Chapter 31 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip
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Huo Caiyu was taken aback by the unexpected proposal from the Emperor. “Your Majesty, forgive this official for asking, but how can this unworthy official be elevated to a higher rank without any notable achievements?”
“Even the imperial clan members had the same concerns when Zhen proposed this idea,” Li Jinyu grumbled discontentedly. “What more merits do you need when Zhen wants to bestow you with a well-deserved title?”
When Emperor Jingchang defied the rules and included Ye Gui’an in the Imperial Genealogy, why didn’t those old imperial members say a word? Was it because Prime Minister Ye held too much power, and they were just bullying a powerless Emperor?
Huo Caiyu couldn’t understand why His Majesty would consider promoting him when he hadn’t done anything extraordinary. But, as long as it was His Majesty’s wish, Huo Caiyu was deeply moved and grateful for the opportunity. “Your Majesty, with all due respect, as per the law, only those with great merits are eligible for promotions. This official does not wish to disobey the laws of the land. However, this official will do his best to fulfill your expectations.”
But Li Jinyu knew that if it were that simple for Huo Caiyu to rise in power, he wouldn’t be so easily troubled.
He lifted the porcelain teacup to his lips and savored the rich flavor of the tea before placing it back on the table with casual ease. “Zhen spent the entire night studying the law and finally discovered an opportunity to bestow upon you the title of Prince.”
“Prince?” Huo Caiyu’s eyes widened as he refilled His Majesty’s cup. The news caught him off guard.
That was a noble title!
In the annals of history, only a handful of individuals from different clans were bestowed with such a title, and most of them met an unfortunate end. It was a position that carried immense power and prestige, but it also aroused the suspicion and envy of the Emperor, making it a precarious position to hold.
His Majesty wanted to give him a Prince title?
“Indeed! And not just any Prince title, but the most powerful one of them all!” Li Jinyu’s face lit up with excitement as he pulled out a thick book, known as the “Di Law”, and flipped through its pages. “Look, it’s this one!”
Although Emperor Jingchang didn’t care about politics, there was at least “Di Law” in his bedroom.
After carefully combing through the “Di Law” for a long time, Li Jinyu finally found a way to “promote” Huo Caiyu without being bound by the restrictions of clan members, ministers, and generals.
According to the “Di Law,” when the Emperor was too young, seriously ill, or away from the capital, he could temporarily relinquish his power to a trusted minister or a Prince, without requiring the approval of the clan members or ministers.
The Regent Prince of the Di Dynasty had no land grants or entry into the clan, and the Emperor could take back power at any moment.
When Li Jinyu saw this paragraph, he clutched “Di Law” to his chest like a treasure, regretting not having looked at this book earlier. This was the perfect opportunity to make Huo Caiyu his Regent!
The authority to act as the Emperor! It was only one step away from directly ascending the throne!
Li Jinyu proudly presented that page of “Di Law” to Huo Caiyu.
Huo Caiyu frowned slightly. “Is Your Majesty not in good health?”
Only when the Emperor was unable to handle the affairs of state himself would the Regent be appointed. His Majesty was of the age to rule, so why did he suddenly want to appoint a Regent?
“Well…” Li Jinyu turned his head and said confidently, “Yes, yes. Zhen is ill!”
Huo Caiyu immediately put down the teapot in his hand and leaned forward, his voice urgent. “What illness? Has Your Majesty seen an imperial physician? What did the physician say? Have Your Maejesty been prescribed medicine?”
Li Jinyu: “…”
Li Jinyu couldn’t help but recall a time when he was still an ordinary hamster, and his owner had watched over him with the same level of concern that Huo Caiyu was now displaying. He had eaten an unripe soybean and had become gravely ill. Fortunately, he had been showing signs of becoming a spirit, which had ultimately saved his life.
Li Jinyu subtly felt that Huo Caiyu’s attitude towards him was different from what he had imagined.
As the male protagonist with ambitions, Li Jinyu couldn’t understand why Huo Caiyu wasn’t excited and jumping for joy upon hearing that the useless Emperor was ill.
