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I have to admit that chapter 109 left me wanting more, for the story barely moved on. Technically, only a few minutes elapse between the end of episode 108 and 109. The former begins with the painter’s arrival in the library and the latter ends with Yoon Seungho’s shocked expression: (chapter 109) He discovers that Baek Na-Kyum has already prepared himself, as he is longing for him. (chapter 109) He never expected such a reaction. The reason why the evolution of Painter Of The Night is flowing at a snail’s pace is that season 4 is now focusing more on the past. First, Byeonduck needs to divulge the lord’s suffering and its causes. And this can only happen, if memories are brought up. Hence in episode 109, the painter’s memories stood in the center. Why? It is because he is trying to understand why his loved one is now avoiding him. Thus he is remembering what happened just before. The readers are actually put in the same situation than the artist. On the one hand, the focus on recollection is a method to unveil how the young master was turned into a “sodomite and pariah”, for the painter is going through the same experience than his partner. In episode 109, he is isolated from his “lover” and as such from his family, for he has now maids by his side. The latter are supposed to be his new “family”. On the other hand it helps the manhwaphiles to anticipate the future main events,. as the progression is in slow motion. This means, the Webtoonist left all the elements in the previous seasons in order to decode the past, the present and the future. That way, the manhwalovers are capable to unveil the mystery. Besides, the author has to answer all the questions the beholders had while reading the previous seasons, like this one: (chapter 27) What book was the scholar looking for? Up to now, we have no clue, though I had developed the following theory: Jung In-Hun was a Christian and had a bible.
1. The mystery behind the book
What caught my attention in chapter 109 is the falling book! (chapter 109) How did this happen? One might reply that the book fell from the shelf, when the painter kissed his lover. (chapter 109) This interpretation can be easily refuted, for the noble stood next to the shelf and not in front of it. Besides, the counter stands on the noble’s left, while the ledger was on his right. However, one detail caught my notice, the beholder can not see Yoon Seungho’s hands!! That’s how I realized that the book came from the protagonist! He had carried it hidden in his right sleeve. This explicates why the book stands on the right side. (chapter 109) Besides, contrary to the previous panel, now the lord’s hand is visible! This is no coincidence. But if he was hiding the copy from Baek Na-Kyum, I deduce that it is related to the painter. But there is another person associated to manuscripts in this story, Jung In-Hun!! But what have the low-born and the scholar in common then? The erotic publications! (chapter 34) Note that in the background, there’s a book open on the desk, and it has the exact opposite position than in episode 109! And now, you comprehend why Yoon Seungho rejected the painter’s company next to his table. He didn’t want him to see the publication, for he feared that the painter would be reminded of Jung In-Hun. In the lord’s mind, the young artist still treasures his former teacher. He heard his confession on the bridge next to the pavilion. (chapter 94) However, Yoon Seungho is suspecting that the learned sir was behind the trick in the shaman’s house due to the glasses Min had in his hand before dying. (chapter 102) Hence he doesn’t want to break the main lead’s heart and mind. In other words, the main lead is determined to hide the past from Baek Na-Kyum so that the latter’s memory and agony won’t be triggered. The book could definitely remind the low-born of all the events which led to the massacre in the shaman’s shrine. Besides, I feel that the noble must feel guilty as well. If only he hadn’t admired the erotic publications which led to Baek Na-Kyum’s stay in his mansion. Consequently, I think that the noble is also in agony because of the work.
2. The identification of the volume
So far, I didn’t prove that the copy was an erotic publication. This is just a speculation from my part. But like mentioned in the introduction, the clues are all left in the previous seasons, for the story is constructed like a kaleidoscope. That’s why I included it in the illustration. However, there exist two reasons why I came to this deduction. I detected similarities with the first encounter between Yoon Seungho and his nemesis in the scholar’s home and the painter’s kisses.
2. 1. The scholar’s book in episode 6
First, let’s start with a comparison with episode 6. Here, the lord was holding a book while interrogating the learned sir. (chapter 6) Both were standing in front of the cupboard, while the learned sir suddenly took away the copy and closed it to put it back on the cupboard. This made the protagonist smirk. Due to the characters’ reaction, (chapter 6), I had assumed that the protagonist was making fun of Jung In-Hun. He had played a prank on the host, especially after asking about his occupation. I have always wondered about the content of the volume. Therefore I had developed the idea that this could be the bible. However, it was clear that the book was not for children which is visible due to the writing. (chapter 6) In fact, the learned sir should have the manual Thousand Character Classic (Chinese: 千字文; pinyin: Qiānzì Wén), also known as the Thousand Character Text.
