Chapter 28 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip
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Huo Caiyu continued discussing the investigation with Chi Zhongming as if nothing was amiss. Li Jinyu reassured himself that he must have been mistaken, for Huo Caiyu was the future wise ruler, and he wouldn’t engage in such petty drama.
Whenever they delved into serious matters, Huo Caiyu would unconsciously steal a glance at Li Jinyu. Meanwhile, Li Jinyu, engrossed in his melon seeds, would occasionally lift his gaze towards Huo Caiyu. The unspoken agreement between them allowed them to evade direct eye contact, yet still conveying a profound sense of mutual recognition.
Chi Zhongming decided to retract his sympathy for Huo Caiyu. He couldn’t help but feel envious as he watched Li Jinyu head to the restroom. He then remarked to Huo Caiyu, “Look at how Brother Li is acting, Brother Huo has already won, hasn’t he?”
Huo Caiyu glanced at him but didn’t say anything.
Chi Zhongming shook his folding fan and confidently declared, “I pride myself on being perceptive when it comes to reading people. Brother Li is single-minded, fixated solely on Brother Huo.” He then placed a reassuring hand on Huo Caiyu’s shoulder and added, “All you need to do is give him a subtle hint, and the two of you can soar to great heights together.”
As he spoke, a sense of self-pity crept over him, and he quickly changed the topic, “Of course, Brother Li’s childish temperament is only suitable for being kept indoors. I’m afraid Brother Huo will have to take good care of him and support their family. Unlike my sweetheart with a cranky temperament but exceptional methods…”
Huo Caiyu paid little attention to Chi Zhongming’s rambling and kept his focus on the task at hand. How shameless of Chi Zhongming to make such presumptuous statements! He had known His Majesty for a while, but he didn’t dare to say he had fully understood him. What right or ability did Chi Zhongming have to claim that?
His Majesty held the world in his hands and had great ambitions, how could he be compared to ordinary people?
Lame Beggar’s fervor for revenge burned with an intense determination. He soon investigated Ye Gui’an’s actions during those few days and recited his findings with a curious Li Jinyu, who couldn’t help but ask in awe, “How did you investigate so thoroughly?”
Do beggars really have such good discernment and memory?
“Beggars may not remember people, but they can remember when the food aroma is particularly strong at courtyards on a certain day or when there is an abundance of food in the garbage cart.” Lame Beggar straightened out his dirty and tattered clothes and replied with his head down, “As long as I know when a courtyard is having a feast, I can confirm that it was Ye Gui’an who came.”
Li Jinyu scratched his ear in amazement. While the logic behind Lame Beggar’s method may have been simple, not everyone possessed such a sharp mind, especially considering his lack of education and difficult upbringing.
This young man was actually quite intelligent.
Huo Caiyu made a mental note and nodded sincerely, “Thank you very much for your help.”
“No need to thank me, I’m just doing this to avenge my parents.” Lame Beggar pursed his lips as he hesitated to confirm, “Can that corrupt official really be punished?”
Huo Caiyu had not yet answered when Li Jinyu firmly stated, “Yes, definitely.”
It was rare to hear the Emperor express his opinion so firmly. Huo Caiyu looked at him in surprise.
With Li Jinyu’s promise, Lame Beggar left with a peace of mind.
Huo Caiyu turned to look at Li Jinyu. Despite his earlier disdain for Chi Zhongming’s words, Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but feel a little unsettled.
If he were to confront Li Jinyu about his feelings, could they really make progress?
“Your Majesty,” Huo Caiyu called out, unable to contain his thoughts any longer.
Li Jinyu was patiently peeling peanuts, which were boiled instead of roasted. The inn didn’t have the crispy roasted peanuts found in the palace.
If he was alone, he would have preferred to simply bite into them, but because he had to be careful of his image, he had to painstakingly peel them by hand.
Huo Caiyu didn’t know why His Majesty loved these foods so much, but watching Li Jinyu awkwardly yet patiently squeeze the peanut shells under the oil lamp, he found His Majesty so endearing.
