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|“||I am Yoon Yeon Lee. I went from the princess of a defeated country to the queen of a victorious one — was it due to my merits? No, I only made it here because I was prepared to slay everyone, even my favorites, were they to cross me. You've helped me a lot along this road of mine, but I will not forgive you if you deceive me, Chief State Councilor.||”|
–To Yoo Ja Gyeom
Yoon Yeon Lee was the queen mother of Ga Guk during the reign of her son, King Jin Won. Following her consort's death, she masterminded the Jeogwa Revolution, alongside later chief state councilor, Yoo Ja Gyeom. This made her and her son the ruling members of the Royal Family of Ga Guk, beginning her regency as queen dowager until her son turned 20 years old.
Ten years ago, Yoon Yeon Lee orchestrated a coup d'état, also known as the Jeogwa Revolution, against the reigning queen dowager Ahn Young and Crown Prince Yi Hwi after the death of the late King Jin Hyul. Arriving at the burning palace, she told Ahn Young that she shall escape the repercussions held against her, since everything will be erased in the fire. She confronted Ahn Young and ordered Baek Yoo Shin to kill her. Stealing Ahn Young's yongjam and seeing Yoo Shin idle, Yeon Lee angrily ordered him to chase after the Crown Prince and kill him.
In the aftermath of the coup d'état, Yeon Lee became queen regent for her newly-coronated ten-year-old son, King Jin Won. Despite this, the other ministers protested to make the child as the king. One of the ministers, Left Minister Seo In Seon Woo, was the first to side with Yeon Lee, who earned Yeon Lee's favor from then on.
An entire week later, knowing that the crown prince had fled the palace during the coup, she ordered her co-masterminds Yoo Ja Gyeom and Yoo Shin to locate the missing child. She specifically instructed them to locate the boy and kill him with haste before the ministers find out about their involvement in the coup. As a result, Yoo Shin dispatched a search party (possibly the newly established Bi Yeong Pal Mu) on orders of taking every male child aged 7 to 11 years old with a birthmark on their nape area, similar to the crown prince.
In the end, Yeon Lee and her men were unable to find the crown prince. As a result, they made sure that the compact that bore the names of the people behind the coup d'état was safely hidden. Aside from keeping their identities, this also became their insurance that their their allies would not turn against them. It was then placed at Yeon Lee's quarters in the palace until its eventual transfer to the chief state councilor's own residence. Subsequently, with the crown prince presumed to be dead — given the posthumous name Jin Yeon — Yeon Lee, Ja Gyeom, and their allies became wary of the vigilante known as the Crimson Moon, whom they believe to be Jin Yeon himself.
Compact Heist Arc
At the palace, Yeon Lee is visited by Yoo Ja Gyeom with the severed head of the Right Minister, which was severed by the infamous vigilante Crimson Moon. She ordered the chief state councilor to say something about the occurrence, to which he explained about the Crimson Moon's actions. She opened up about the spreading rumors regarding the song dedicated to the Crimson Moon, reprimanding the chief state councilor. Yi Won bursted in and mockingly sang the song, much to her indignation. As he left, she ordered the chief state councilor to never disappoint her again such as hearing the name "Jin Yeon." She also ordered him to execute the people on the spot who are caught singing the song regardless of rank.
One morning, Yoon Yeon Lee was visited by the chief state councilor and reported that the compact was stolen. However, they have concluded that the Crimson Moon was indeed Jin Yeon since he would not take such risks in order to retrieve the compact. He then pointed out that the compact was merely a scrap of paper and that nine out of ten of his co-councilors were on their side. She then reminded him that those councilors were on their side because the compact was with her, but now that the Crimson Moon has the compact, there was a huge possibility that those councilors will turn to Crown Prince Jin Yeon's side. Having one option left, she decided to join forces with the chief state councilor by marrying their children.
On the night of the incident in the slums, Yeon Lee went to the palace to meet her son whom she reprimands for being difficult to find and also for his absences during the court meetings. He tells her to go straight to her point in which she tells him that the compact was stolen. He mockingly tells her that they should have been more careful, but she informs him that, since the safety of the Royal Family depended on it, a royal wedding shall take place, to which he agrees.
Revolt Procurement Arc
At the palace, Yeon Lee encounters the chief state councilor clearing the piled up scrolls in the king's chambers. Angered, she reprimands him when, suddenly, the king arrived. He tells them that they should now select the three candidates for the wedding. The king adds that his mother can choose a "loyalist daughter" which will suit her taste, much to her disappointment.
During the king's excursion to Moon's End Village, Jin Won goes missing and gets involved in an "accident" that almost cost him his life. His guard at the time, Baek Ryung, returns to the palace to organize a search party for the king, but the Queen Mother becomes infuriated upon knowing of the king's disappearance, ordering for her execution. As Heuk Rang slays her on the spot, Yeon Lee questions Bi Yeong Pal Mu's competence, deeming it as a lesser force compared to its predecessor. She then sternly orders Heuk Rang to find the king before she leaves.
