Chapter 22 Chip
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Huo Caiyu never expected that His Majesty could be so childish as to joke about his own health.
For a moment, he panicked inwardly, but he quickly composed himself and responded firmly, “This official still insists on his position.”
Sure enough, Li Jinyu didn’t eat anything for both lunch and dinner that day.
The same was true the next day.
Though he tried to avoid the Emperor, Huo Caiyu couldn’t resist the urge to inquire about his well-being. To his dismay, he learned that His Majesty had not eaten for two whole days, further fueling his restlessness.
With a heavy heart, Huo Caiyu made his way to the Imperial Kitchen to investigate. The kitchen staff confirmed that the Emperor had not requested any meals for two consecutive days. Further confirmation came from the accounts department during a palace cleaning, which revealed a lack of food orders from His Majesty.
“His Majesty has not left the palace today and has even summoned the imperial physician…”
Huo Caiyu put down the account book, pursed his lips, and went to the bedroom to seek an audience.
As soon as he entered the palace, he saw Li Jinyu lying on the dragon bed, sighing and moaning while covering his cheek with his right hand. An old imperial physician was tidying up his things by the side.
Huo Caiyu frowned slightly and walked over to ask, “How is Your Majesty?”
The old physician coughed. “It’s nothing serious. His Majesty just needs to take some medicine to reduce internal heat. The Imperial Kitchen has been instructed to provide more nutritious food in the future.”
Huo Caiyu sat down, his expression slightly solemn, and reached out to touch Li Jinyu’s pulse.
Li Jinyu wanted to dodge, but Huo Caiyu, a martial artist, was more perceptive than him and also very concerned. He easily captured Li Jinyu’s wrist.
After carefully assessing the pulse, Huo Caiyu’s expression turned somber as he scrutinized Li Jinyu’s face.
Nervously chuckling, Li Jinyu recoiled slightly, retreating further into the bed.
Huo Caiyu let go of Li Jinyu’s hand, and the worry on his face had been replaced by an expression that was either anger or laughter. “Why must Your Majesty play such games with this official?”
The pulse indicated signs of internal heat that had likely resulted from consuming hot and dry foods in excess. He couldn’t help but recall the Emperor’s fondness for dried fruit snacks, such as peanuts and melon seeds.
Although the Imperial Kitchen had not provided any meals, their concept of “food” primarily revolved around proper dishes, not snacks. Li Jinyu’s recent intake of dried fruits had apparently inflamed his condition!
Seeing that Huo Caiyu had indeed seen through his condition, Li Jinyu coughed in embarrassment. “Zhen is indeed on a hunger strike! Zhen just eats some melon seeds to pass the time!”
Li Jinyu had initially planned to embark on a hunger strike. Being only partially human, he had reserves of spiritual power in his body that made him impervious to the effects of not eating for a while.
However, after two days of running on his hamster wheel, something didn’t feel right. His teeth itched, and he yearned to grind them against something…
Upon feeling his teeth, Li Jinyu was shocked to find that they had grown considerably longer than before. While human teeth didn’t grow beyond a certain age, the teeth of rodents continued to grow and required regular grinding to keep them at an appropriate length.
Alas, this trait had also been inherited by him…
Li Jinyu’s tyrant image left him with no choice but to forgo the tempting date wood furniture and bear the pain of having Chief Kang bring him nuts with shells to grind against.
Originally, he had intended to grind his teeth on them, but since he had cracked open some walnut kernels, he couldn’t help but eat them.
In this way, back and forth, Li Jinyu found himself with a swollen cheek and no tears left to cry.
Having an inflamed mouth and toothache was not a comfortable experience. The imperial physician prepared medicine for Li Jinyu, and he had to obediently drink it.
This time, the taste of the medicine was not bad, unlike the last time when it was difficult to drink. Li Jinyu downed the entire concoction in one swift gulp, ready to declare that his hunger strike had not yet ended when he heard Huo Caiyu say indifferently, “To ensure that Your Majesty can take the medicine without discomfort, this official has instructed the kitchen to prepare a soup that will not interfere with its potency. Your Majesty, continuing to fast would be futile.”
Li Jinyu’s heart skipped a beat as he absorbed the meaning behind Huo Caiyu’s words. Did he have to choose between taking the medicine and fasting? His swollen and aching teeth throbbed painfully as he grappled with the impossible decision.
“This official will take his leave first.”
