Just outside the minister of Wars residence, streets away from the Imperial Palace.

Shen Xiaoriu looked out from behind the empty wooden kiosk in front of a slim alleyway opposite minister Yins residence. It was already passed curfew and the city guards had begun to patrol the streets.

He waited patiently for the group of city guards stationed in front of the minister of wars residence to walk past his hiding spot. He ran out of his hiding spots once they were out of sight and jumped over the stone wall and entered the ministers residence.

He was familiar with the residence since he had visited the residence a few times with the Emperor. Although security was tight there were a few blind spots, he stealthy made his way to Minister Yins study.

it was fully lit indicating that it was in use. He ran to the open window at the back of the study and jumped in. He wasn aware that Minister Yin who had stepped out to relieve himself minutes earlier had seen him jump into the residence.

As soon as he turned around he heard the low wiss sound of a sword being unsheathed. He stilled as the ice-cold blade appeared inches away from his jugular. His hand immediately went to his own blade at his side.

”Not so fast ”, a coarse male voice said from behind him. The owner of the voice, an old man with greying hair jabbed his elbow sharply.

”Ah! ” Shen Xiaoriu gasped and immediately let go of his sword as his hand grew numb. He looked down at his arm, the sudden movement resulted in the sword at his neck lightly piercing his neck.

”Master Yin, please Stand down. it is Xiaoriu ”, he said standing still.

Minister Yins eyes widened, he quickly pulled the sword away, ”Xiaoriu! what are you doing here? ”

Shen Xiaoriu quickly turned around, clutching his paralysed arm to his chest, ”there was an assassination attempt on his majesty ”.

”What! ” He rushed out of the room and yelled a Du Muchen, his attendant to send for his steward. He rushed to the wooden cupboard and took out his military tally. He sat by his table and began to pen urgent letters to a few loyal commanders

Shen Xiaoriu followed him closely, he rushed to look out the window and looked out, ”can your steward be trusted, the fact that there was no response from the palace guards is strange. His majesty suspected that someone from the Imperial family was behind the attack ”

Minister Yin paused his writing, ”Someone like… Prince Chen, his Majesty instructed me to investigate his younger brother and his father-in-law. I haven found any concrete evidence pointing towards them committing treason but I found evidence of embezzlement ”.

Shen Xiaoriu walked forward, ”Prince Chens brother-in-law Qiu Jianjiu is the left commander of the palace guards. He could control the palace guards ”.

”Did you notice any tags on the assassins that attacked you? ”

”No… I…They were all dressed in black but… they all wore one-eyed iron masks ”

Minister Yin nodded, ”I have heard of a group of assassins that wear masks like that, they are from Duan. They are very discrete and expensive, the Qiu Family cannot afford them. I had men watching the eighth prince and the Qiu family, I would have been alerted if they made any moves ”.

Shen Xiaoriu dropped the Imperial seal on the table and Flexed his hands. ”His Majesty asked for reinforcements, he is going to get her majesty and the children out of the palace through the secret pathways ”.

”Secret pathway? There are no secret pathways in the palace, Xiaoriu ”, they both looked out of the window as the city bell began to ring.

Steward Gu ran in as the bell rang, ”Eldest master! ”, he cried out as he ran in. His eyes widened as they fell on Shen Xiaoriu, ”Gen-general Shen? I_I misstepped, I did not know that master had company. My apologies General Shen ”.

”No worries ”, Shen Xiaoriu replied stepping forward to keep the imperial seal out of view. Steward Gu did not notice the seal, he was more focused on his master. Shen Xiaorius heart stopped when the bell rang longer than the standard 3 times, ”this… ”

”A Messenger from the palace just left… He_ He announced that his Majesty was found dead in his room. Assasins breached the palace. His Majesty and the entire servants on night duty were killed ”, he said in a quiet tone.

Shen Xiaoriu stumbled back, he held on to the edges of the table to steady himself. How, he thought. He exchanged a troubled expression with minister Yin. Minister Yin fell back on his seat and for a few seconds staring at the letters on the table.

He ran a hand through his hair, ”The nation is in mourning, Make the necessary arrangements ”.

”Yes ”, Steward Gu replied and walked to the door, he paused a few steps away from the door and turned around when Minister Yin called him back.

”One more thing did the messenger reveal who found his Majesty ”.

”Yes, it was his Highness, Prince Feng ”, Steward watched his masters face but observed no changes in his expression.

He left after he was dismissed by his master. He stood by the wall and positioned his ears towards the open window. He yelped and jumped back as he felt a cold hand on his left shoulder.

”Du- Du Muchen! I_I should get going ”, he nearly tripped over his foot he ran away. Du Chen watched him leave, with a slight frown.

Once the older man was out of sight, he sighed and walked back to his post just outside the door. He had stepped out when he heard footsteps.


Meanwhile, inside the study, Minister Yin picked up the four letters he had written and threw them into the open flame of the small burner next to his reading table.

There was no need to keep such a letter since the Emperor had died, he glanced at Shen Xiaoriu who sat on the floor. He stood, eyes wide as soon as Shen Xiaoriu slapped his cheeks hard.

Shen Xiaoriu looked like a man that had lost the will to live. Minister Yin rushed forward and grabbed Shen Xiaorius swords as he attempted to unsheath his sword.

”Don ! ” He pulled the sword out of Shen Xiaorius hold and threw it across the room. ”Don make any rash decisions, his Majesty deliberately sent you away to save your life. Don let his sacrifice go to waste! ”.

Shen Xiaoriu hissed and slapped his thigh continuously, ”what was I thinking, I never should have left him alone ”.

Squatting by Shen Xiaorius side, Minister Yin held Shen Xiaorius fist before it came down on his thigh once again,

”beating yourself up will solve nothing, his majesty knew who was behind this attack or he wouldn have sent you away. He understood that his death would end everything ”.

His gaze fell on the Imperial seal on the table, ”his Majesty might be dead but he died with an heir, It won be easy for Prince Feng to take the throne. We should protect her majesty and the Crown Prince. Until this is resolved, hold onto the Imperial seal, I will meet with Prime Minister Zhao and discuss a way forward ”.

Shen Xiaoriu glanced at the seal and nodded, ”I will have a few of my men monitor the situation in the palace ”.

”Good ” he let go of Shen Xiaorius fist and stood, ”I should get ready to enter the palace ”.

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