting to erotic pictures.
What caught my attention is that Baek Na-Kyum was so impressed by the lord’s orchid. (chapter 75) Then he even created an inauguration painting with Jung In-Hun, revealing that he was inspired by his admiration and love proving that sex is not his obsession. He is just misunderstood by Heena noona. Consequently, I believe that later he will regret to have painted such an image (chapter 44), as it doesn’t reflect reality. That’s why I come to the conclusion that Yoon Seungho could become the painter’s teacher, and not just his muse. As a painter himself, he will incite his companion to select other topics. Let’s not forget that the noble invited his “guest” to a hunt. We should envisage that Yoon Seungho makes a similar request: they go outdoors so that the painter can paint a landscape.
In reality, Baek Na-Kyum became an erotic painter due to his circumstances, while his true passion was just painting. Heena never gave him the opportunity to nurture his talent, too blinded by her prejudices and belief.
But as you can imagine, though Heena and the scholar have a similar attitude, I am expecting a different evolution. The kisaeng will be confronted by her sins (not teaching her son writing and reading, misjudging the learned sir’s true nature, her abandonment and betrayal), hence she will feel immense remorse, whereas it won’t be the case for the learned sir. The latter will mostly regret his decisions by putting the blame on others. Silly regrets for Jung In-Hun, but pitiful regrets for the mother, as the latter always believed that she was acting out of love and selflessness.
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