Chapter 29 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip
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Ye Gui’an’s heart began to race with a sense of unease as he watched the scene unfold. “Master Shen, you…”
“This official pays his respects to Your Majesty.” Shen Fuyao kowtowed three times in the direction of Li Jinyu, stood up straight, and spoke loudly and clearly, “This official accuse the Prefect of Qingshui Prefecture, Ye Gui’an, of embezzlement and violating the court’s tax laws!”
With a wave of his hand, Shen Fuyao signaled his confidants to step forward and present the evidence they had gathered against Ye Gui’an. The crowd was stunned as incriminating documents and damning testimonies were brought forth, laying bare the prefect’s crimes. Even the yamen runners, who had likely seen their fair share of injustice and wrongdoing, were taken aback by the sheer audacity of Ye Gui’an’s crimes.
The courtroom was now in a state of utter chaos, with the audience clamoring and shouting in disbelief. All eyes were fixed on the shadow gauze behind which Li Jinyu was hiding.
Whispers spread like wildfire through the crowd, with some claiming that the Son of Heaven had a fearsome countenance and consumed human flesh, while others boasted of his extravagant feasts and the golden liquid he poured into jade cups. And yet, here he was, right before their very eyes!
For the common people gathered in the courtroom, this was the first time they had ever been in the presence of the Emperor. Until now, they had only heard about him through official proclamations and rumors. As they watched him from afar, some of them began to realize that he didn’t seem quite as fearsome as the stories had made him out to be.
Ye Gui’an’s face was terrifyingly dark.
It was now clear to him that this wasn’t just a case of a commoner getting the better of him. No, it seemed that Shen Fuyao had deliberately turned against him and was trying to bring him down.
Ye Gui’an had kept his plan to establish the Yuan Guang Commercial Firm a secret from Shen Fuyao. But despite this, the deputy prefect of Qingshui Prefecture had still managed to find out about it. This was a troubling revelation, for it meant that removing Shen Fuyao from the equation would not be as easy as he had hoped.
Despite the troubling situation, Ye Gui’an tried to reassure himself that his familial connections would sway the Emperor’s favor towards him. With this thought in mind, he rose from his seat and knelt before Li Jinyu once again, desperately pleading his innocence. “Your Majesty, Shen Fuyao’s accusations against this official are false and malicious. Your Majesty must not believe his deceitful words!”
Li Jinyu took a long breath before mustering his courage to lift the veil and step out from behind the screen.
As the audience caught sight of him, they were struck by his handsome appearance. He was dressed in a black embroidered long robe, adorned with a gold dragon pattern, and a white jade glass crown sat atop his head. His chiseled features were undeniably pleasing to the eye.
His Majesty looks really handsome…
Soon, they heard the Emperor’s displeased voice. “Ye Gui’an, is this how you treat the responsibility given to you by the court?”
All eyes turned towards Ye Gui’an, who stood frozen in disbelief. He looked up to meet the Emperor’s gaze, but to his surprise, His Majesty was not even looking at him. Instead, the Emperor’s gaze was fixed upon the priceless wood of his desk, as he sighed in frustration. “The court appointed you as a prefect, but you have not considered the welfare of the people. Instead, you have deceived and embezzled. You have also abused your power and violated the law.”
“Your Majesty, this official is innocent!”
“The evidence and witnesses are all there. What’s there to argue about?” Huo Caiyu stepped forward and said calmly, “If Lord Ye feels wronged, then…let’s search his house.”
The search party dispatched by the Emperor wasted no time in locating Ye Gui’an’s warehouse, thanks to the detailed information provided by Shen Fuyao. The Emperor’s personal guards, a formidable force to be reckoned with, descended upon the location with a fierce determination.
The scene that unfolded before them was nothing short of breathtaking. Cart after cart was hauled out of the warehouse, each overflowing with an abundance of precious gold, silver, and jewels. The sheer scale of the wealth on display left the ordinary people who had gathered to watch in a state of shock and awe, unable to comprehend the true value of what they were seeing.
Even Li Jinyu was surprised, gaping in amazement.
The treasures found within Ye Gui’an’s mansion surpassed even the most opulent items in the imperial palace. It was clear that the former prefect had extorted a vast fortune from Qingshui Prefecture during his years in power.
At this point, there was no need for any more evidence.
“Does Lord Ye have anything else to say?” Huo Caiyu once again asked at Ye Gui’an who looked defeated.