“The Thousand Character Classic has been used as a primer for learning Chinese characters for many centuries. It is uncertain when the Thousand Character Classic was introduced to Korea.” Quoted from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thousand_Character_Classic [I usually avoid wikipedia, but here I was not able to find another source mentioning Joseon and classic book]
The main lead was holding the evidence for Jung In-Hun’s hypocrisy. That’s the reason why the learned sir was forced to admit that he wasn’t dedicated to his job. (chapter 6) In reality, he wasn’t teaching them reading and writing at all. But Yoon Seungho had feigned ignorance with this discovery. With his indifference and praises, the false teacher had the impression that he was supporting his attitude. This scene is relevant, because the learned sir had lied to the protagonist about the painter’s education. (chapter 6) This means that the book represents the evidence of learned sir’s betrayal and abandonment. He is responsible for his illiteracy. To conclude, this scene contains the following elements: a prank, a lie, a confession which was triggered by a book that Yoon Seungho had picked up by chance. But wait… it could be the book from the scholar’s home! (chapter 06) But this image can be used to refute this theory. How so? It is because this book has a title, hence there is a white rectangle!! However, take a closer look at the copy on the floor. (chapter 109) There is no white rectangle and as such no title! Why? It is because the publication is illegal, for sodomy was condemned by Joseon society and traditions. According to me, the tailor was involved in the erotic publications. Besides, compare it to the manuscripts in the learned sir’s bedroom! (chapter 50) Finally, I would like the readers to keep in mind that they could only see the content of the books (chapter 1), but they never got the chance to see the cover.
Now it is time to return to our contrast between chapter 6 and 109. Since the scene in the library from episode 109 represents the positive reflection from chapter 6, this signifies that the characters must have behaved the opposite way. And what did the noble do in the library? He made sure that the painter wouldn’t come close to the table, while in episode 6, the host did the exact opposite. (chapter 6) He proposed him to sit and have a cup of tea to divert his attention from the books on the cupboard. Besides, I would like to outline the huge contrast between these two scenes. The scholar needed the assistance of the prestigious family Yoon, while the protagonist replied this to his loved one: (chapter 109) Needed versus not necessary!
Finally, in the same chapter, the scholar admitted that he had scolded Baek Na-Kyum, but he never revealed what he had truly done and why. (chapter 6) He was here very vague (“bizarre and vulgar”), he spoke of a scolding, but never of rejection and abandonment!! This is important, because Yoon Seungho also experienced something similar in the shed: (chapter 77) Back then, the butler’s words must have wounded him terribly, he must have felt dirty either. Under this new perspective, it becomes comprehensible why I came to this conclusion that the book is related to the learned sir and to the erotic publication. But this doesn’t end here. In my eyes, episode 109 clearly outlined the importance of the library in the protagonists’ life. This is the place where both main leads got betrayed and abandoned. (chapter 40) When the scholar wounded the artist with his words, he implied that the artist was responsible for his lack of education. With the idiom “I thought, you could be educated”, he gave the impression that he had put some effort, but due to the artist’s disposition, he had failed. We had another scene where the learned sir was blaming Baek Na-Kyum. (chapter 70) He would fall asleep instead of studying. And who knows about the learned sir’s hypocrisy? Yoon Seungho!! That’s the reason why the goddess Byeonduck let them meet in the library. It is to heal their wounds. In this room, Yoon Seungho’s suffering started and later, the painter got betrayed by his former teacher, someone whom he viewed as his “family and mentor”.
2. 2. The painting and the kisses
But like mentioned above, I identified the publication thanks to the painter’s kisses as well. That’s the reason why these kisses are in the center of the illustration, where I chose a kaleidoscope in the background. When Yoon Seungho got kissed by the painter (chapter 109), he got surprised, and he had the same gaze and facial expression than the one during the First wedding night , in the gibang and in the study (chapter 42), though here the artist kissed his companion twice! (chapter 49) And what had these scenes in common? Paintings and the artist’s confession. And now, you comprehend how I made the connection between the book and painting.
In episode 19, the artist had been asked to show his latest creation to the guests, and Min was present. (chapter 19) This scene could only break the artist’s heart, because he was reminded of the learned sir’s reaction: his rejection. The latter got angry and jealous that the low-born would be treated as someone special. Furthermore, Jung In-Hun had only got the noble’s sponsorship thanks to Baek Na-Kyum and not thanks to his own talent! In verity, the learned sir had been the tool to submit Baek Na-Kyum. Shortly after the exposition, the protagonist went to the study. There he got confused for Jung In-Hun, hence he received a wonderful confession (chapter 19) before getting kissed and embraced!