Li Jinyu knew he had to think fast, so he began to spout a series of symptoms that he had heard in TV commercials, “Zhen feels weak and dizzy. The limbs are weak, the waist and knees are sore. Zhen has trouble sleeping at night… In short, Zhen is uncomfortable everywhere and unable to handle court affairs.”
Ever since Ye Gui’an’s disgrace, the Prime Minister’s faction had become more restrained. As a result, more and more court affairs were being directed towards Li Jinyu for his input.
Of course, Li Jinyu mostly pushed them onto Huo Caiyu.
“What did the Imperial Physician say?”
“The Imperial Physician… The Imperial Physician didn’t see anything.” Li Jinyu’s quick thinking brought forth a brilliant idea. “The imperial physicians in the Imperial Institute of Medicine are getting worse and worse.”
Huo Caiyu knew a bit about pharmacology himself, and as he listened to Li Jinyu’s descriptions, he became increasingly suspicious.
“May this official check Your Majesty’s pulse?”
How could he allow it?
Li Jinyu was quick to refuse, “Since the imperial physicians couldn’t diagnose Zhen’s illness, there’s no need to trouble you, Huo Aiqing.”
Huo Caiyu fell silent for a moment and posed another question, “Which physician did Your Majesty summon?”
What? Stop asking already.
Li Jinyu wracked his brain, trying to recall the surnames of the physicians he had summoned before, but his mind drew a blank.
Huo Caiyu regarded him with a penetrating gaze, suspicion etched in his features. And then, in a moment of desperation, Li Jinyu blurted, “It’s Imperial Physician Han!”
Huo Caiyu’s frown deepened. “Imperial Physician Han has served at the Imperial Institute of Medicine for nearly three decades, and even he was unable to diagnose Your Majesty’s condition?”
Come on! There really was an imperial physician surnamed Han?!
Li Jinyu didn’t know whether he should be relieved or not, and quickly concurred, “Yes, indeed, he couldn’t diagnose Zhen’s illness.”
Huo Caiyu suddenly put down the teapot and stood up. “This official must pay a visit to the Imperial Institute of Medicine and speak with Imperial Physician Han.”
Li Jinyu: “…”
Wait a minute. The whole point of the Emperor’s illness was to use this as an opportunity to gain power and influence. He couldn’t afford to let Huo Caiyu take matters into his own hands.
“Huo Aiqing, it would be best not to disturb Imperial Physician Han at this hour,” he interjected, hoping to dissuade him. “He is so old and should be resting.”
Huo Caiyu regarded him with a look of bewilderment. “Imperial Physician Han just learned of his heavenly mandate this year.”
While it was true that among commoners, someone over fifty years of age was considered old, within the opulent confines of the palace, particularly in the Imperial Institute of Medicine where people are skilled in the art of health preservation, even physicians in their seventies or eighties have strong bodies. Thus, a physician in his fifties was still considered to be in his prime.
Li Jinyu was astounded by the revelation that the physician surnamed Han had been in service at the Imperial Institute of Medicine for three decades and was a mere fifty years old. Didn’t it mean that he had joined the institute when he was barely twenty?
What a genius!
No, that’s not the point!
Li Jinyu cleared his throat and said, “Zhen is tired and wants to rest. Huo Aiqing, stay behind.”
Ever since their return to the capital, Li Jinyu had been careful not to arouse any suspicion by sharing a bed with Huo Caiyu. But this time, when he broached the topic, Huo Caiyu’s eyes sparkled with excitement, and he immediately replied with eagerness, “This official obeys Your Majesty’s command.”
Li Jinyu: “…”
Li Jinyu felt that Huo Caiyu agreed too quickly.
Li Jinyu made a mental note to have Chief Kang summon Imperial Physician Han early the next day and coordinate their testimonies. He couldn’t afford any inconsistencies in their statements.
Although he had announced his intention to retire for the night, he had to play his part convincingly. Thus, he instructed Chief Kang to make arrangements for Huo Caiyu to sleep in the outer hall of the palace.
Chief Kang and Huo Caiyu were both taken aback by the unusual request. Chief Kang hesitated before speaking up, “Your Majesty wants Master Huo to stay in the outer hall?”
