CH 13: Soldiers in the Palace

Sponsored Content

Outside the door, the area was brightly lit.
On the walkway stood heavily armored soldiers, leaving only a narrow passageway.
Even Prince Donghai, who had seen his share of grandiose scenes, was stunned.
He stopped moving, and refused to walk out of the doorway.
He grabbed Han Ruzi’s arm and said, “These are not palace guards.”

Han Ruzi was rather hesitant as well.
During his ascension the previous day, he had seen large batches of ceremonial guards, They were at quite a distance, and all he could see were colorful banners, feathered helmets, armor and weapons all bunched together, like a sea of lanterns.
They were symbols of prestige but were not fearsome.

The batch of soldiers standing in front of him were different.
The armor plates clanged aggressively, the blades and spears glistening under the lanterns.
Even though the weapons were more than ten steps away, they felt like they were just about to reach his chest.
Just over a hundred men, and they looked more ferocious than thousands of ceremonial guards.

“They are here to protect Your Majesty,” said Yang Feng as he escorted the Emperor out of the door.

Prince Donghai hurriedly caught up.
He did not want to be left alone at a time like this.
He felt great unease, and he no longer cared if Yang Feng could hear him.
He said to Han Ruzi, “They are from the military camps outside of the city.
I don’t know if they are the Northern or Southern army — Ah! It must be the Southern Army! The Empress Dowager has dispatched her older brother’s armies! Just as I said…”

The soldiers numbered more than the hundred present.
The entire Imperial Palace had become a military camp.
There were squadrons of soldiers patrolling and guarding the entire palace.
The usual eunuchs and servant-girls were nowhere to be seen.

Prince Donghai was nearly paralyzed in fear.
He required two eunuchs to support him to move forward.
Han Ruzi was initially rather afraid as well, but he quickly recovered.
Regardless of what Yang Feng meant by “it is time”, he did not care.
As he made his way, he looked at the way people were looking at him.
The soldiers were different from the people of the palace, their eyes clearly displayed what they were thinking.
Some were doubtful, some were curious; some were respectful, some were excited.

Amidst these soldiers, maybe there were others like Liu Jie, only that they had not had the opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty.
Harboring such hopes, Han Ruzi’s every step was steady, and he declined assistance from the eunuchs.

The entourage quickly made their way to the Empress Dowager’s quarters.
There were even more soldiers gathered here, forming layers upon layers, surrounding the entire grounds.
Han Ruzi felt like he had to squeeze through the crowd.

Soldiers were arrayed in formation in the courtyard.
Under the roof of the main doorway, stood a general covered in armor.
Once he saw the Emperor, he knelt down clumsily with the assistance of his soldiers.
“This subject has been late in rescuing Your Majesty and begs for forgiveness.”

Han Ruzi knew that it was not his place to speak.
Indeed, Yang Feng who had not left his side said loudly, “Rise, General.
The General is armored, and may adopt military formalities.”

Sponsored Content

The General gave his thanks, and rose, again with the assistance of his soldiers.

When Han Ruzi walked past him, he recognized that this was the Empress Dowager’s older brother, the Grand Marshal of the Southern Army, Shang-guan Xu.
Prince Donghai’s guess was right — these were indeed soldiers from the Southern Army.

There were several people in the room, but no soldiers.
On the central couch sat Grand Consort Shang-guan.
Han Ruzi was also sent to the counch to sit, not far from the Grand Consort.
Zuo Ji led size eunuchs to guard the door to the eastern room.
The Empress Dowager was still unwilling to make an appearance.
Jing Yao and ten other eunuchs were scattered around the area; Sealbearer Liu Jie was one of them.
All of them wore a severe expression.

Other than that, there were two eunuchs and two servant-girls standing guard at the corner.
They were highly inconspicuous.
When Han Ruzi saw them, he felt that it was very possible that they were the same type of people as Meng E.
Their similarities was that they almost never looked at other people, and they always seemed to be looking at nowhere.
It looked like they were respectful, but they were actually guarding against unexpected events.