Watching Huo Caiyu’s departing back, Li Jinyu felt that he brought shame to Emperor Jingchang.
Was there a more stupid “tyrant” than him in the world?!
Chief Kang approached cautiously and asked, “Your Majesty, what about today’s meal?”
Should it be delivered?
Li Jinyu sat up and looked aggrieved, “Deliver it!”
What was the point of fasting now? Drinking medicine alone wouldn’t starve him to death!
The hunger strike failed.
Before Li Jinyu could figure out how to persuade Huo Caiyu, he received a note from him.
The letter contained a brief report.
Qingshui Prefecture was not too far from the capital, but it still required some effort to travel back and forth. Now that spring taxes had to be collected, Huo Caiyu planned to go to Qingshui Prefecture as soon as possible to supervise the tax collection and investigate the Prime Minister’s actions.
Li Jinyu put the letter down. Gritting his teeth, he paced back and forth in the bedrood, wishing he could stick to Huo Caiyu’s side.
After pacing in the room for a while, his eyes lit up as an idea struck his mind.
Over the next few days, Li Jinyu no longer pestered Huo Caiyu, but instead enthusiastically helped him prepare for the trip.
The carriage should be large and stable!
The dry rations should be plentiful and of good quality!
The bedding should be soft and fluffy!
They also needed to bring melon seeds, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts…
With a look of surprise and suspicion from Huo Caiyu, Li Jinyu spoke earnestly, “Since Zhen cannot leave the palace, Zhen will use these beloved items to accompany Huo Aiqing, just as if Zhen was there in person.”
After hearing this, Huo Caiyu didn’t say a word.
Before leaving, Huo Caiyu came to say goodbye to His Majesty.
Li Jinyu was dressed very elegantly, with a black and gold cloud-patterned imperial robe and a Maitreya crown with inlaid pearls that set off his handsome face with an added touch of divinity.
Huo Caiyu had seen the Emperor in dragon robes before, but today, he couldn’t take his eyes off of him. He quickly pushed away the inappropriate dream from that night and bowed respectfully, “May Your Majesty be always well.”
Li Jinyu quickly helped him up and patted his shoulder, tears streaming down his face. “Huo Aiqing, you have served the country with loyalty, sacrificed yourself, and made great efforts. Zhen can never repay you enough. Zhen is grateful beyond words…”
He was relieved that His Majesty did not insist on leaving the palace with him, as he seemed to have finally come to his senses these past few days.
He pondered arranging literature lessons for the Emperor after returning from Qingshui Prefecture.
After exchanging pleasantries with Li Jinyu, Huo Caiyu took his leave.
Li Jinyu did not stop him and held his hand, saying earnestly, “Huo Aiqing, you must come back safely!”
Huo Caiyu lowered his gaze and looked at the Emperor’s hands. He felt a shiver through his own hand that crept to his heart, creating a strange mix of fear and anticipation. He withdrew his hand and bowed his head. “This official shall obey Your Majesty’s order.”
As he left the palace gates, Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but look back and saw the Emperor still standing there, watching him. He felt that same strange feeling rise again within him.
Li Jinyu waited outside the palace gates with enthusiasm until the carriage was out of sight. He then returned to the palace and instructed Chief Kang to prepare some dried fruits.
Chief Kang reminded him, “Your Majesty, the imperial physician and Young Master Huo have cautioned against overeating…”
Li Jinyu ignored him and interrupted, “Summon an imperial concubine.”
Chief Kang was confused. “Who would Your Majesty like this slave to call?”
“Someone who listens to orders…” Li Jinyu thought for a moment and named someone he had met before, “Call Concubine Wei.”
Chief Kang was at a loss for words.
Since ancient times, it had been difficult to fathom the hearts of rulers, and their favors were as thin as paper. His very own eyes were witnessing this sage saying now.
Less than a quarter of an hour ago, His Majesty and Young Master Huo still seemed reluctant to part, but as soon as Young Master Huo left, His Majesty immediately summoned a concubine?
Not long ago, His Majesty demoted the favored Consort Xian to favor Young Master Huo, but it turned out that Young Master Huo was only a temporary favorite…
Chief Kang was filled with emotions, but dared not show them in front of His Majesty, so he lowered his head.
Soon, Concubine Wei came tremblingly to receive the decree. “This concubine pays respects to Your Majesty.”