The outer hall was a place where the Emperor received important ministers and family members. It was unheard of for a concubine to spend the night there.
The implications of this decision were not lost on Chief Kang. Was Li Jinyu displeased with Huo Caiyu? Was he treating him as a legitimate minister instead of a male favorite?
“Yes,” Li Jinyu nodded.
He had trouble sleeping and was afraid of accidentally revealing his tail while asleep. It was safer to let Huo Caiyu sleep in a separate room. Chief Kang swallowed his words and replied, “Understood.”
Li Jinyu turned his head and met Huo Caiyu’s gaze which held a hint of hurt and abandonment. It was as if he was a helpless puppy left out in the cold. The sight tugged at Li Jinyu’s heartstrings, filling him with guilt.
While having Huo Caiyu sleep outside would allow him to rest easy, Li Jinyu was unaware of the turmoil his decision had caused the other man. As Huo Caiyu struggled with his own anxieties on the makeshift bed in the outer hall, sleep remained elusive.
The next day, Li Jinyu woke up refreshed and found that that Huo Caiyu had already risen and was in the midst of brewing tea.
This future Emperor seemed to have developed a liking for tea recently… The novel didn’t mention his fondness for tea, did it?
Recalling his fabricated tale about Imperial Physician Han from the previous night, Li Jinyu’s thoughts turned to the present. As he sat down for breakfast, he pondered on how to convince Huo Caiyu to depart first.
Huo Caiyu was oblivious to what was going on in His Majesty’s busy mind. As he finished his meal, he took a moment to compose himself before speaking. “Your Majesty’s thoughts from yesterday should not be made known to others.”
“What?” Li Jinyu was confused for a moment before realizing what Huo Caiyu was referring to. “The matter of appointing you as the Regent Prince? Why?”
“Now that Your Majesty has just won a victory over the Prime Minister, Your Majesty’s position must be solidified. How can Your Majesty concede to others?” Huo Caiyu was uncertain if the Emperor was genuinely unwell or had other plans, so he offered his advice. “Think of how the Prime Minister will act in the event that an announcement were to be made regarding Your Majesty’s illness and incapacity to rule.”
Li Jinyu was momentarily stumped.
He hadn’t really thought about it.
His excitement at the prospect of appointing Huo Caiyu as the Regent Prince had blinded him to the fact that they were still the weaker party in the power struggle against the Prime Minister. He now realized that they couldn’t act freely.
Before going to Qingshui Prefecture, Li Jinyu would not have given much consideration to power struggles, and would have simply appointed Huo Caiyu as the Regent Prince and let him to take on the Prime Minister. With the protagonist halo, how could he lose?
But now, he felt a sense of responsibility creeping up on him, causing him to furrow his brow with concern. “Then, what should be done?”
“If Your Majesty is truly unwell, it would be wise to keep it hidden for the time being,” Huo Caiyu advised solemnly, “It is crucial to conceal weakness in front of the enemies.”
Li Jinyu reluctantly agreed to Huo Caiyu’s suggestion, but he couldn’t help feeling dissatisfied with their current situation. “So, when can we act?”
Huo Caiyu took note of Li Jinyu’s yearning for power and decided to share some insight with him. “There may be an opportunity for us to act soon.”
“Does Your Majesty know how the Prime Minister gained his power and influence?”
Li Jinyu was completely ignorant about such complicated matters, but he thought carefully and tentatively answered, “Zhen’s favor?”
Huo Caiyu was silent for a moment, then continued, “Prime Minister Ye was able to secure his high position largely due to the support of the imperial family. He started his career in the Ministry of Revenue, using his financial expertise to win the support of the imperial family and nobility. And once he gained control of the Ministry of Personnel, he changed the rules of the imperial examinations and recommendation system, effectively blocking any chance of promotion for commoner scholars. This ensured that all official positions were reserved solely for those in the imperial family or with close ties to them. Those who were appointed owed their positions to Prime Minister Ye, and in turn, remained loyal to him. It’s how he managed to attain such a lofty position.”
