The river flowed continuously. Suddenly, numerous dots of lights appeared and two heads could be seen. One was Sheng Chumu and the other was Sheng Chuling. Sheng Chuling spat out a mouthful of water and was about to cough when his elder brother covered his mouth.
“Keep quiet!” Sheng Chumu looked at the forest in front of them. He could vaguely make out the tents of the Hundred Army. He was secretly rejoicing that the general that replaced him did not change the location.
Sheng Chuling grumbled, “It is so far, who would hear us? Moreover, my Xinnan is not a fish, why did you bring me underwater for?”
There were so many miracles that happened this year. His elder brother had resurrected for the second time and returned home in great spirits. Following that, Sheng Chumu told him that Xinnan did not die but only pretended to be dead and was currently hiding in the palace with Fu Rou’s help. She was still safe. As soon as he heard this, Chuling’s spirits raised greatly. He intended to follow his elder brother to sneak into the palace and save his wife. But, this place did not look like the palace.
“Chang’an’s commander has been changed and no one can be trusted. Minister Fang and the other ministers have all been summoned to the palace and this is the only place where we can get help.” Sheng Chumu did not wait for his younger brother to speak. “The Restricted Area has the Wei River in the north, Chang’an in the west, the Royal Palace in the South and the Chan River in the East. It is a crucial point in military affairs. Why do you think the Emperor would let me train the Hundred Army in the Restricted Area?”
Sheng Chuling thought about it and was astonished, “Could it be that the Emperor suspected that a day like this would come and decided to prepare first? But you only have a hundred men under you, can you really reverse things?”
Sheng Chumu laughed proudly, “Well, we will have to try to find out!” As he spoke, he pushed himself onto shore and silently ran into the forest.
Ye Qiulang and Zong Jianxiu led the Hundred Army through the forest. They managed not to alert the new commander. Very soon, they gathered by the river. Sheng Chumu walked out and Sheng Chuling followed him. Everyone was emotional as they cupped their fists and greeted him. They all lowered their voices and shouted, “General.”
Sheng Chumu smiled, revealing his white teeth. “Did you all miss me?”
Zong Jianxiu grinned, “Of course. Brother Ye missed you more than his Yan’er.”
Ye Qiulang elbowed Zong Jianxiu. “General, you are finally back. We have waited a long time for you.”
Sheng Chumu turned serious. “Skills are not learned in a day. Did you all degrade?”
Ye Qiulang and Zong Jianxiu replied simultaneously, “Of course not.”
“Very good.” Sheng Chumu nodded. “As you all know, when I went to Fu Shui’s Villa to rescue Sheng Chuling, I got ambushed. Fu Shui’s identity is extremely suspicious yet he entered the palace as an Imperial Physician and treated the Emperor. Until now, the Emperor has yet to awake and there have been huge changes and personnel movements in court. Today, Prince Zhou summoned all the ministers and officials to court and I have reason to suspect that there is a conspiracy going on.”
Zong Jianxiu spoke first, “Are they conspiring to take the throne?”
Ye Qiulang was very direct. “General, what do you want us to do?”
Sheng Chumu replied, “Take hold of the Royal Palace and get rid of the evil.”
“Take hold of the Royal Palace? You want to take hold of the Royal Palace with just a hundred of you? Don’t you know the Royal Palace has high walls and deep courtyards?! It has copper walls and barriers!” Sheng Chuling was once an imperial guard and proudly believed that the protection of the palace was invulnerable.
Sheng Chumu was composed. “This is the Restricted Area with Chang’an to our west and the Royal Palace to our south. Between us and the Royal Palace, there is only one Xuanwu Gate. The Hundred Army knows the Xuanwu Gate as well as the formations of the Imperial Guards very well. We have already practiced and gone through this many times, including how to deal with seizing the throne.”
Ye Qiulang had a sudden realisation. “No wonder the Emperor did not intervene when we did those practices that should have been tabooed. So the reason why he arranged General to be in the Restricted Area was because…”
Sheng Chumu continued, “For Great Tang.”
Sheng Chuling’s mouth fell open slightly, “I see.”
To think that back then, he grumbled that the Emperor could not recognise talent. His Elder Brother was so impressive, yet because of the Crown Prince’s words, he was made into the general controlling just a hundred men. Although he was stationed in the Restricted Area, they had seemed like a group to help chase animals for hunts. Who would have known that he was the true expert!
The Crown Prince and Prince Han sat facing each other. Their stomachs were grumbling. Prince Han’s stomach was rumbling especially loudly. They only had two meals a day and each meal consisted of half a bowl of porridge. It has been a few days. No matter how much the Crown Prince did not feel like eating, he would share half a bowl of porridge with Prince Han every day. Eventually, he was so hungry he could not stand it. What was strange was that Yu He had anticipated for the two brothers to quarrel and suffer, but it did not happen. On the contrary, they were on better terms.