Bridal Selection Arc
The Queen Mother welcomes bridal candidates Yoo Dan Ah and Hwang Se Ryeon to the palace and compliments them. She explains to them that it is customary for the bridal selection to have three candidates, but unforeseen circumstances have pushed them to elect two candidates during that time. Yeon Lee ponders whose side she shall take: Ja Gyeom's, who has greatly helped her with her previous schemes but whose thirst for power and ambition is highly excessive; or Hwang Se Hyung's, who knows how to be content with his power but whose strength and potential are questionable. They are then interrupted by the head servant, who hands over the king's royal decree, stating that he has chosen Hyun Bin as the third bridal candidate. Yeon Lee is infuriated with her son's decision, though left with no choice but to welcome her.
At the palace banquet that night, the Queen Mother becomes angry at her son's tardiness. At that point, she thought that her son has become serious with the state affairs, wondering what happened that caused him to act carelessly again for the past month. While waiting for him, Crown Prince Jang Rok Ha of Seo Seo approaches her and jeeringly tells her how dull and idle the banquet has turned. As the Queen Mother tries to disregard the insult, he asks for her permission to allow him to bring out some entertainment, which turns out to be a shadow dance performance. Before she could answer, King Jin Won arrives and allows the performance. Eventually, the king collapses during the performance when he approached the dancing figure, causing the banquet to be stopped.
The next day, Yeon Lee and Ja Gyeom are informed by the royal physician that the king has passed out the previous night due to excessive alcohol intake that greatly weakened his liver, coupled with his unhealthy lifestyle and lack of rest recently. The Queen Mother becomes irritated by the physician's diagnosis, thinking about her son's irresponsibility, and orders the physician to keep the king's condition secret before leaving.
The chief state councilor recommends putting a pause to the bridal candidacy for the meantime considering the king's condition, but Yeon Lee declines, ordering for the occasion to push through, lest Jin Won might cancel the engagement if there are further delays. In any case, she discusses her concern with Ja Gyeom about the dancer from the previous night. Rok Ha had supposedly brought her from Seo Seo, but Yeon Lee is wary about her uncanny resemblance to a certain "hypocrite" that she once knew. Moreover, recalling that the dancer was in fact his daughter's maidservant who came to the palace, she asks Ja Gyeom who the woman really is. However, he merely answers her quite ambiguously.
At night, the Queen Mother summons Heuk Rang to ask about Jin Yeon. Bothered with her suspicious feeling, she orders the captain to investigate Nabi at once. Before he leaves, he informs Yeon Lee of rumors regarding the forfeiture of Hyun Bin's inherited land in Seo Seo.
Minister Retrieval Arc
The morning after the ex-minister Seon Woo was retrieved by rebels, Yeon Lee speaks with Se Ryeon in her chambers. Meanwhile, she orders her servant to deny Hyun Bin to seek her audience. Later, Jin Won heads to his mother's quarters. He becomes disappointed that his mother is somehow oblivious to his safety after rebels broke in to the palace the previous night, but she sarcastically tells him that he is alive and well in front of her. Instead, she reminds him of another concerning issue at hand.
She reprimands him about the scandalous rumors that he was seen going in and out of a maiden's chambers even before the royal wedding, even so much as staying there for an entire night. Yeon Lee asks her son to have some dignity and decency in order for his ministers to respect him at least once. Jin Won replies that he visited Dan Ah, the chief state councilor's daughter and the candidate that the Queen Mother herself favored ever since. He also cautions his mother to be grateful that he is even obliging with her schemes.
As he exits her chambers, Yeon Lee tells him that the chief state councilor is the one spreading the rumors, acting as if the marriage between Jin Won and Dan Ah has already been settled. She warns him that, though she initially thought Ja Gyeom was a loyal dog who could protect them, he is actually a wolf meant to devour them once set loose. Jin Won leaves, remarking that she was the one who opened the palace to him in the first place and decides that he might have to rely on that wolf to protect him.
The Queen Mother summons Se Hyung to her chambers and, later, Ja Gyeom. As he enters her chambers, Yeon Lee informs him that she has made her decision and shows him the official bridal statement that she orders him to release by the following day. She threateningly asks him if he is not curious on whose name she wrote in the bridal statement, after which he reads it and becomes surprised. As Yeon Lee reminds him that a dog shall never bite the hand that feeds it, she collapses. Revealing that Ja Gyeom has punctured her with a paralyzing potion he previously procured, he warns her that she should have been merely obliging; otherwise, he would not have had to paralyze her. Ja Gyeom explains that he shall let her live to bear witness to a Ga Guk finally ruled by him. He then calls out for help and to fetch the royal physician.
Jin Won is notified in the middle of the night about his mother's sudden collapse. The royal physician informs him that, though her body is paralyzed, the Queen Mother is fully conscious and aware of her surroundings. This makes it difficult for the physician to diagnose her, preliminarily judging it to be a stroke. He also tried to consider poisoning or trauma, but the physician is unable to find traces in the Queen Mother. Furthermore, he is unsure on when she would be able to recover.