As Huo Caiyu spoke about the Ministry of Personnel, Li Jinyu couldn’t help but notice the complicated expression on his face.
It was a mix of accusation and disappointment, and Li Jinyu knew exactly what it meant. Prime Minister Ye’s ability to control the ministries so easily could not have been possible without the Emperor’s consent and support.
Calculating the timeline, Prime Minister Ye rose to power just a few years before Emperor Jingchang ascended the throne.
The great foundation left by the Late Emperor was easily given away by Emperor Jingchang!
Now Li Jinyu wanted to regain power and give it to Huo Caiyu, but found it increasingly difficult.
Li Jinyu tried to keep up with Huo Caiyu’s quick-witted mind. “So, Prime Minister Ye’s monopoly must be dismantled?”
Huo Caiyu nodded firmly. “The imperial examination and recommendation system have long served to block the upward mobility of the lower class,” he explained. “It may seem harmless on the surface, but in reality it has festered deep resentment among middle and lower class officials. The Prime Minister’s faction is quick to either succumb to corruption or condemn themselves to the margins.”
Opportunities for corruption were scarce, and the positions that held such power were highly coveted. The Prime Minister’s faction was not in the habit of bestowing high-ranking positions on just anyone. The coveted positions that hold the keys to influence and riches are like elusive radishes buried deep in a pit, guarded fiercely by those in power.
In a world without a just and equitable system of advancement based on merit and accomplishment, those of humble origins and limited means would find themselves at a disadvantage when vying for positions of power and influence against the offspring of the privileged aristocracy.
“The Prime Minister’s faction, mainly consisting of officials, relied on the support of pleasure-loving aristocratic families. However, this support was not stable enough to sustain their rule.” Huo Caiyu spoke with conviction as he analyzed the current state of affairs. “The aristocratic officials were mistaken in thinking that the lower class would submit to their authority.”
Throughout history, it had always been the people struggling in the mud who lit the first fire to overthrow the high and mighty.
Li Jinyu listened intently, and slowly, the realization dawned on him.
“This year’s spring exams are about to begin.” Huo Caiyu’s voice was a little cold, but with a hint of enthusiasm. “This is a good opportunity to bring about some changes.”
Li Jinyu blinked at him.
Suddenly, Huo Caiyu’s gaze locked onto the Emperor’s eyes. He paused for a moment, his fingers still. “Your Majesty, is there any mistake in what this official said?”
“No, absolutely not!”
Li Jinyu’s trust in Huo Caiyu was unwavering, and he expressed his support without hesitation
As they wrapped up their discussion, Li Jinyu remembered that he still had to coach Imperial Physician Han. “Huo Aiqing, such a big plan needs to be implemented quickly!”
Hurry up and leave, so he can quickly call the Imperial Physician over!
Huo Caiyu looked at him and put down the teapot. “This official is waiting for Imperial Physician Han.”
Li Jinyu: “?”
“This official has made the decision to allow the Imperial Physician to examine the dragon body. This official begs Your Majesty’s forgiveness for taking such action without permission.”
Li Jinyu: “???”
How could he forget?
Even though Huo Caiyu seemed obedient and harmless at the moment, he was still the same determined person who dared to block the Emperor’s dragon carriage.
He had just praised Huo Caiyu for finally having ambition in his heart, and now he was taking matters into his own hands?
Li Jinyu was anxious and wanted to find an excuse to divert the topic, but he heard Chief Kang’s announcement from outside.
“Imperial Physician Han has been summoned to see His Majesty!”
Li Jinyu felt his heart sink. How did Imperial Physician Han arrive so quickly?
Before he could react, an old imperial physician walked in and bowed to them, saying, “This humble subject pays his respects to Your Majesty. May this humble subject inquire as to Your Majesty’s orders?”
Huo Caiyu eyed the physician with suspicion, believing that they could not always be trusted. “Recently, His Majesty has been weak and unwell. This official has heard that Imperial Physician Han has examined him. What is the Imperial Physician’s conclusion?”
Li Jinyu watched helplessly as Imperial Physician Han looked at them with a doubtful gaze.
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