In episode 42, the lord noticed the artist’s agony, but he blamed the learned sir. (chapter 42) Yet, the artist was unable to explain the situation, for he had internalized Jung In-Hun’s criticism. (chapter 42) So we could say that the yangban tried to get a confession from the painter, but he failed. Hence they had just sex. The artist’s heartbreak was the reason why he never got to confess the truth! And what had happened in the study after the painter kissed the main lead? The lord saw the inauguration illustration and got jealous of Jung In-Hun (chapter 42)
Then in season 2, the painter had voiced his perception of his sex partner (chapter 48), and the painting had exposed the main lead’s uneasiness and pain. The drawing was not refined, barely finished. (chapter 47) The behavior from the painter and the new painting had not only wounded the main lead, but also pushed the lord to discover why the artist was behaving this way. After the rough sex session, the artist had made a confession: he was dropping the rules he had been raised. (chapter 49) He was admitting his sexual orientation and his own pleasure, but he still kept his distance from Yoon Seungho. Why? It is because he was reminded of the learned sir’s fake embrace and betrayal. (chapter 49)
Finally, in the kisaeng house, the noonas had shown the artist’s paintings (chapter 94) which incited the artist to recall his childhood. That’s how he came to unveil his past and confess his love to the noble! (chapter 94) And what do have all these kissing scenes in common?
- A painting triggering souvenirs and as such emotions (sadness, jealousy, pain, nostalgia)
- A confession
- The direct or indirect meddling of Min: the wine (chapter 19), the parties after the separation (chapter 51), his visit in the gibang and his tricks (chapter 96). In episode 109, the painter confused Yoon Seungho’s shadow with Black Heart’s. In his nightmare, he was brought back to the shaman’s house and the lord’s smile was similar to Min’s. (chapter 109) (chapter 99) Besides, let’s not forget that during that terrible night, Black Heart never touched the artist himself, as if he didn’t want to touch a trinket sullied by another man”. On Twitter, the author revealed that Min would help Yoon Seungho. Through this comparison, the beholder can confirm this. Thanks to Black Heart, the couple got closer in the end.
- The meddling of the maids, as the latter are responsible for the kitchen! The stolen wine (chapter 19), the spying on the painter – though here it appears like a good thing – (chapter 41), the stones in the rice (chapter 47) and the words from the maid who repeated the noona’s principle (chapter 109). Here, the maid was triggering the painter’s memory and as such fears. That’s the reason why the readers can see the laugh of someone outside the building (chapter 109). She was acting, as if Baek Na-Kyum was not present, but in reality she knew that he could listen to her. How do I know this? The evidence are the sweets on the windowsill. (chapter 109) They never encouraged the tormented boy to eat the sweets!! Besides, this episode confirmed my interpretation about the complicity of the maids. As their role is to comfort Baek Na-Kyum, the readers should question themselves about their absence. (chapter 108) Why is the room dark? Where are the maids during that night, as they are supposed to sleep next to the painter? (chapter 109) The absence of the light is truly noticeable, an indicator that they are not in the bedchamber. Moreover, I had detected that the brown bed cover symbolizes the meddling of Kim. [For more read the essay “The riddle with the bed cover”] Finally, this scene contrasts to the painter’s dream with the noonas: (chapter 87) Sincerity versus fake concern; own choice versus manipulation, happiness versus sadness. Under this perspective, you comprehend why I view the maids as traitors. But since season 1, the women were never punished. Hence they felt free to badmouth Yoon Seungho or Baek Na-Kyum. So while he was preparing himself, where were the ladies-in-waiting? I doubt, the painter would give them orders. The painter was left alone on purpose. Finally, the manhwalovers should question why there is a bottle of oil in the bedchamber. So far, Yoon Seungho utilized it once (chapter 20) and it was during the first Wedding Night. And oil comes from the kitchen, the lord had fetched it from that room!! Naturally, there is an exception, and it is the kiss in the gibang. Yet, here the kisaengs had just replaced the maids. In other words, they had played a role in the confession. And this explains why the noona’s words are superposed with the maids. (chapter 109) This exposes that the couple has enemies not only in the mansion, but also in the kisaeng house, though I don’t think that the noonas have truly ill intentions.