Meng E was nowhere to be seen.

Prince Donghai stood next to the Emperor.
His face was pale and he did not dare speak a word.

Yang Feng stood in the front side of the Emperor.
He remained silent as well.
Even though there were many people in the room, it was still unusually quiet.
At least Shang-guan Xu had kowtowed to the Emperor.
These people had forgone even the appearance of formality.
The Emperor quietly entered, and quietly sat down, no one paying him any attention.

Outside the room, the sun was rising.
Inside the room, candles were running out.
The quiet atmosphere was finally broken when Grand Marshal Shang-guan Xu entered.
He began the motions of kowtowing to the Emperor and the Grand Consort, but Jing Yao and another eunuch hurriedly supported his arms.

Grand Consort Shang-guan said to her brother, “General Shang-guan may dispense with formality.”

Shang-guan Xu stood still clasping his fist.
“Chancellor Yin Wuhai, Grand Tutor Cui Hong, Chief Commander Han Xing, Chief Censor of the Right Shen Mingzhi have entered the palace as ordered.”

Sponsored Content

Prince Donghai could hardly contain his excitement.
As long as Uncle Cui Hong was here, he was not afraid of anything.

The Grand Consort nodded, and Jing Yao went to the door to announce the entrance of the senior officials.

Chancellor Yin Wuhai was the first to enter.
His steps were unsteady and his head full of sweat.
Once he entered he quickly knelt and knocked his head while facing the couch and the eastern room.
He said, trembling, “This official deserves death! This official deserves death!”

The other senior officials were behind him, and they also followed suit, kneeling down and pleading mea culpa.

The Grand Consort was not her usual gentle self.
Her expression was cold and she kept silent.
The eunuchs did not give leave to the senior officials to rise.
The Chancellor and the others could only keep kneeling, not daring to even raise their head.

In less than a day, Shang-guan Xu was no longer that rising star who was trembling at unexpected occurrences.
He held military authority, and was the first to enter the palace to rescue the Emperor.
His expression was icy as he leaned on his sword at the door way, as though he was the warden of the four senior officials.

It was not just these few who had received an edict ordering them to enter the palace.
Before long, there were ten senior officials who entered, all kneeling behind the Chancellor.
The Minister of Personnel, Feng Ju, was later than the rest was for some reason or another.
This man in his fifties actually started weeping in front of everyone as he undid his headgear and begged for heavy punishment.

There were two other officials who, for some reason, also felt that they had committed grave sins.
Bangs sounded as they knocked their heads on the ground, their foreheads bleeding.

Han Ruzi watched this scene in shock.
This was not what he expected from the pillars of the Imperial Court.
Even if the senior officials could not be brave like Liu Jie, they should at least maintain some dignity.
But looking around, all he saw were trembling backs and sweaty heads.

The Grand Consort nodded lightly.
Jing Yao got the message, and with a gesture, ordered the eunuchs to help the senior officials up.
He then said, “My Lords, do not be in a hurry to beg for forgiveness.
His Majesty has but ascended for one day, and there was already an assassination attempt.
The Empress Dowager’s heart is burning with worry.
When she heard the news, she summoned the Grand Marshal of the Southern Army to enter the palace to conduct a complete search.
Three hundred…”

Jing Yao looked at a eunuch who quietly said, “384.”

Sponsored Content

“Mm, 384 people have been arrested.
From what we currently know, the assassination attempt was premeditated.
The palace must be investigated, but we must investigate outside the palace as well! We must find the mastermind of this plot! As the saying goes, soldiers are maintained for a thousand days to be used at a crucial hour.
His Majesty has encountered danger and the country is in peril.
What solutions may Your Lordships proffer?”

Whether they were sincere or not, all the senior officials displayed expressions of complete shock.
Chancellor Yin Wuhai took the lead as every official denounced the treasonous assassin.