Ja Gyeom pressures the king to make haste with the royal wedding and presents him the official bridal statement given that morning by the Queen Mother. Jin Won tries to stop the councilor, but Ja Gyeom bows to the king and asserts his loyalty to him, pleading for the king to consider his concerns. Won ponders about the matter, recalling his mother's warning to him. In the end, Jin Won orders for the announcement of the bride in the morning and to proceed with the wedding preparations. Moreover, since the Queen Mother is in no condition to authenticate the bridal statement, Jin Won makes the judgment call to choose his bride, whom he decides to be Hyun Bin.
Following the execution of Se Hyung and his daughter Se Ryeon for being proven guilty of killing the baby prince, Won visits his mother at night. Suddenly, Won becomes shocked and immediately calls for the royal physician after the paralyzed Queen Mother has finally awakened. The king then summons Ja Gyeom to the royal quarters and asks the councilor to hear an interesting story he heard straight from the source, before having the doors opened to reveal the partially recuperated Queen Mother.
With the councilor's visible aghast and proven guilt, Jin Won thanks him for all his hard work and charges him with attempted regicide and high treason, ordering for his execution the following morning. Won later asks his mother to rest, but Yeon Lee struggles to tell him that Ja Gyeom's execution is not the end because Jin Yeon is still alive. Eventually, she falls asleep amidst her condition.
Crimson Moon Rebellion
As the rebel army's revolt commences, Yeon Lee remains partially paralyzed in her quarters. At some point, some rebels headed by Gil Mu Jin presumably set her quarters on fire. As her room crumbles down, she laments why everything is being taken away from her again and struggles for help from her allies. Suddenly, an apparition of Ahn Young appears before Yeon Lee, voicing out her vengeful anger towards her usurper. When she hears footsteps approaching thinking they are Heuk Rang's, she immediately calls out to him. However, she becomes hopeless to see Jeok by her doorstep. She asks for help once again notifying that a rebel is in her quarters, but Jeok tells her that nobody else can hear her. As he tells her that her Ga Guk is done for, Jeok leaves her to be consumed by the fire.
- (To Ahn Young) "Ga Guk? Beautiful country?! Your beautiful country comes to an end here! From now on, I, Yoon Yeon Lee's country, will be the only one that remains!"
- (To Ja Gyeom) "Is that mouth of yours for decoration? Even if it is an excuse, say something!"
- (Referring to the Crimson Moon) "Crimson Moon? Hmph! You're nothing but a blood-stained rat. I will teach you what happens to those who challenge the sun!"
- (To Heuk Rang) "I suppose a fake can never quite be the same."
- (To Ja Gyeom) "I warned you, didn't I? A dog should never try to bite the hands that feeds it."
- Her given name in Hanja comprises of "妍", which means "beautiful", and "璃", which means "colored glaze" or "glass". Combining together, "Yeon Lee" in her Hanja form may mean "beautiful colored glaze" or "beautiful glass".
- The character decomposition of "璃" is "王" (yù, which means "jade") and "离" (lí, which may also refer to "離", one of the Eight Trigrams that symbolizes fire). Interestingly, both meanings are a play of words on her demise: "jade" may pertain to the Jin Hee Palace, while "fire" refers to the way on how she died.
|Characters of Twelve Nights|
|Royal Family||Ahn Young • Hyun Bin • Jin Hyul • Jin Jeok • Jin Won • Unnamed Baby Prince • Unnamed Baby Princess • Yi Hwi • Yi Sae Gi • Yoon Yeon Lee|
|Ministers||Hwang Se Hyung • Kim Hak Gyu • Sa Hwa Hyeon • Seo In Seon Woo • Wi Ji Hyun • Yi Ha • Yoo Ja Gyeom|
|Bi Yeong Pal Mu||Baek Ah • Baek Ju • Baek Lin • Baek Ryung • Baek Sa • Heuk Rang|
|Bi Yeong Ship Mu||Baek Ho • Baek Yoo Shin • Gil Mu Jin • Yi Ha|
|Deung Ha Bul Myung||Baek Ho • Crimson Moon • Gil Mu Jin • Nabi • Seol Hwa • Seo In Seon Woo • Wol Young Hwa • Yi Hwi • Yi Jeok|
|Yu Hyang Ru||Nabi • Wol Young Hwa • Yi Jeok|
|Others||Chung • Hwang Se Ryeon • Hyun • Ma Mi Song • Nam Yang Heon • Sori • Woon • Yi Ha's Wife • Yoo Dan Ah • Yoo Dan Ah's Mother|
|Royal Family||First Prince • First Princess • Jang Rei • Jang Rok Ha • Jang Ryun • Second Princess • Three Wives of Jang Ryun • Unnamed Baby Prince • Unnamed Baby Princess • Yeong Bi|
|Others||Gwak Ji Ryeon • Meng Gyeom|