After a long time, Ye Gui’an struggled to sit up and grabbed onto the last straw of survival. “Your Majesty, whether this official is guilty or not, as a member of the imperial family, this official is entitled to one exemption.”
Li Jinyu sighed and tried to maintain his dignity. “Zhen is aware of that.”
Ye Gui’an breathed a sigh of relief.
The crowd below seethed with anger, but they dared not speak out.
Li Jinyu turned the conversation, saying, “However, it must be remembered that there are certain crimes that even exemption laws cannot absolve. For instance, the crime of rebellion.”
Ye Gui’an was taken aback. He had been consumed by greed and corruption, but he had never considered the idea of rebelling against the Emperor.
Before he could gather his thoughts, Li Jinyu continued, “Zhen came to Qingshui Prefecture for a crucial matter. It concerns the safety and stability of the entire empire.”
Everyone looked at him, wondering why he suddenly brought this up.
The intense scrutiny of the audience made Li Jinyu feel the weight of responsibility on his shoulders. He was used to escaping from difficult situations by making excuses back in the capital, but now he thought of the villagers who lived in poverty but showed him kindness, the diligent scholars who studied by the river, and Huo Caiyu, who tirelessly traveled the land to help the people.
These people and experiences filled him with the courage to face the human gazes, which he feared the most, and stand here to slowly speak his lines.
“Zhen encountered a group of rebel assassins,” he announced slowly, his voice ringing out clearly. “Though the assassins were unsuccessful, they managed to steal the hanging pearls from Zhen’s Imperial Crown.”
Li Jinyu pointed to his head. “The Imperial Crown is a precious artifact of the imperial palace that has been passed down through generations. Zhen heard that some of the pearls from the crown had surfaced in Qingshui Prefecture, which is why Zhen came here.”
Ye Gui’an still seemed confused by the situation.
Suddenly, a palace guard rushed forward, holding a tray and kneeling before Li Jinyu. “Your Majesty,” he reported, “the missing hanging pearls of the Imperial Crown has been found in the warehouse of the Yuan Guang Commercial Firm. Please take a look.”
The guard lifted the tray, revealing ten shimmering black gold thread pearls.
Ye Gui’an’s head spun, his heart racing as he pleaded with the Emperor. “Your Majesty, please understand. The commercial firm only handles purchases and has no knowledge of the origin of these items!”
“You’re not wrong,” Li Jinyu picked up the ledger and flipped through two pages, then lightly slammed it onto the tray. “However, according to this ledger, twenty hanging pearls were pawned that day, but only ten were found in the firm’s inventory. Where did the other ten go? Did you perhaps take them for your own personal gain, as an Emperor might?”
Ye Gui’an’s eyes almost popped out of his head. His mind raced as he tried to come up with a plausible explanation. But before he could speak, the stress overwhelmed him, and he fell to the ground in a dead faint.
Ignoring the prone figure on the ground, Li Jinyu turned his attention to Shen Fuyao. “Master Shen,” he said, his voice calm and steady.
“The official is here.”
“Shen Fuyao, Zhen recognizes your merit in this affair. However, your collusion with Ye Gui’an cannot be forgiven. Zhen will grant you a chance to redeem yourself. You must carefully tally all of Ye Gui’an’s assets and return them to the people or use them for the construction of Qingshui Prefecture. If you do well, you may keep your life.”
Shen Fuyao seemed surprised at this task, hesitated for a moment, then knelt down and gratefully said, “Many thanks for Your Majesty’s grace.”
Li Jinyu, seated on his throne, leaned back with a composed expression. “No need to thank Zhen. Let Ye Gui’an serves as a warning. Those who follow in his footsteps will face the same consequences. As for Ye Gui’an himself, he has three days to reveal the whereabouts of the ten missing pearls. Failure to do so will result in charges of treason.”
The bystanders who had been eavesdropping on the conversation were dumbstruck. It took them a moment to comprehend the situation before overwhelming joy washed over them. Tears streamed down the faces of some as they realized that they would no longer be exploited by the corrupt prefecture. They no longer had to toil for a year and still be unable to pay their taxes.
In that moment, the rumors of the Emperor’s alleged tyranny faded away from their minds. All they could do was kneel in gratitude and chant, “Long live Your Majesty!”
The resounding cheers echoed through the air, one after another, reaching the highest altitudes and dispelling the dark clouds that had hung over Qingshui Prefecture for what seemed like an eternity.
