246 Lead The Way
A loud murmur fell over the Court Ministers. Everyone began to discuss what the issue had escalated to. Duke Li Shenyang was stunned into silence, but the man beside him moved faster than a horse.
Duchess Wang Qixing was horrified as she immediately grabbed onto Li Xueyue, daring anyone to touch her daughter.
"Your Majesty, you have gone too far," she said. "The punishment for a crime as light as bullying of a servant is no more than an apology."
"So as her mother, you also acknowledge the crime. This is why I tell you that babying your children will bring no good," Emperor Fadong said, shaking his head at the reaction of everyone.
The guards stepped forward and rushed towards Li Xueyue, ready to take her away, but one man was a step ahead.
Wen Jinkai drew his sword out, as he stood protectively in front of Li Xueyue. "Anyone who touches her will lose that hand," he seethed.
The guards did not hesitate at his threat. They didn't care that he was the Demon Lord of the Battlefield. It was thirty against one. What could possibly go wrong?
The guards advanced towards the Commander, leaving no room for hesitations as they charged, but that was their first mistake. Wen Jinkai pushed Li Xueyue backward as his sword collided with a soldier. At the same time, in rushed reinforcements. Shadow Guards stepped out from their hiding spots, immediately supporting their Master before anyone else.
"Wen Jinkai!" Emperor Fadong hollered. "Withdraw your sword this instant. You've gotten gutsy pulling out a weapon in front of my face."
Wen Jinkai effortlessly sliced through a soldier. He didn't hesitate to pull out the bloodied sword and stab it into the ground.
He smiled. "A murder has been committed right in front of you. I was the one who bullied that useless servant. Now, what are your charges for me?"
Emperor Fadong was taken aback by his son's brash behavior. His face scrunched up in pure fury. Everyone was testing his power today. "Have you fallen deep into the Princess's schemes to acquire powerful men as her aid?"
Li Xueyue was practically slapped by the Emperor's insult. She glanced up at him, shocked that he would make such a bold accusation that would immediately ruin her reputation. She felt the supportive and sympathetic stares of the Ministers turning into curious and doubtful ones. Accusations lingered in the air as tensions rose high.
Wen Jinkai let out a dark laughter. "You, out of everyone here, should know I do not fall for anyone anymore."
Confusion flickered in the Emperor's angry stare before realization coursed through him. For a split second there, remorse and guilt clouded his judgement and weighed down his heart. But all of that was meaningless now.
Li Minghua was dead. What was the point of honoring her after that?
"You disappoint me," Emperor Fadong seethed. "Get out of my sight. This isn't a punishment that you should bear. It's Li Xueyue's."
"I. Harmed. That. Servant." Wen Jinkai emphasized each and every word. "It's four simple words. Surely, Your Majesty would understand it."
"If there is anyone you want to accuse of that stupid crime, then it should be me," Wen Jinkai snarled. "We all know this isn't the reason you're punishing Li Xueyue. What is your actual motive, Your Majesty?"
The Emperor saw red. The disrespect towards him by the people inside of this room could pile into a mountain. "You want a punishment so desperately?" he seethed. "Fine."
Wen Jinkai stood there as Emperor Fadong gestured for a Eunuch forward. A decree was immediately read out loud by the man.
"Hereby, from this day onwards, Commander Wen Jinkai will be accused of treason against the Crown and banished—" the Eunuch choked. Blood spurted from his throat where an arrow had pierced through it. He staggered and collapsed to the ground, dead in an instant.
Mayhem broke out in the court. The Ministers rushed to get out of the Throne Room, but realized it was safer beyond the walls than the grand entrance of the Throne Room.
Soldiers from all sides of the Throne Room rushed forward, advancing up the staircase. They protectively formed a barrier around the Emperor and the Princes, rushing to escort them far away to safety. They avoided the front entrance that directly faced the throne where it was deemed the most dangerous.
Duchess Wang Qixing knew that plans had changed. She glanced backward and her eyes grew wide upon seeing the squadrons of soldiers swarming up the steps. They all wore masks that concealed their identity.
Horrified screams echoed in the Throne Room as more soldiers with masks began to pour in from every direction. It was a mess and swords loudly clashed.
"We must run," Duchess Wang Qixing said as she grabbed onto Li Xueyue's hand and tugged her towards Duke Li Shenyang's direction.
Li Xueyue stood there frozen in shock at what had just happened. Was this the assassination that was hinted of?
"GO!" Wen Jinkai roared, as he pushed the mother and daughter in the Duke's direction just as he blocked off a soldier.
"We have to hurry!" Duchess Wang Qixing dragged Li Xueyue in her husband's direction. When she saw the panic on her husband's face, she knew it was an act.
The Duke never panicked. Even in the worst of storms, he would remain calm with that passive, brooding stare of his.
Duke Li Shenyang rushed his wife and daughter out of the Throne Room. He ushered them in the opposite direction of the soldiers. More and more of the Imperial Guards were pooling into the Throne Room, running past the Li Family. No one spared them the time of day, but that was exactly what the Duke wanted.
"What's going on?" Li Xueyue asked as she quickly followed her parents.
"Change of plans," Duke Li Shenyang explained. "We must rush all of you home first. The twins are waiting there—"
"But Chenyang has work today, and Wenmin is supposed to be at the training camp." Duchess Wang Qixing pointed out when they reached a dark hallway that led to a secret passage.
Duke Li Shenyang cursed under his breath. He turned around to see one of the Imperial soldiers.
"Prime Minister, I didn't know it was you." The leader of the group stepped forward, but he seemed far from apologetic. "You may not advance forward any longer. This is the secret passage to be used by only the Royal family and no one else."
"What are you doing here?" Duke Li Shenyang asked. "The Emperor is in danger in the Throne Room. We need every soldier there as soon as possible."
"I understand your viewpoint, Prime Minister, but you're under the Emperor's protection. We're told to escort you elsewhere."
Duke Li Shenyang was immediately suspicious. Why would the Emperor protect them? When was this order given?
Duke Li Shenyang stiffened. Did the Emperor catch onto the plan? Following the Royal family's evacuation protocol meant that they would be escorted off the palace grounds and into a safe house.
Duchess Wang Qixing realized they didn't have any guards with them. In the chaotic fight, everyone had split up. What exactly was going on?
Duke Li Shenyang had no other choice but to comply. These soldiers could easily overpower them all.
"Very well, gentlemen. Lead the way," he reluctantly said.
The soldiers nodded their heads as they began to guide the way down the hallways. Duke Li Shenyang stood protectively in front of his family as the soldiers walked ahead of them. He could only hope that everything would go according to plan, but nothing prepared him for the chaotic night.