Huo Caiyu thought he was going crazy, finding it delightful to watch the Emperor peel peanuts.
However, peeling too many peanut shells made the fingers numb, so Huo Caiyu reached over and picked up a peanut. “Your Majesty, take a break. Let me do it.”
Li Jinyu was relieved and shook his slightly numb fingertips, gladly handing over the basket of peanuts.
Occasionally enslaving Huo Caiyu and, thus, refreshing his hatred points for a while proved that he had not forgotten this matter, Li Jinyu thought with a crystal clear conscience.
For Huo Caiyu, peeling peanut shells didin’t even require internal strength. He could easily peel out the round and plump peanut kernels with just a little force from his fingers.
When he looked up, he happened to see Li Jinyu sitting across from him, intently staring at the peanuts in his hand. Li Jinyu wasted no time in snatching some of the peeled peanuts and stuffing them into hismouth. He liked to stuff many at once until his cheeks became swollen before starting to chew.
Staring at His Majesty’s bulging face, a sudden memory from his youth flashed through his mind. He recollected a time when his family was still living well, and he had accompanied his father on a visit to the home of another official. There, he had seen the official’s wife’s pet, a small white rodent, who had a habit of stuffing its mouth with food… just as His Majesty did now.
Especially with His Majesty’s burning and bright eyes…
Huo Caiyu’s heartstrings trembled slightly.
Did His Majesty treat him with the same feeling as he treated His Majesty?
Chi Zhongming’s bewitching words lingered in his mind, and Huo Caiyu was unable to resist calling out again, “Your Majesty.”
Li Jinyu stared at the peanuts in Huo Caiyu’s hands, absentmindedly responding, “Hmm?”
“Your Majesty, what do you think of this official… of me?”
“You? You’re very good.” Li Jinyu didn’t know why Huo Caiyu stopped peeling the peanuts in his hands. Was he perhaps tired?
“No… How does Your Majesty see this official…” Huo Caiyu rarely felt nervous, placing both hands flat on the table, a hundred words and thousand thoughts swirling in his mind, trying to slowly speak out. But before he could finish, he noticed that Li Jinyu’s gaze had followed his hand and was completely glued on the unpeeled peanut.
Huo Caiyu: “…”
The tense atmosphere just now suddenly dissipated, and a hint of disappointment rose in Huo Caiyu’s heart. He reluctantly pulled up the corners of his mouth and picked up the peanut again, “Your Majesty has shown this official great favor. This official will do his utmost to serve the court and repay Your Majesty’s kindness like a gushing spring.”
Li Jinyu finally snapped out of his daze. He blinked, confused by Huo Caiyu’s sudden declaration.
Wait, who wants you to repay the favor like a gushing spring?!
Li Jinyu almost wanted to jump up.
I want you to usurp the throne immediately! U-S-U-R-P the throne!
But he knew better than to voice such dangerous thoughts. His spiritual power had been depleted recently, and he had yet to accumulate enough to stage a fake death and make his escape. If Huo Caiyu were to turn murderous and stamp him to death in a fit of anger, he would be done for.
Li Jinyu held his breath and ultimately couldn’t help but hint indirectly, “Huo Aiqing, Zhen thinks you can consider a higher position.”
The highest of them all! Starts with an E and ends in R…
For some reason, the color on Huo Caiyu’s face suddenly brightened, and there was a hint of a smile on his lips. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
With a crucial lead in their hands, Huo Caiyu and Chi Zhongming became noticeably busy in the following days.
Carefully sifting through the information provided by the moneylender, they managed to narrow down their search to several secluded courtyards. One by one, they painstakingly combed through each location until their tireless efforts finally paid off when they confirmed that Ye Gui’an’s accounts and letters should be hidden in a courtyard in the south city’s Huma Lane.
Perhaps Ye Gui’an did not expect that his secrets, hidden in several dozen courtyards under the guise of smoke and mirrors, would be revealed so easily by the hated beggars roaming the streets.
Despite the overwhelming sense of excitement and urgency, Huo Caiyu and Chi Zhongming exercised caution and restraint.