Concubine Wei was one of the older women in the harem, who had witnessed most of Emperor Jingchang’s atrocities and managed to maintain a relatively stable life by being low-key and unremarkable. She was full of fear towards His Majesty and Consort Xian, not seeking favor but only wishing for peace.
Even though His Majesty’s temper seemed to have improved a lot now, it could not chased away the shadow of fear in Concubine Wei’s heart.
“What orders does Your Majesty have for this concubine?”
Li Jinyu coughed. “Nothing, Zhen just misses you.”
He turned to look at Chief Kang, who understood and obediently left, closing the door behind him.
Outside the door, Chief Kang looked up at the sky and silently felt sorry for Young Master Huo. As the saying went, no flower could last a hundred days in the harem, let alone a man like Young Master Huo!
No matter how much His Majesty favored Young Master Huo, he was still just a plaything!
At such a young age, Young Master Huo managed to clear the noxious air in the harem, which gained the admiration of Chief Kang and the other honest palace servants.
He only hoped that after His Majesty grew tired of Young Master Huo, he would still be willing to give Young Master Huo a good place to settle down, out of gratitude for past favor.
Li Jinyu and Concubine Wei stayed in the bedroom until evening, and their meals were sent directly in.
Initially, Chief Kang didn’t feel anything was amiss, but he soon realized that he hadn’t seen His Majesty all day. When the evening meal was sent in, he only heard Concubine Wei giving orders. Through the misty veil, he could vaguely see two figures on the dragon bed, but couldn’t make out who they were.
He thought back to a few days ago when His Majesty insisted on going out with Young Master Huo…
Chief Kang gave a start, and walked to the dragon bed, tentatively asking, “Would Your Majesty and Concubine Wei like to bathe?”
The figure under the bed sheet moved slightly, and a hand suddenly pulled aside the misty veil. Concubine Wei’s calm face appeared. “No need.”
Chief Kang looked in surprise at the fully dressed Concubine Wei and then focused on the dragon bed. The embroidered golden silk quilt was slightly raised, and it looked like a human figure through the veil… but now he could see…
When Chief Kang approached with caution and lifted the silk quilt, a white porcelain dragon and flower pillow appeared underneath, but His Majesty who should have been lying there had disappeared without a trace.
Right at this moment, Li Jinyu was lying under Huo Caiyu’s carriage.
This position, which was extremely difficult for ordinary humans, was easy for the flexible and agile spiritual hamster Li Jinyu.
Earlier, at the palace gate, he verified an answer that satisfied him— if he followed Huo Caiyu, the Heavenly Dao would not force him to remain within the palace walls.
He had attempted to leave the palace on numerous occasions, only to be met with an invisible force that seemed to bind him to its confines. It was as if the palace was a massive cage, with him as the unwilling prisoner.
But this time, as he personally escorted Huo Caiyu out of the palace, he did not feel any sense of binding.
The biggest hurdle that stood in his way had been conquered. With a determined spirit, Li Jinyu immediately executed his plan.
After threatening and coercing the most honest and prudent Concubine Wei into providing cover for him, he sneaked out through a side door. Although his magic was not strong, he could still take off the dragon robe and use an illusion spell.
As Li Jinyu took his first steps outside the palace, he breathed in the fresh air of freedom, relishing in the feeling of being unchained from the shackles of the palace walls. The world was his oyster, and he could go anywhere he pleased.
His mind wandered to the idyllic image of living in a forest, surviving on pine nuts and living a simple life, away from the chaos and responsibilities of the palace. But as soon as he entertained the idea, a wave of inexplicable restraint washed over him, as if an invisible rope had wrapped tightly around his body, holding him back from escaping his fate.
“…I was wrong, Heavenly Dao.”
Hoohoo, he had to go find Huo Caiyu!
Huo Caiyu’s carriage was not moving slowly, but the mobility of a spiritual hamster was not something a horse could compare to.
Guided by the distinct imperial Ziwei aura, Li Jinyu soon caught up to Huo Caiyu’s carriage and then hid under it, grabbing onto the hooks under the carriage for leverage.
When he personally selected the carriage for Huo Caiyu, he had left many places under the carriage that he could use for leverage. He also chose the most stable carriage body and the most stable old horse.
Hanging onto the bottom of the carriage, Li Jinyu couldn’t help but yawn as the carriage swayed back and forth.
The shaking motion of the carriage was too slumberous…
He pulled out two python-patterned belts from his sleeve and tied himself to the hooks under the carriage, then closed his eyes in peace.
Forget everything, sleep for a while.
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