Chapter 34 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip?
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As the imperial decree reverberated throughout the grand halls and chambers of the palace, a hushed silence fell over the gathering of concubines.
“Planting… peanuts and corn in the palace?” gasped one incredulous Concubine, her eyes darting to the eunuch who had brought the unexpected news. “Has His Majesty lost his mind?”
But before anyone could utter another word, the startled Concubine covered her mouth, appalled by her own audacity. She knew all too well the consequences of speaking out of turn in the imperial court.
The eunuch, however, was unfazed by the outburst. Having witnessed similar reactions from other concubines, he was well-versed in the art of placating the disgruntled women. When he had first laid eyes on the decree, even he had wondered if the Emperor had gone mad.
“Your Highness is joking,” he replied smoothly, concealing his own misgivings. “Rest assured, His Majesty’s decree is rooted in sound reasoning.” With a wave of his hand, he summoned a group of little eunuchs bearing bags filled with rich soil and seeds of peanuts and corn. “In fact, His Majesty wishes to reward Your Highness with the opportunity to cultivate the first crop.”
The Concubine looked at the heavy bags being brought in, with soil falling on the clean and polished blue phoenix porcelain floor. Her face was expressionless as she asked, “What is this for?”
The eunuch’s smile remained unwavering as he delivered the Emperor’s decree. “His Majesty has declared that the rank of the imperial concubines will be determined by the yield of the crops they grow,” he explained. “These seeds and soil are special gifts from His Majesty.”
Seeds alone would have sufficed, so why was there soil as well?
“His Majesty wishes for you to have the best chance of success,” the eunuch continued, as if reading her thoughts. “Please take care, Your Highness. This servant will take his leave now.”
The Concubine was so taken aback by this imperial decree that she forgot all about the customary token of gratitude for the eunuch delivering the message. Normally, she would have offered him silver or jewelry as a show of appreciation, but this time, she was too bewildered and shocked to think straight.
The eunuch, who had seen this reaction many times before, was not surprised. However, he couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret that he wouldn’t be able to benefit much from this particular decree…
He knew, however, that he was lucky to be in his current position. With Master Huo in charge of internal affairs in the palace, it was far better to have no oil to skim than to risk losing his life.
The imperial decree had sent shockwaves through the palace, leaving almost all of the concubines doubting their ears. Even Noble Concubine Xian, who had once enjoyed the Emperor’s favor, could not accept the sudden change and demanded an audience with the Emperor.
Li Jinyu had made it clear that the concubines were not to be seen, and the guards had been ordered to enforce his order. After two days of cautious observation, it became clear that the Emperor was serious. The concubines were left feeling as if the world had been turned upside down, and they began to question their very purpose for being in the palace.
In the sleeping quarters, Li Jinyu listened carefully to the eunuch’s report and nodded in understanding.
Huo Caiyu, who was pouring out the second round of brewed tea, couldn’t help but let his curiosity get the best of him. “Why did Your Majesty clash with General Meng?”
The decision to abolish the Green Headed Pin and send all the concubines to farming had been a bold and shocking move, and it was not a surprise that General Meng had opposed it.
The plan had been intended as a way to reward those who had shown merit, but instead it had only succeeded in scattering the concubines and causing discord. General Meng, fuming with anger, had stormed off, leaving Huo Caiyu to worry for the safety of His Majesty.
While it was true that General Meng was interfering with the affairs of the imperial harem, as a senior relative of the Emperor, he had not overstepped his bounds.
But Li Jinyu was eagerly anticipating a life where he could enjoy fresh, wholesome food. He blurted out his reasoning without a second thought, “Isn’t Zhen doing it for you?”
Taken aback, Huo Caiyu held his breath for a moment, almost doubting his ears. “For this official?”
Could it be that His Majesty had refused to keep his imperial concubines because of him?
Was His Majesty thinking what he was thinking?
Li Jinyu’s slip of the tongue had revealed his true intentions, and he scrambled to regain his composure, coughing to cover his tracks. “What Zhen meant was that Zhen did it to better focus on studying with Huo Aiqing.”