“Why is it so late today? Will they not even give us half a bowl of porridge today?” Prince Han swallowed his saliva.
“Imperial Father is sick and Xinnan is dead. How can you still look forward to eating?” The Crown Prince was hungry but was not going to admit it.
“Then what can I do? At this point, it will be great if we don’t starve to death.” Prince Han sighed, “I am worried if Imperial Father continues to remain unconscious…”
“Imperial Father will recover.” The Crown Prince cut him off with certainty.
“I said if…”
“There is no if. Imperial Father will get better…” The Crown Prince suddenly stopped talking as he saw three palace maids walk in front of their prison room with food baskets in their hands.
Prince Han’s eyes lit up. “Heaven finally has eyes. We are finally having a big meal.”
The Crown Prince glanced at him and lowered his voice. “The final big meal.”
Prince Han was shocked as his face paled. “How can it be?”
The prison head opened the door. “Concubine Yan is generous and prepared…” Before he could complete his sentence, he was knocked over by the food basket and fainted on the floor. . The Crown Prince and Prince Han were shocked.
“Court Lady Fu has orders to send Your Highnesses to the Emperor.” The palace maids were female officials that respected Fu Rou greatly.
The Crown Prince was pulled back to reality. “Why? Did Imperial Father…”
“The Emperor is still unconscious. However, Concubine Yan has captured Court Lady Fu and taken the Emperor’s Seal. She is about to forge an Imperial Decree of Succession. At this very moment, all the ministers are in court. As soon as the Imperial Decree arrives, Prince Zhou will be the new Emperor.”
Prince Han shouted, “This is a conspiracy!”
The Crown Prince’s expression changed. “We should head to the main hall to stop Prince Zhou.”
The leading female official shook her head. “No. Court Lady Fu has already made arrangements there. Both Your Highnesses have to protect the Emperor for things to have a chance to improve.”
The Crown Prince looked unwilling.
Prince Han agreed, “Crown Prince, we have both witnessed Court Lady Fu’s abilities. Imperial Mother looked upon her highly and handed the Six Offices to her. She will not let Imperial Mother down. Let’s listen to her.”
The Crown Prince stared at Prince Han for a while before nodding. He ended up in the state he is in today because he did not trust his own brother. Therefore, he swore that he would not make the same mistake.
At this moment, Prince Zhou was standing behind a screen, wearing the real Dragon Robe. His emotions were surging.
His Imperial Mother had told him that his Imperial Father had woken up for a short moment and immediately sent out the Imperial Decree of Succession, choosing him to inherit the throne. He could not believe his ears. His Imperial Mother said that ultimately, he managed to move his Imperial Father and his Imperial Father approved of him as his most outstanding son. In that moment, all the humiliation that he had endured over the years dissolved.
Prince Zhou took a deep breath and stepped into the main hall. In front of all the ministers, he kneeled in front of the throne and listened to Chief Cao as he read the decree.
“Heaven created people and gave someone to lead them. By leading with morals and principles, the citizens will be empowered. The first son, Li Chengqian, has failed and cannot bear the responsibility. He shall be demoted to a common person. I have many responsibilities and have not been able to rest well. Attending court has taken a toll on my health and I have many health issues. The third prince, Li Ge, looks ahead and is bright and clear. He is almost at the position and the throne shall be passed on to him. He shall lead the world.”
Every word that Chief Cao read slowly filled the gap in his heart all these years. Very soon, he realised that the court was extremely quiet.
Prince Zhou turned around to look. All the ministers, with Minister Fang leading them, did not express respect nor happiness. They all looked serious.
He narrowed his eyes and changed from passive to active. “This is an important matter. Minister Fang, please call two individuals that are familiar with Imperial Father’s handwriting to examine the Imperial Decree and determine if it is real.”
Fang Xuanling was unwilling to pass on the responsibility. “Minister Zhang, Minister Pang.”
The three of them walked forward to take the Imperial Decree. They examined it closely and exchanged looks. They admitted that this was the Emperor’s own handwriting. This time, Fang Xuanling took the lead and kneeled. He led the ministers to cheer for long life.
Chief Cao announced, “The new Emperor shall ascend the throne, bow-”
Prince Zhou stepped in front of the throne and his hand touched the arm rest. Suddenly, a clear voice resounded.
“Imperial Father is still around, who dares to usurp the throne? This is a conspiracy!”
All the ministers turned around and saw Princess Xinnan. She was wearing a palace maid’s uniform and a group of female officials followed behind her. They stood in the main door. Everyone thought that Xinnan had passed on. They did not expect her to still be alive and be accusing Prince Zhou of a conspiracy. They were all stunned for a moment.
Xinnan spoke loudly, “The Imperial Decree of Succession was forged!”
Fang Xuanling stood up.
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