Han Ruzi’s shock, however, was very real.
The strange happenings of the night before had only happened six hours ago.
He did not even see the shadow of any assassin, yet it had caused such a large ruckus.
Not only did an army enter the palace, nearly four hundred people were arrested.

Prince Donghai had said that the Empress Dowager had a grand plan, but the extent of her plans were beyond Han Ruzi’s imagination.

After the senior official’s denunciations, Chancellor Yin Wuhai finally said something useful.
“By the grace of the ancestors of Great Chu, His Majesty did not meet with any harm.
Could Your Majesty describe what had happened?”

“At that time, I… We…” Han Ruzi was not so scared as to not be able to speak.
It was just that he felt like he should be highly cautious at a time like this and say as little as possible.
This was what Yang Feng had always reminded him to do.

Prince Donghai who was by the side found his opportunity.
Ever his he saw his uncle Cui Hong, he grew ever more bold.
“His Majesty is overwhelmed with shock, so let me explain.
It happened last night at second watch.[1] His Majesty and I were discussing matters of state, when the three candles in the room were extinguished.
Cold winds blew as shadows danced…”

Everyone focused their attention on Prince Donghai, including Han Ruzi.
Prince Donghai’s descriptions were vivid and riveting, as though there were more than one assassin, maybe many.
According to him, the Emperor was shocked out of his wits, completely relying on Prince Donghai’s fearlessness and calm command of the situation, calling upon the guards and fighting off the assassins.
The officials were so taken that they cried out, “Long live!”

Prince Donghai finished his narration.
Jing Yao came forward and said simply, “The Empress Dowager made a prompt decision and she ordered everyone in the palace to stay still.
Everyone had to account for their whereabouts at the relevant time, and anyone with fewer than two alibis were suspects.
At the same time, the Southern Army was summoned and all palace guards were checked.
We are questioning the suspects now, and we should hear confessions soon.”

Jing Yao had just finished speaking when there was a noise from outside the room.
Shang-guan Xu sent someone to check, and when he was informed, he said gravely, “One of the assassin’s accomplices has confessed.”

“So soon?” Grand Tutor Cui Hong blurted out, but realized his mistake and quickly added, “The Empress Dowager is wise, and General Shang-guan is swift.
This assassin… must have been taken by complete surprise…”

Sponsored Content

“A pity that we did not catch the assassin, only several accomplices.
Two of them committed suicide on the spot, while three were captured, one of whom has confessed.” Shan-guan Xu did not take offense to Cui Hong’s words.

Cui Hon grew increasingly uneasy as he nodded repeatedly in agreement.

“Have we found out the identity of the assassin?” asked Grand Consort Shang-guan.

Shang-guan Xu nodded, but did not reply immediately.
Instead, he said, “The assassin had stayed hidden in the palace for many years, with many deep ties.
May His Majesty and the Empress Dowager grant me discretionary powers to root the traitors out.”

All Han Ruzi could do was to grunt in acknowledgement.
Grand Consort Shang-guan had already spoken on behalf of the Empress Dowager.
“General, you have free reign to get things done.”

Shang-guan Xu swept a look at the ten-odd eunuchs in the room.
Everyone was nervous, including the Director of Palace Attendants, Jing Yao, as well as the Empress Dowager’s trusted eunuch Zuo Ji.

Shang-guan Xu did not make any  accusations, but with a gesture, two heavily armored officers entered and quietly made their way through the crowd of officials.
They grabbed Sealbearer Liu Jie’s arms and started dragging him out of the room.

“This is a mistake! You have made a mistake! I have nothing to do with the assassin! I don’t even know who the assassin is!” Liu Jiu only realized what was happening when he was dragged to the door.

Han Ruzi could no longer tolerate matters.
He stood up and said, “Hold on.
We have something to say.”

[1] According to ancient Chinese timekeeping, this would be the time from 9pm to 11pm.

点击屏幕以使用高级工具 提示:您可以使用左右键盘键在章节之间浏览。

You'll Also Like