But despite his efforts, Huo Caiyu still seemed skeptical, and Li Jinyu could not help but sneer in response. “Besides, General Meng just wants Zhen to have an heir as soon as possible.”
For countless generations, Emperors had always strived for a flourishing progeny, their desires driven by the need for an heir to secure the throne. But there were few who, like Li Jinyu, did not share this burning ambition.
Huo Caiyu’s expression was complicated as he pursed his lips. Ultimately, he decided to swallow the words he wanted to say and handed Li Jinyu a cup of slightly cooled tea.
He didn’t dare to continue discussing this topic with His Majesty, afraid that he would give him a more ruthless answer.
Huo Caiyu instead shifted the conversation, “This official saw an acquaintance in General Meng’s victorious army.”
Li Jinyu was somewhat surprised.
To be mentioned by Huo Caiyu, it was probably someone he knew.
As for his familiarity with the military… Li Jinyu only knew that the “Spear” and “Shield” referred in the novel were the strongest in Huo Caiyu’s army.
Miss Huo was still living at home, could it be Chi Zhongming?
Li Jinyu tentatively asked, “Brother Chi?”
Huo Caiyu was taken aback. “Your Majesty already knows?”
Li Jinyu chuckled dryly. “Zhen was just guessing.”
He only knew a handful of people, after all.
Huo Caiyu didn’t believe him and suspected that His Majesty had his own network of confidential sources.
He refilled Li Jinyu’s teacup and suggested, “Perhaps it was General Meng who ordered Chi Zhongming to investigate the new tax policy in Qingshui Prefecture when he joined the General’s army.”
Li Jinyu lifted the teacup to his nose and sniffed, noticing a distinct aroma that differed from before. He was perplexed and asked, “This smells great. But isn’t the General busy suppressing the rebellion?”
How did the news spread so quickly?
“The army must have already returned from the Southwest campaign when the news of the Single Whip Policy has spread,” Huo Caiyu remarked as he placed the teapot down. “Be careful, it’s still hot. And General Meng may have the time to pay attention to court affairs.”
Li Jinyu put down his teacup and picked up the melon seeds again, sensing that Huo Caiyu had more to say. “Are you suggesting that General Meng might be on our side?”
“It’s hard to say. He might simply want to overthrow Prime Minister Ye.” Huo Caiyu couldn’t understand why Emperor Jingchang had been so distant from the loyal and patriotic General in the past, and so he suggested, “Your Majesty could try to win the General’s support.”
Li Jinyu was also confused by Emperor Jingchang’s behavior. He couldn’t understand why he had a strained relationship with General Meng, while he had a close relationship with Prime Minister Ye, even though his actions seemed to be destroying his ancestors’ legacy. He could only attribute this to the poor writing skill of the author…
Li Jinyu was eager to regain his power, but he knew better than to act rashly. With a calm demeanor, he acquiesced, “Zhen shall heed your counsel, and entrust all to you.”
Huo Caiyu certainly wouldn’t be wrong!
Huo Caiyu was not surprised by this show of deference. Though he was aware that the Emperor did not harbor any romantic inclinations towards him, Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but feel a surge of warmth in his chest at the complete trust and reliance placed upon him. His lips curved upwards in a contented smile as he replied, “As Your Majesty wishes.”
Thinking of Chi Zhongming, Li Jinyu remembered their experience in Qingshui Prefecture. He suddenly became curious. “Didn’t Brother Chi say he had a sweetheart who instructed him to go to Qingshui Prefecture?”
A strange idea suddenly popped into Li Jinyu’s head. “If Chi Zhongming is the Grand Marshal’s person… Could it be that he secretly admires General Meng? What a mismatch!”
Huo Caiyu didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. “General Meng is over fifty, already married and highly accomplished. From this official’s understanding of Brother Chi, he shouldn’t be interested in General Meng.”