With Ye Gui’an imprisoned and brought back to the capital, Shen Fuyao had stepped up as the temporary prefect. Li Jinyu, having purged a group of corrupt officials from Prime Minister Ye’s party and secured the necessary arrangements, finally let out a sigh of relief as he lay motionless on the bed. “Zhen is going to die of exhaustion.”
Never before had he taken on such a heavy burden.
Huo Caiyu gathered up the documents and surveyed the bedroom where the Emperor had been temporarily staying. His gaze was calm and steady as he scanned the room for any signs of women or male pets. To his relief, he found none, and his heart eased slightly.
Upon seeing Li Jinyu’s exhausted state, Huo Caiyu’s heart filled with compassion, and he spoke softly, “Your Majesty, please rest now. We can return to the capital tomorrow.”
Truly, Li Jinyu had worked tirelessly this time around.
Huo Caiyu’s admiration for His Majesty grew even stronger. Who would have thought that he was so shrewd and farsighted, having laid the groundwork in the Yuan Guang Commercial Firm which allowed him to triumph over Ye Gui’an today!
In comparison, his own carefully crafted schemes and strategies seemed as simple as child’s play. His Majesty was simply exceptional in every way…
Huo Caiyu’s gaze lingered on Li Jinyu, his heart filled with both pride and melancholy.
“By the way, where’s Lame Beggar?” Li Jinyu suddenly remembered the young man who had accompanied them all the way.
“He’s at the inn. He watched the trial, and when he found out about your identity, he couldn’t even speak properly,” Huo Caiyu replied, feeling more relaxed now that he could see that Li Jinyu was in a good mood.
When they met, Li Jinyu had noticed that Lame Beggar seemed at a loss for words, unsure of where to look. Lame Beggar even wanted to kowtow to Li Jinyu, but Li Jinyu had stopped him, saying, “No need for too much courtesy.”
As they were about to go their separate ways, Huo Caiyu asked, “Now that Ye Gui’an has been dealt with, what are your plans for the future?”
Lame Beggar had shed tears when Ye Gui’an was imprisoned, but now his emotions were relatively calmer. “I don’t know. Previously, all I could think of was avenging my parents, but now… I simply don’t know what to do.”
Li Jinyu remembered that although this young man had a slightly gloomy temperament, he was quite sharp-minded. He couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sympathy for the unfortunate youth.
If only Lame Beggar had been given the opportunity to receive an education, his life might have taken an entirely different trajectory.
With this thought in mind, Li Jinyu suddenly brightened and posed a question, “Do you want to study?”
Lame Beggar was slightly taken aback.
Of course, he would relish the chance to learn and broaden his horizons, but with his current circumstances, he simply could not afford to pursue such an opportunity.
“I have a solution,” Li Jinyu declared, leading Lame Beggar to the school he had purchased and lent to a handful of scholars for their education. He hoped they would be able to help Lame Beggar learn to read and write.
The scholars, who had not witnessed Ye Gui’an’s downfall and therefore did not recognize Li Jinyu as the Emperor, readily agreed to assist Lame Beggar. “Don’t worry, Young Master,” they promised. “We will teach this Little Brother how to read and write!”
After ensuring that Lame Beggar was in good hands, Li Jinyu and Huo Caiyu climbed into the carriage and began their journey back to the capital.
The trip out of the city had been fraught with unexpected twists and turns, but the ultimate outcome was satisfying. Ye Gui’an had met with a mishap and enough individuals were implicated to give the Prime Minister a headache.
Initially, Li Jinyu had intended for Huo Caiyu to ride in the same carriage as him. However, shortly after setting off, he changed his mind and instructed Huo Caiyu to travel in a separate carriage.
Perplexed by his sudden decision, Huo Caiyu left Li Jinyu with a frown on his face, unable to understand his reasoning.
After concluding their official business, Huo Caiyu’s mind returned to thoughts of His Majesty. He eagerly anticipated the time they would spend together on the journey back to the palace, but then he received a bucket of cold water.
Li Jinyu seemed too preoccupied to notice his feelings. He cocooned himself in a blanket, refusing to allow anyone to enter the carriage. As he clutched his newly emerged short and furry tail, a sense of helplessness washed over him, causing him to feel on the verge of tears.
How did his tail suddenly appear?
Why was there a tail sticking out?
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