All nonsense, everyone agreed. You can’t change the Imperial court just through words, no matter how shocking, nor cause the Emperor, the Son of Heaven, to give up his mandate simply by demanding it. The eunuch who had dared speak thus was quickly and quietly put to death, stabbed in the heart under a heavy dose of opium before being carved into pieces that he might wander the hereafter in such a state.

In time, though, doubt began to eat at the Emperor and his advisors. Had the eunuch shared his inflammatory opinions with others? After all, he had seemed a dependable and loyal functionary at lower levels of the bureaucracy–could not he have been silently spreading contagion throughout the Imperial household for years before his outburst? Or, worse, solicited peasants or nobles to join an uprising?

To be prudent, close associates and family members of the offending eunuch were put to death, though they were spared any dismemberment as their guilt was only suspicion and not certainty. If anything, the whispers became louder–audible for the first time even to the ears of the innermost court. The only sensible act was to execute people with only brief contact, or who were already suspect and may have been pushed over the edge. Soon purge followed purge, and each caused rumors of rebellion to grow stronger.

The time came when the doors to the Imperial court were battered down, and the Emperor himself was put to the sword for his wicked deeds in killing so many. The Mandate of Heaven passed to another line, one that ruled more justly than any of the departed Emperor’s complacent predecessors. By planting the seed of doubt in a place he knew it would be watered and shaded, the eunuch was able to affect more through his death than most men are through their lives.

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