The Ministers didn't know where exactly they were supposed to be headed to. After all, the entire Palace was a mess. Where could they locate the Emperor?
"It's so bizarre," Baron Han spoke up as the Ministers walked down an empty hallway. "A bunch of crazy soldiers had invaded the Palace, but there's not a single dead body in the hallway. If it was a group of rebels, wouldn't they have killed anyone they see?"
Duke Li Shenyang ground his teeth. This Baron sure had a lot of words for someone with zero influence. "Who knows what these people are thinking?"
Baron Han glanced at Duchess Wang Qixing whose face couldn't be seen. Half of it was pressed against her husband's chest and the other half was shielded by her hair. He didn't think the stoic Prime Minister was such an endearing husband. It was all too suspicious…
"Where are we walking to exactly?" Baron Han asked as he observed their surroundings. He was unfamiliar with this part of the Palace since his duties were always near the Throne Room.
"To the outside of the Palace. Judging by the silence, I'd assume the chaos has ended. If it's our victory, then I would assume one of the Eunuchs can direct us to the Emperor," Duke Li Shenyang explained.
"You're very calm about this entire ordeal, Prime Minister," Baron Han sniped. "It's all too strange."
"In the face of a storm, someone has to remain calm. Or else, we'd all be a bunch of mindless chickens," Duke Li Shenyang retorted.
Baron Han scowled. He had not gotten over the grudge he held against the Li Family for what they did to his precious daughter, Han Jieru. Even to this day, her reputation hadn't recovered.
"It's almost as if you—"
"Prime Minister," Marquis Ning interrupted whilst sending a warning smile to the Baron's direction. "Why don't you guide your wife home first? I'm sure she's shaken by today's events."
Duke Li Shenyang weighed the benefits. He glanced down at Duchess Wang Qixing whose superb acting had fooled everyone.
With his wife by his side, he'd raise fewer suspicions since his silence could be justified by the comfort he was offering her. But then again, if she was home, she could assert leadership and control the situation outside of the Palace.
Duke Li Shenyang trusted his children, but at the end of the day, they were still young adults. They needed someone to guide them in case things took a turn for the worst.
"W-will you return home with me, darling?" Duchess Wang Qixing purposely asked, knowing exactly what her husband would say. She had crafted this exact question to brush the suspicion off of him.
"No, my sweetheart. I'm afraid my duty is to this country," Duke Li Shenyang gently explained as he grasped her hand. "I must seek our Emperor and ensure he is safe and well."
It was the response that Duchess Wang Qixing had predicted. The concern in the Duke's expression was enough to throw the suspicious Baron Han off his trail. The other Ministers should also feel at ease by the Duke's response since it illustrated that their Prime Minister still cared for the Emperor.
"Yes, please find my dear brother! You must promise me that, darling!" Duchess Wang Qixing pleaded. Her eyes were moistened from tears and she glanced up at him like a damsel in distress.
Duke Li Shenyang resisted the urge to smile at her excellent acting. Instead, he wiped the tears from her eyes and nodded. "I will do everything in my power to find him, do not worry. The Emperor's safety is my first priority."
Duchess Wang Qixing sniffled in response and nodded her head, pretending to be the obedient wife she wasn't. "O-once we make it beyond the hallway and the palace grounds, I will head home and pray for everyone's safety."
Judging by the couple's behavior, Baron Han knew he could no longer accuse the Li Family of any treasonous schemes. Their behavior was simply too endearing to ignore.
- - - - -
Li Xueyue stumbled as she grabbed her forehead. The pain was beginning to dull, but it was still there. She wondered what was giving her such a throbbing headache. She concluded that it was most likely something about the handkerchief that was pressed to her nose that had caused this reaction.
She ground her teeth. "Who the hell did that?" she muttered to herself.
There was so much for Li Xueyue to ponder over. From Li Minghua's appearance to the Empress's death… She shuddered.
Li Xueyue suddenly recalled the image of the Empress's limp body on the ground. It was such an unbearable sight, even though she had seen it only for a few seconds. It was all very suspicious to her.
"Suddenly Li Minghua shows up, and then I'm knocked out from behind… I should've known my instincts weren't off. There really was someone in the hallway beside me," Li Xueyue thought out loud and bit her bottom lip.
"Who could it be?" she mumbled whilst trudging onwards. That is until she stumbled across a group of soldiers in the distance. Whether they were friends or foes, she did not know.
Li Xueyue was terrified that something might happen to her if they noticed her. Immediately, she attempted to slip into one of the rooms but found it was locked.
"We see someone!" one of the soldiers called out.
Li Xueyue cursed under her breath. It was now or never. She made a dash down the other direction of the hallway, hoping that one of these corners would confuse them.
Li Xueyue wished she could be faster but the strain from running had only worsened her headache. She groaned in protest, touching her forehead. Exactly how strong was that drug for it not to wear off after such a long time?
Not watching where she was going, Li Xueyue stumbled. The mistake had caused her to slow down a bit. She didn't know exactly who was chasing her, or the fact that the soldiers were catching up to her.
It was too late, by the time she turned around, someone had grabbed onto her elbow. Li Xueyue screamed as she swung her hand. It immediately connected with flesh and a loud slap was heard.
The grip on her elbow loosened and she attempted to escape, only to be grabbed again. Li Xueyue had no time to waste. She back-kicked, hoping to connect her foot with his manberries. Unfortunately for her, he was already used to that move.
"Will you calm down?!" Wen Jinkai demanded, pushing her legs away. "Are you trying to make me infertile?" he hissed, turning her around.
Li Xueyue let out a horrified scream upon seeing him. "W-what are you doing here?"
"I should be asking you that question," Wen Jinkai seethed. "What are you doing snooping near the Empress's corridors?"
"I wasn't snooping, I got lost here," she lied. "Next thing I knew, I was hit in the head and woke up in a strange room."
Wen Jinkai paused. "Who would knock you unconscious?"
"That's what I want to know," Li Xueyue muttered. "Look, just take me to the palace entrance. I need to head home and—" she stopped herself. "Wait, what are you doing here as well?"
Wen Jinkai's face became guarded. "Nothing. Let's go, I'll take you beyond the palace walls."
Li Xueyue was skeptical of his response, but nonetheless, decided to accompany him.
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