The story is set in Korea during the reigns of King Seongjong , King Yeonsan and King Jungjong. The epilogue also spans through King Injong (1544-1545) and King Myeongjong (1545-1567), with last scene depicts in March of year 1550. At the outset, King Seongjong has ordered the execution by poisoning of his wife Deposed Queen Lady Yun, the mother of the crown prince (the future Prince Yeonsan). After carrying out the execution, one of the royal guards, Seo Cheon-soo, is haunted by it. On his way home, he suffers an accident and is rescued by a mysterious hermit with a cryptic message – that his life will revolve around three women: the first he has already met, but he killed her; another he will save, but will die because of him; and the third will kill him, but will go on to save many lives. It doesn't become clear until later in the story that the three women are the poisoned deposed queen, Park Myeong-yi (Seo's eventual wife) and Jang-geum (Seo's daughter). Haunted by the curse of the executed deposed queen and his prophesied fate at the hands of the third woman, he abandons his post and also becomes a hermit, refusing to take a wife.