Chapter 34 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip?
Huo Caiyu’s heart pounded fiercely, as though his blood was screaming at him to take action. He took a step forward, and the faint scent of dragon’s breath tickled his nose. His voice trembled as he replied, “Your Majesty, the person this official has feelings for…”
Li Jinyu’s eyes widened in anticipation. “Hmm, hmm!”
Hurry up and speak! Stop dawdling!
Just then, Chief Kang’s voice rang from outside, “Your Majesty, General Meng requests an audience.”
Li Jinyu was startled by the interruption. Huo Caiyu had already returned to his original position, appearing regretful and guilty.
He couldn’t help but urge him, “What about the rest?”
Huo Caiyu didn’t answer, only looked towards outside the hall. “Your Majesty, General Meng requests an audience.”
As they were seeking an alliance with General Meng, it would not do to keep him waiting outside. He had already angered the General by commanding the concubines to farm without any apparent reason. He needed to make amends and win over General Meng’s trust.
Although Li Jinyu understood the urgency of the matter, he felt uneasy about Huo Caiyu’s unfinished revelation. He composed himself by taking a sip of the sweet-scented tea, attempting to appear calm. “Announce him!”
General Meng had come to seek audience to request rewards for his soldiers who had fought valiantly on the front lines. It was customary to reward and promote soldiers based on their achievements after returning victorious from battle.
Emperor Jingchang had never taken an interest in these matters and had always entrusted Prime Minister Ye with the responsibility. Thus, General Meng wasn’t expecting much, and his visit was more of a formality. However, this time, something unexpected happened.
Instead of dismissing the documents as Emperor Jingchang had done in the past, Li Jinyu carefully examined them. He even engaged in a quiet discussion with the young and handsome official by his side.
After a while, Li Jinyu cleared his throat and addressed General Meng. “General Meng, do you think the proportion of rewards and bonuses is too heavy?”
General Meng had brought the documents to negotiate with Prime Minister Ye about the rewards and bonuses for his troops. While Prime Minister Ye was not foolish and recognized the importance of the military, he also feared General Meng’s troops’ power and dared not block their rewards.
Nevertheless, General Meng still had to bargain over the amount of relief money and silver, which led to several rounds of negotiations. To leave room for further discussion with the Prime Minister, General Meng deliberately reported more rewards and relief money than he actually expected to receive.
To his surprise, Li Jinyu took the report seriously and even saw through its flaws.
It seemed that the rumors about “His Majesty having the intention of governing diligently” were not just empty flattery spread by other generals in the capital.
General Meng was a straightforward man and didn’t hesitate to express his thoughts. “This report was originally written for the Prime Minister. If Your Majesty wishes to approve it, approving only half of it would suffice.”
Li Jinyu hesitated for a moment.
Huo Caiyu had briefed him on the relationship between General Meng and Prime Minister Ye, but had not mentioned how frank General Meng could be.
Due to Huo Caiyu’s background, Li Jinyu had a natural empathy for the military, so he readily approved. “Zhen approves. Please convey Zhen”s greetings to the soldiers, General.”
As General Meng observed Li Jinyu happily marking his approval in red, he couldn’t help but look him up and down, sensing something amiss. Hesitantly, he asked, “Is Your Majesty feeling unwell?”
Li Jinyu replied, “…Zhen is fine, General. You are worrying too much.”
In the past, Prime Minister Ye had the power to control General Meng’s finances. He relied on the age-old tactic of “ruling by proxy”, exploiting the Emperor’s careless and impulsive behavior. But now, with Li Jinyu’s approval of the report, General Meng had regained his confidence and had the audacity to demand money from the Ministry of Revenue.
Rejoicing at the news of the approved report, General Meng was in high spirits. When Huo Caiyu skillfully broached the sensitive topic of toppling the Prime Minister, General Meng did not decline outright. He pondered deeply for a moment before speaking, “The Prime Minister is deeply entrenched, with strong connections to the imperial family. Has Your Majesty given this matter enough thought?”
General Meng was well aware of the intricate web of relationships that existed within the imperial court. As a member of the maternal family of the Grand Empress Dowager, the Meng family held a position of great influence and legitimacy.
Given his close ties to the imperial family, General Meng harbored a deep-seated resentment towards Prime Minister Ye and his faction, whose actions had plunged the court into a state of utter chaos. To General Meng, there was no question about where his loyalties lay. After all, the Emperor was his nephew. What was Prime Minister Ye to him?
“The Prime Minister’s power lies in his ability to attract the aristocratic families to his side through the use of official positions as bargaining chips. But, if we cut off this path, his faction will be like rootless water.”
General Meng, who held the esteemed position of Grand Marshal, was far from foolish. He quickly pieced together the plan and asked, “The imperial examination?”
“Currently, the imperial examination and recommendation system in the court are intertwined, leaving many loopholes for Prime Minister Ye to exploit. But with His Majesty’s approval, we can revamp the entire imperial examination process. The entire imperial examination process will be closed-book, with only the best candidates being directly submitted to the court. His Majesty will personally preside over the final examination, eliminating the need for local officials’ review.”
Emperor Jingchang had never paid much attention to the palace examination before. However, General Meng was captivated by Huo Caiyu’s words and eagerly inquired further, “And what of the imperial examination?”
“The imperial examination will still be held, but instead of being recommended by local officials and prefects, it will be recommended jointly by court officials. Furthermore, there will be a probationary period for successful candidates to ensure their competency,” Huo Caiyu explained.