3. The scholar and sodomy
But I have left the most important common denominator, Jung In-Hun!! He was always present, before, during and after the kiss and the sex session! However, the last episode represents the exception. At no moment, the artist thought about the teacher for one moment! All his thoughts were revolving about Yoon Seungho (chapter 109) That’s the reason why I am convinced that the book is strongly connected to the learned sir. In my eyes, it can only be the erotic publication of sodomy!! Why? It is because it represents the painter’s biggest wound. It explains his low self-esteem. Consequently, I am expecting the appearance of this panel: (tweet) The teacher told him “It’s dirty”, and wounded him the most with his gaze full of hatred, the symbol of rejection! Note that in episode 109, the painter always focused on the mouth and not the gaze, (chapter 109) (chapter 109) (chapter 109), because he fears to meet such a resentful gaze. This observation leads me to the following conclusion. In season 1, the painter’s memory got triggered due to the lord’s behavior, as the latter wanted to see a painting of their Wedding Night, but he got something else. (chapter 25) Moreover, during that night, we have the same elements: a painting, a confession, sex, a book that the scholar was looking for. From my point of view, in chapter 34, Baek Na-Kyum only recalled the beating from Jung In-Hun. (chapter 34) Moreover, observe that the artist was covering his eyes, a sign that he was trying to deny the existence of the hateful and cold gaze from the learned sir. As if he wanted to forget it. However, in chapter 34, the artist never realized that this incident had triggered his abandonment issues. And now, in the library, the painter is about to get confronted with his biggest fear: he is not lovable, for he is dirty. Moreover, he is not educated, because he is just a low-born. And this can only be triggered by an image, an erotic painting of sodomy, like in the artist’s nightmare from episode 34: (chapter 34) But like I wrote above, this place is also where Yoon Seungho got betrayed and in my opinion, the schemers are planning to use this place to ruin the protagonist!!
4. Sex or not?
So what is the trick? Naturally, this can only be a conjecture… yet my prediction is based on observations and deductions. My method is to compare the scenes containing parallels. And what have all the scenes mentioned above in common? SEX!! That’s the reason why I am now expecting that the couple won’t have sex, but they will have a painful and long discussion. Yes… this is the true night of revelation. Thus I believe that Yoon Seungho will talk about his own past to Baek Na-Kyum…. as the former also feels guilty and dirty. Remember that he views himself as the bird of misfortune. The couple has been separated for one week on purpose… it is to push the painter to have sex with Yoon Seungho. Why? The purpose is to prove that Yoon Seungho is guilty of sodomy. Yes, it is because in Joseon, it is a crime. Homosexuality had to happen behind closed doors. The father had never reported it to the authorities in order to protect his reputation. In the street, the gossiping women were complaining about the depravity of noblemen who would have sex with women and men. (chapter 106) (chapter 106) And if Yoon Seungho gets caught having sex with the painter and he has an erotic publication of sodomy, he can be framed for the murder of lord Shin and the other nobles. He will be guilty by association. Thus I deduce that the schemers needed the father to report him to the authorities. (chapter 107) That way, he can prove that his son is a depraved lunatic and regain the control of the mansion. (chapter 86) And if they are not caught having sex, the schemers are hoping for an argument between the two main leads because of the separation. This was planned to incite Baek Na-Kyum to resent his lover, to accuse him of „abandonment and betrayal“, a new version of this scene. (Chapter 105) As you can see, the staff had encouraged the lord to keep his distance from his companion on purpose, to create a misunderstanding… they used the painter’s anxieties. Why? That way, the artist would be more inclined to betray his lover, if the latter was in difficulty. He could put the blame on him. In my opinion, the book was planted there on purpose. Remember how the artist denied that he was the author of the erotic publications. (Chapter 1) Besides, there is no doubt that the father refuses to take any responsibility in his son’s suffering. And now, you comprehend why this copy was put on the lord’s desk. He was supposed to be the owner of the erotic book and even the author! I am suspecting that he was accused of the „same crime“ in the past. Then this observation raises the following question. Which erotic publication is it? The original (chapter 1) or the copy (chapter 1)? For me, it can only be the original. I have two reasons to think so. First, the painter had only painted such pictures, because he had no other choice, or better said he was asked by someone close. (chapter 1) This would stand in opposition to the scholar’s rejection (dirty), as the artist was just the helping hand. Besides, there is no ambiguity that Yoon Seungho blames himself due to the erotic book. If he had not brought the painter to his mansion, none of this would have happened. But the painter’s confession would make him realize that his misery started long before he met Yoon Seungho. And how did the puppetmaster come up with such an idea? From my point of view, this plan was inspired by the learned sir. (chapter 27) Notice that he has a drop of sweat on his face, a sign that the book is really important and could be even dangerous. He was diminishing the value. In the past, I had already pointed out that the learned sir had planned to backstab the main lead and denunciate him to the authorities (my first theory was the bible or the the absence of jesa in the mansion). But the erotic publications of sodomy would fit the profile.
