Fires raged throughout the Imperial City. For the better half of the day the black smoke blotted out the sun and filled the air with a choking haze. Only when the setting sun nudged down past the smoke and created a false red glow did the city, people and the foul smelling smoke, look anything close to normal. Wherever one stood in the city they could hear the faint screaming of the dying. Where only the weakest of the Daimyo's had the strength and courage to fight in their armour and in the open, where his Ronin and samurai had hacked and slashed and fought in the smoke and the confusion, the samurai of the last army had met their fate. If the last gasp of the fire samurai was anywhere, it was in the smoke of the Imperial City. They fought on with their dying breaths, considering the Emperor dead. But the Emperor, after fifty two years on his throne, had always recovered. Some called him a fool, but they were quickly corrected. To fight with defiance, one must be brave, they would say, just not stupid
The sun had almost reached its highest point when, at last, the fighting began to disappear. The smoke lifted with the weakening light of the setting sun, and the Imperial City came back to life. People emerged, filthy and bloodied, from the Emperor's Palace to the local bath house, all seeking to cleanse away the days horror. The wounded, many dozens, were taken to the local stations, the strongest gathered to the Great Halls of the Samurai, the rest were left for the Ronin to deal with. Those that had, themselves, fought for the Empress, were taken to the local prison. All other Ronin were sent back to the Daimyo's.
The old palace was almost unrecognisable. The roof had gone. The marble pillars looked cracked. The lower level was smouldering, the upper floor was burnt out, and, as the sun set, collapsed to dust. The soldiers fear had started to return. Those on the lower floors had seen the fight on the lower floors, seen the smoke on the lower floors, seen the destruction on the lower floors. All they knew was that the first seven floors were being destroyed so, first on the bottom floor, first to leave the first seven levels, were the samurai.
The lower levels were the oldest part of the palace, and where the most valuable, most precious, and most precious of all, the Emperor had been. The lower levels had stone floors, the middle floors were marble, and the upper was marble columns. The lower floors were the only floors that were given the vast wealth of the Emperor. The people staying on the lower floors, possibly including the Emperor, had been poisoned. As it was a palace, and a grand palace at that, it took a good an hour before the news got to the rest of The Imperial City.
The Emperor was dead, and nobody below the second floor could have survived.
After the news had been shouted from the front, the Ronin ran from the guard's post, towards the great main gates. This was the quickest way to get to the palace, for one did not have to weave from side to side, so avoiding being burnt or avoiding being slashed by the Samurai. The front gate of the main palace had only two guards of the most elite of the Imperial Guard of The Empire. Both soldiers stood nervous of the people around them, the smoke of the palace, and the shouts of the Ronin. As theRonin reached the gate, they were shouting for anyone on their side of the gate to come on the side of the Ronin.
The guard attempted to block the Ronin, but his noble hands fell short of the Ronin's pure form. One of the Ronin grabbed the guard by the collar, and pulled him from the path of those that raced by. The other stole the keys from the breast pocket of the guard. The Ronin looked to the crowd to see if there were any Ronin in the group, and when he saw none, he drew his sword and slammed it through the door and opened it. The Ronin flooded through and left the guard to fall, struggling to the floor.
There were thirty six Ronin and an estimated one hundred and eighty to two hundred Samurai in the army. The Ronin leader, a man named O'Neill, who the emperor had sold himself to raise money for his order, ordered them to form a ring around the palace gates. He then sent for all the top priority samurai who were there, into the throne room. There were less than a dozen in all. The gates opened, and the Ronin raced through, O'Neill only a few strides behind. There was a rush from the throne room as the main concentration of the empire's forces ran through the door. All the Ronin could hear was a battle taking place. The Ronin lead a charge up the left staircase, to the Emperor's private chambers. Before he reached the fifth floor, O'Neill could see fires lit, and samurai fighting at the front of the fire. The Ronin then ran up the rest of the stairs, and could see that the samurai were outnumbered. In front of them were multiple samurai all trying, and failing, to keep the Ronin from reaching the Imperial quarters.