General Meng chewed the word with some doubts. “Probationary period?”
“That means there will be a trial period,” Huo Caiyu explained eagerly.
The concept of a probationary period was initially proposed by Li Jinyu, and it had deeply resonated with Huo Caiyu. It was not difficult for General Meng to grasp the logic behind the proposal, and he soon found himself nodding in agreement.
General Meng’s expression turned serious as he voiced his concern. “But what about the opposition from the imperial clans?” he questioned, referring to the families of the imperial relatives who had already profited from the sale of official positions.
It was clear to anyone with a discerning eye that the elimination of the imperial examination and recommendation system was a direct challenge to the Prime Minister’s faction, who had relied heavily on the practice of “selling official positions”. Would the aristocratic families, who had already tasted the sweetness of this corrupt system, agree to its abolishment?
“If the imperial clans are too preoccupied with their own affairs, they will not pose a significant obstacle to our plans,” Huo Caiyu replied confidently, handing a document to General Meng. “Take a look at this, General Meng.”
It was a decree specifically aimed at the imperial clans, stating that legitimate sons would inherit their titles, while concubine-born sons would be allowed to enter government service.
For generations, the conflict between legitimate and concubine-born sons had been a persistent issue for the major aristocratic families. In the past, the imperial court had not given much attention to this issue. If the legitimate son proved to be incapable, the family head could petition the court to transfer the title to the concubine-born son.
This law was originally intended to encourage children of large families to work hard and avoid indulging in luxury. However, it had become corrupted, allowing those with good connections and who pleased the family heads to have a chance at inheriting titles.
Prime Minister Ye’s corrupt “sale of official positions” industry could not have thrived without the eager support of the sons of the imperial clans. But now, with the new decree in place, the route for concubine-born sons to inherit family property had been closed off.
Legitimate sons could smoothly inherit the family title, but if they wished to enter government service, they would have to go through the imperial examination process, including a probationary period.
This new system ensured that legitimate sons could maintain their wealth and status, while concubine-born sons, who had not inherited property, still had a path to success.
General Meng stared at the document, feeling that there was something niggling at the back of his mind. However, both parties involved seemed content with the terms, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on what was bothering him.
As a member of the renowned Meng family, General Meng had climbed the ranks of the military through sheer determination and unwavering loyalty. He knew that his current high position was a result of both the support of his family and his military prowess.
After a moment of thoughtful silence, General Meng nodded his head slightly, acknowledging the potential benefits of the proposed method. “If this is implemented, it could potentially reduce resistance from the major aristocratic families.”
In order to maintain a solemn demeanor, Li Jinyu suppressed the urge to snack on melon seeds. When he heard General Meng’s agreement, his eyes sparkled with excitement. “General Meng, does this mean you are in favor of the proposal?”
Recalling the analysis of General Meng’s personality, Li Jinyu couldn’t help but admire the man’s unwavering dedication to the court. Despite his prestigious background, General Meng always prioritized the interests of the empire over those of his own family.
Most aristocratic families held high positions and prioritized their own kin over the interests of the imperial court. But for General Meng, who had spent years guarding the harsh borderlands, there was no distinction between the court and the aristocracy. There was only war, death, and the ever-present need for sacrifice.
Huo Caiyu had worked tirelessly to develop a plan that would hit these major families where it hurt, but without causing undue harm to the court. He believed that General Meng would be receptive to it, but the General was not one to make hasty decisions. “This General still need to consider it,” he said, his gaze turning to Li Jinyu with a hint of sternness. “This General is more curious why Your Majesty, who has been lazy for so many years, suddenly becomes diligent?”
Li Jinyu felt a bead of sweat trickle down his forehead. The general’s presence was formidable, and Li Jinyu found it difficult to maintain his composure under the weight of that gaze.
Now he understood why Emperor Jingchang kept his distance from General Meng, despite the general’s unwavering loyalty.
Compared to Prime Minister Ye, who always blew the rainbow fart as soon as they met, General Meng was more of a straight shooter.
But he couldn’t let Huo Caiyu down! He had to do everything in his power to support him!
With a deep breath, Li Jinyu straightened his back and presented the reasons he had carefully prepared. “Zhen recently visited Qingshui Prefecture and witnessed firsthand the suffering of the people. It left Zhen feeling guilty. But after meeting talents like Huo Aiqing, Zhen knew it is necessary to work hard to restructure the court’s policies.”
He deliberately mentioned Huo Caiyu’s name, hoping to draw General Meng’s attention to this up-and-coming star.
General Meng paid little attention to Li Jinyu’s efforts, and didn’t even spare a glance at Huo Caiyu. Instead, he scrutinized Li Jinyu with a piercing gaze before reluctantly nodding his head. “With such intentions, it seems that Your Majesty is not entirely useless.”
Li Jinyu: “…”
Look at the art of speaking. If it were Prime Minister Ye, he would have spouted a bunch of flattery first, like “Oh, Your Majesty’s concern for the country and its people is truly the greatest blessing!”
General Meng was dedicated to serving his country and not overly concerned with winning people’s favor.
Despite not agreeing immediately, General Meng’s loyalty to the throne was unwavering, and his hesitation was enough to indicate that he was giving the matter serious consideration.
Huo Caiyu was thrilled with the progress, but Li Jinyu felt a tinge of unhappiness.
He had expected to be able to provoke General Meng’s anger, but things were not going according to plan, and he found himself having to work together with General Meng.
It was a far cry from the ease with which he had managed to level up Huo Caiyu’s hatred!
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