…’cuz lulz, war rules!
— While looking for the next dragon bishie, our heroes stumble upon a broken and downtrodden village. Its inhabitants can be seen sitting outside on the barren dirt, looking sickly and tired. I even see a weary mother and her child, but for some reason, Yona and her group decide to give medicine and water to some random, middle-aged man instead. I’m sure they don’t have infinite supplies to aid those in need, but why him of all people?
— In any case, the man starts sandbagging the late King Il, going on and on about how the king’s peace-loving ways meant that villages like this one couldn’t be protected. C’mon, man. Just think about it for a second. Just seriously think about it for a second. Suppose that King Il did willingly accept war. Who’s to say that he and his army would’ve won? What if his enemies were stronger? And in a war, even more villages would be lost due to collateral damage. Then wouldn’t the kingdom be in even more dire straits? Oh right, if the Il had been a great warrior, he would’ve won anyway!!! No other factor matters! Besides, even if Il’s hypothetical army was victorious, plenty of people would’ve died anyway. Nothing short of complete and utter surrender from the enemy would’ve prevented the deaths of the unfortunate young men. Then we’d be sitting here, complaining about how the king was a warmonger, and couldn’t protect the lives of young people. At the end of the day, unless you literally live in a post-scarcity utopia, someone’s always going to complain about. That’s not to say that Il couldn’t have done better for his people. Honestly, I wouldn’t know how well he did. No one in the audience really does. We hardly have any information on what his rule was like other than the fact that he avoided conflict.
But I’m not about to listen to some random ass villager on how to rule a country.
— Hak insists that Il wasn’t that bad, because he personally wouldn’t have served a fool. And I’m sure Hak’s feelings on this is 100% objective.
— The rest of the episode focuses on General Guen-tea of the Earth Clan. Su-won has decided to pay him a visit, but the general is not exactly a happy man. He’s one of those anime characters. He’s one of those warriors who are unable to adapt to peacetime, so he feels useless and wasted without a war to fight in. But will he admit that to himself? Of course not.
— The ever-smiling Su-won puts Guen-tea off, because apparently, all rulers must be stern men with square jaws and a steely resolve!! Naturally, the general admired Lord Yu-hong, Su-won’s father. ‘Cause, y’know, being able to win battles automatically means you’re a great ruler. Running the country well and shit will just come naturally!
— I mean, sure, winning battles will allow you to pillage foreign lands, and that this wealth will trickle down to the rest of your kingdom. In that sense, a great warrior can make his kingdom prosperous… but only in the short-term. There aren’t infinite lands to conquer, and even then, you’re not going to win battles forever.
— But blah blah blah, Il avoided conflict, so the kingdom’s strength declined or something. Uh-huh. Sure, the solution was so obvious! We just had to go to war, then poof! Instant prosperity!
— Guen-tea: “Though he claimed it was for the people, where are these people he saved?” This part is hilarious, because just look at all these clans. Their young people are healthy and alive, running about and mostly happy. You’re literally staring at all the people that Il had saved… but I guess they’re supposed to die in wars, so these young lives don’t count.
— And sure, there are some abandoned villages on the outskirts that are suffering, but they don’t fall squarely on Il’s shoulders. Even the characters are like, “Well, the Fire Clan pretty much abandoned them.”
— The truth is, simple-minded warriors like Guen-tea are pathetic. All they can do is fight, because they’re too stupid to do anything else. I’m not saying that all generals are the same, but the ones like Guen-tea are worthless. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and a great leader can lead and inspire people through peacetime.
— All Guen-tea does is sit around and complain that he can’t lead a bunch of young people to die for his shitty cause. He can’t adapt to peacetime, so he bitches and moan instead of actually doing something useful like creating social reforms that might help his people out.
“B-b-but he’s a general!!! He only knows how to fight!”
Then don’t sit there and bitch about people whose jobs you know nothing about.
— Anyway, Su-won wants to create a mock battle or something, but the episode is pretty much over, so I’m out.
To be fair, the problem wasn’t Il being a pacifist but a bit of a doormat. Several chapters ago we learnt that there is a lot of corruption because Il was too soft (the scene with Soo Won and his advisor in the library) and he apparently gave away lands to enemy kingdoms to keep peace. He was giving a weak image to the world, and others nations would have taken advantage of him because that.
And the point of this mini arc of Soo Won is to show how Lee Gun Tae is a moron who can’t see and exploit the advantages of his tribe to improve the economy (that or show that Soo Won is an awesome ruler…perhaps both of them).