Nearby, Xiao Xin slept soundly.
The baby was such an easy baby to look after. She slept through the night with
a full belly of milk. Her designated nanny dozed next to the crib. So, in the
pleasant after-celebration haze, Xiao Xiao didn’t see the knife that slipped through
the window and the shadow that darkened a portion of the moon-lit floor.
Xiao Xiao sat up slowly. The shadow flowed in. It was all black cloth with a slit for eyes that were cold, focussed. An assassin.
The knife slid quietly like a snake. It was heading for Xiao Xin. Xiao Xiao found her courage, grabbed the hilt of her jian and shouted. The shadow-cloaked assassin’s eyes widened and before Xiao Xiao could yell, darted out of the door.
By this time, Xiao Xiao was on her feet, jian in her hand and running out, shouting: “Assassin! Assassin!” The nanny was awake, holding onto a stunned and clearly upset Xiao Xin who, disturbed by the yelling, awoke. The shadow flitted down the corridor, turned a corner and disappeared.
For the whole night, the palace ground hummed with activity, with guards running up and down the corridors, searching for the assassin. Torchlights dotted the palace.
Mother was livid with rage.
In the morning, the palace still buzzed with gossip and speculation. Nobody owed up. The Empress of the West Palace was nowhere to be found with the excuse that she needed some fresh air and had transferred herself to the winter palace.
Xiao Xiao knew, deep down in her heart, that the Empress had something to do with the assassin. Such a wicked woman! And she also knew that these attacks would not stop.
As she watched over Xiao Xin, Xiao Xiao held the green pearl in a tight fist, as if it would give her strength.