The spring taxes in the county town and surrounding villages had already been mostly collected, and they were just in the process of compiling and reporting. The exact amount of money that Ye Gui’an intended to embezzle would only become clear when all the accounts were in.
It was only a matter of time before the nets were cast in.
As the days went by, Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but continue to ponder over Chi Zhongming’s true identity. Despite his attempts to uncover the young man’s background, he was always met with evasive answers. Chi Zhongming simply stated that he was an imperial envoy sent from the capital to investigate the spring tax situation in Qingshui Prefecture.
Huo Caiyu could only give up. However, he could sense that Chi Zhongming was genuinely dedicated to solving the issues plaguing the region. He was impressed by the young man’s expertise and commitment.
Huo Caiyu had also guessed who might have sent Chi Zhongming. Given his intelligence and skills, it was likely that only wealthy households could afford to educate someone like him.
Could it be that His Majesty didn’t want to put all his eggs in one basket?
Huo Caiyu’s thoughts spun. He secretly raised his guard against Chi Zhongming, who had the ability of Long Yang, and made a conscious effort to keep him away from Li Jinyu, just in case.
Although this guy said he had a sweetheart, who knew if he really had one, and who it was?
If he was a spy for the Emperor, it was normal for him to keep it a secret. To protect himself, it was also reasonable for the Emperor to avoid revealing his true identity in front of his spies.
Chi Zhongming naturally noticed Huo Caiyu’s reaction and found it somewhat amusing at first. “Brother Huo, there’s no need to be so guarded against me.”
Chi Zhongming cast helpless eyes at Huo Caiyu, who returned it with a sidelong glance that spoke volumes. Chi Zhongming couldn’t help but grumble inwardly about Huo Caiyu’s seductive nature, knowing full well that in the future, he would only be able to admire him from afar, without ever being able to taste his charms.
As Li Jinyu observed Chi Zhongming, he couldn’t help but wonder if the man before him was really the same person from the novel.
Although he hadn’t read the part that recounted Chi Zhongming’s acquaintance with Huo Caiyu, he recalled that Chi Zhongming was portrayed as an orphan who had been left to fend for himself in the wilderness. Fortunately, fate had intervened, and a benevolent wealthy man had taken him under his wing and raised him as his own. However, tragedy had struck Chi Zhongming’s life, resulting in the loss of his family and a festering grudge against the court. Fuelled by his deep-seated resentment, Chi Zhongming had sought to take up arms, eager to fight on the frontlines of rebellion. It was during this time that he had crossed paths with Huo Caiyu, and the two had subsequently banded together in pursuit of their common goal.
Li Jinyu scrutinized Chi Zhongming, and couldn’t see any traces of hardship or loss in Chi Zhongming’s demeanor, which conflicted with the narrative he had read. Perhaps the events that incite Chi Zhongming’s rebellion have yet to come to pass.
Nevertheless, Chi Zhongming’s steadfast loyalty to the common people was unwavering, both in the pages of a fiction novel and in the present reality.
In the last few days of waiting, Huo Caiyu simply rented a room in an inn near Ye Gui’an’s retreat to observe and monitor from a close distance. However, several days had passed without any unusual occurrences, and even the beggars that Lame Beggar had hired hadn’t reported anything out of the ordinary.
The lack of activity had left everyone on edge. Chi Zhongming’s nerves got the best of him as he spoke up, “Did we get the wrong place?”
Huo Caiyu looked out the window at the temple and pursed his lips. “Let’s wait a little longer.”
“Trust Brother Huo.” Li Jinyu was actually the calmest of them all and had unconditional trust in Huo Caiyu. “Brother Huo must be right!”
They waited for two more days until there was finally some change.
Lame Beggar informed them that there was a sudden surge in activity at the back entrance of the house. People were dumping large amounts of waste water, indicating that something was happening inside.
“We’ve been watching here and haven’t seen anyone enter the front door, so it’s likely that Ye Gui’an has another secret passage,” Huo Caiyu deduced, looking serious. “It’s time to move.”
Chi Zhongming’s usual cheerful demeanor was replaced with a serious expression. “Let’s go.”
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