In order to enter the imperial city, one had to show their identity to prove that they were a subject of the Eastern Jin Kingdom and not a spy from a foreign kingdom with the goal of destroying the Great Jin Dynasty. Foreign merchants would be able to get through the checkpoint if they applied to the government for a merchant pass to sell their goods.
Of course, such laws were not as strict during times of peace, but during times of war, even if it was the smallest suspicion, a person could get arrested as a 'spy' of an enemy kingdom and get thrown in prison.
"The gates are closing!" A soldier yelled, as per usual, this was the same every day. It took at least ten soldiers in order to close each large gate that protected the great imperial city, twenty if the gates were to be closed at the same time.
Among one of the last to enter the grand imperial city gates was an old man with grey-white hair with a well-kept beard. His white hair was tied into a knot atop his head with a wooden stick, his face was all wrinkled and weathered, giving off the appearance of a lonely old man, his robes were a simple dark gray color, without any ornaments or decorations. He was accompanied by a horse, pulling a small carriage.
His eyes squinted at the last few minutes of sunlight before it would slowly drop below the horizon.
His eyes wandered around this familiar, yet distant place that he had once known. He sighed internally.
Before he was about to tug for his horse to leave, something caught his old eyes. A piece of paper posted on the imperial city's bulletin. He came closer to take a look, what he ended up with was a shock.
According to the paper, it said that consort Ning's grand funeral into the imperial mausoleum will be held in a few days, along with the news of a massive arrest of all imperial doctors present during the labor.
"Old Shen." The man muttered as he read the news on the bulletin.
He led his tottering horse behind him as they slowly traveled to his old home in the capital.
He arrived at the plain wooden doors, there was a wood plaque above the doors that read Huang manor.
In front of the manor, was a middle-aged man dressed in commoner's attire, sweeping with a broom. His actions were lethargic, as he repeated the same actions over and over again, removing the leaves from the manor's ground. His eyes were dull as if there was no hope in his eyes.
As soon as he saw the old man, his dull eyes lit up, "Master!" He yelled emotionally, dropping his broom and running to help the old man with his horse.
"Steward Li." The old man said with a smile, as they entered the manor.
To call him steward Li was an understatement, the entire Huang manor only had one servant, it couldn't really be considered a manor.
It was not the most lavish house in the imperial city, it was only a small courtyard, but there was no dust or dead leaves from the windy weather. The small comfortable home had been well taken care of by one person alone.
As the old man walked through the doors, he walked through the familiar hallways that he use to walked through every day. Now, everything seemed strange.
The old man was Huang Taiwu, he had served as the previous head imperial physician, coming from a humble background. Three years ago, he went back to his hometown to observe his wife's funeral, leaving the position of the head imperial physician. He had not returned for three years, spending it in mourning for his beloved.
He sat down in the seat of the master of the manor, as steward prepared a pot of tea for his master after a long journey.
As steward Li entered with the tea, Huang Taiwu immediately asked: "What happened in the capital?"
"I heard he got arrested for the death of consort Ning and the prince." Steward Li said with a sigh, placing the tea on the table.
"Hm, I should immediately ask him about this matter." Huang Taiwu said getting up and leaving.
"But master, you just returned." Steward Li said as he quickly poured a cup of tea, placing it in front of his master.
"No. It might be too late if I wait any longer." As he said this, he immediately got up and left. He feared that if he did not visit Shen Congan, he would be unable to do it after the emperor passed the decree, sentencing Shen Congan to death.
"Master… your tea." Steward Li called out after him, only to realize that his master had already left. He could only sigh to himself, looking to the cup of tea that was left untouched.
Huang Taiwu arrived at the prison that he knew held the prisoners who were once officials. This prison housed no commoners. It was a political prison, that sometimes held foreign spies or important prisoners of war. It was said that those who enter would not be able to easily come out unscathed.
This was one of the darkest areas within the government of the Eastern Jin Kingdom. This prison has been here since the founding of the Great Jin Dynasty.
This was a place shrouded in mystery and bloodshed, having witnessed countless deaths and political turbulence.
Such prisons were very common among kingdoms, as it could be safely said that every kingdom would have such a place that they would use to extract information and keep their secrets.
As the place of such rumors and brutal torture, it was a place that was avoided by most commoners.
Using his identity as the former head imperial physician, he was able to easily gain access and allowed into one of the darkest places that existed within the government of the Eastern Jin Kingdom. He was led by a guard down the narrow catacombs that were the prisons. He couldn't help but feel his stomach churning, because of smell the fishy scent of blood and the putrid smell of rotting flesh.
The guard leading the way, however, did not show the slightest discomfort with the smell of death that lingered in the air.
Perhaps this was a smell that one could get used to...