Secondly, the schemers believe that with the original, they can ensure Yoon Seungho’s culpability. If they are caught having sex and there is this publication, then both can only be sentenced. They would even kill two birds with one stone, as the painter is in reality the real target of the scheme. That’s the reason why the painter was left alone in the bedchamber. The maids needed to give him space so that he would make a move and seduce his lover. Thus I deduce that during that night, Kim won’t spy on the couple. He has no need to, for he “knows” what is going to happen. He definitely views them as people consumed by lust. However, the gods are on the couple’s side. Hence the book fell on the ground.
And who could have the right to barge in the mansion followed by officers? A family member… and this can only be Yoon Seungwon… who had been a witness of his brother’s sodomy. (chapter 37) Back then, he imagined that the man hidden under the green hanbok was the learned sir, but he was mistaken. Both father and son believes to have seen the relative’s sodomy. Besides, the brother mentioned letters and these usually are written on a desk and as such in the library. Yes, this night should trigger the lord’s memory… his brother’s betrayal and abandonment. I am still waiting for this picture. Yoon Seungwon had definitely tattled on his brother out of jealousy in the past. Don’t forget this flashbulb. (chapter 55) Finally, Heena could serve as a witness, for she did hear their conversation in the annex and saw their intercourse: (chapter 96) She would tell the truth… yet it wouldn’t serve her, because she reported it too late. She could be perceived as pathological liar. Besides, she was not supposed to be in the kisaeng house. Moreover, note that all the erotic paintings the painter created vanished. There is no evidence that the artist is the author of the erotic publications of sodomy, as his notebook contains images of nature. (chapter 84) Finally, the childhood paintings could be used as an evidence. But what about the book in the library? Both could decide to burn it…
- Chapter 35: the burned letter
- Chapter 103: the shrine
And now it is time to conclude this essay. I would like to remind the role of the painter’s kiss in this story. It is to emulate his lover, to trigger emotions and thoughts in him, to open up. Hence he is caught by surprise all the time. While in chapter 49, the artist kissed his partner to silence him (chapter 49) so that he wouldn’t argue with him (being his sex toy), I view the kiss in the library as the opposite, it is liberating Yoon Seungho. (chapter 109) Note that there is no rejection from the lord, just surprise and shock. Besides, in the kisaeng house, the artist’s confession had led the main lead to confess as well. (chapter 96) Striking is that he had hidden his gaze from the artist first. As if love was a sin…Hence I am expecting a confession from Yoon Seungho in that very room too, something he has never done before! Why? It is because he was not the owner of his own past. Kim acted, as if he possessed his memories. Finally, the moment the painter divulges this incident to his companion, (tweet), the latter can only come to the conclusion that the scholar would have no problem to hurt Baek Na-Kyum and even get revenge on the artist, for he received the favors from the protagonist. Yoon Seungho would no longer feel obliged to respect Heena’s wish, for her words wouldn’t reflect reality. (chapter 105) And it was Yoon Seungho’s luck, when the book fell from his sleeve! (chapter 27) contrary to the night of the rape. (chapter 27) The goddess Byeonduck is on their side. But the problem is that the readers have the impression that both are followed by misfortune due to their misery. The reality is that they are both victims of manipulations and tricks. That’s their tragedy. But by repeating that the two figures are “birds of misfortune”, the accomplices are trying to deny their own involvement and as such responsibility. The maids are the perfect example. They blame Baek Na-Kyum for his own illness. He eats like a bird and he would hide his illness. (chapter 108) To sum up, he was responsible for his own suffering, for he was in denial and the maids could do nothing to help. But the lord can see the truth, when he touches his lover’s butt. (chapter 109) He lost weight in such a short time. And their presence by Baek Na-Kyum’s side was supposed to help him. They were responsible for his well-being, but the women never realized it.
I have to admit that I am always anticipating the story due to the slow progression of the story. We are all waiting for the time, when Yoon Seungho and Baek Na-Kyum can have a date properly. One thing is sure. The storm is coming during this night… and it will affect the life of many people, the schemers and accomplices! The question is now how long this night will last (how many episodes).
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