Epilogue: Alternate

Far away, in the heart of the Imperial City, in the sprawling house that is the Imperial complex, something momentous happens. One of the eight Grand Secretaries—the high-ranking, highly learned Mandarin who conduct the Emperor’s court and carry out his orders—is standing outside the door to the Emperor’s temple where the Emperor has been sleeping for one hundred and twenty six years and eighty five days.

The doors open. When the secretary realizes what is happening, his eyes widen. He hurries in.

The Emperor is awake. The deep, molten pools of his eyes regard the entering mandarin with holy intensity.

The secretary bows deeply and waits.

The emperor speaks. “Rise. Assemble my legions and prepare for war.”