Huo Caiyu recalled how proud Chi Zhongming had been when he showed off his beloved in Qingshui Prefecture. He was certain that it wasn’t General Meng, or else Chi Zhongming would have shown a hint of worry or uncertainty in the presence of the Emperor.
Huo Caiyu glanced at Li Jinyu and felt sad.
Li Jinyu noticed Huo Caiyu’s change in expression. He felt that Huo Caiyu’s mood had become strange recently, always laughing and sighing for no apparent reason.
Could it be because of a love interest?
Li Jinyu suddenly recalled that Chi Zhongming had previously mentioned Huo Caiyu’s crush on someone in Qingshui Prefecture. Although Huo Caiyu had denied it at the time, Li Jinyu couldn’t help but notice that Huo Caiyu’s recent behavior was similar to those young boys in TV dramas who were hopelessly in love.
What kind of love interest could it be that Huo Caiyu was willing to confide in Chi Zhongming but not in him?
If Huo Caiyu revealed the identity of this love interest, Li Jinyu could use this as an opportunity to arrange a marriage for him…
But had he not won over the person yet?
The more Li Jinyu thought about it, the less sense it made. Huo Caiyu was a man with a bright future, blessed with good looks and favored by the heavens. Who could resist his charm?
He tried to analyze Huo Caiyu’s situation in his mind.
Was it some kind of forbidden love with someone of restricted identity? Li Jinyu’s mind flashed through countless tragic romance dramas, each one more dramatic than the last.
Huo Caiyu was confined within the palace, and Li Jinyu was privy to all of his actions. He didn’t have many opportunities to interact with women, apart from the occasional palace maids. But if it was a palace maid that Huo Caiyu was in love with, it didn’t make sense for him to be so conflicted about his status…
Unable to contain his curiosity, Li Jinyu prodded, “Has Huo Aiqing encountered any troubles recently?”
Huo Caiyu was taken aback and looked up from his paperwork, replying, “This official has no troubles, Your Majesty.”
“Really?” Li Jinyu scrutinized Huo Caiyu’s expression carefully and then decided to take a leap, “Perhaps it’s because you have a love interest?”
Upon hearing this, Huo Caiyu’s hand trembled uncontrollably, causing the document he was holding to slip from his grasp and fall to the ground. As he picked it up, he forced himself to suppress his emotions and said, “Your Majesty is joking.”
Li Jinyu had been closely observing Huo Caiyu’s every move, and he did not miss the shock, panic, and bashfulness that flickered across his face after he posed that question. This only served to confirm his suspicions, and he generously added, “Rest assured, Zhen won’t interfere. Please feel free to speak.”
Huo Caiyu fixed his gaze on Li Jinyu with a peculiar look. After a moment of contemplation, he sifted through the documents in front of him before pursing his lips and speaking softly, “Your Majesty is worrying too much.”
But Li Jinyu couldn’t shake off the unhappiness that lingered in his heart. He and Huo Caiyu had faced countless challenges together, so why was he concealing this particular piece of gossip from him?
“Is it someone from the palace?”
Huo Caiyu’s expression changed again as he stared at Li Jinyu. “Your Majesty…”
Seeing his expression, Li Jinyu knew that he was right.
Could it really be an imperial concubine?
Then it was perfectly understandable why Huo Caiyu didn’t want to tell him. It was also within reason for the concubine keep her secrets closely guarded as well.
No wonder the novel left out any emotional plotline for Huo Caiyu!
After all, this was an act of putting a green hat on the Emperor. Who would dare to say it out loud? Wasn’t it enough to wipe out nine generations to make up for the green light shining on the Emperor’s imperial crown?
As an outsider who had taken over the body of Emperor Jingchang, Li Jinyu had no personal attachment to the imperial harem.
In fact, he found himself even more excited by the scandalous revelation.
Ever since their journey back from Qingshui Prefecture, Li Jinyu could sense a change in his relationship with Huo Caiyu. Their shared experiences, from narrowly escaping assassination attempts to braving the harsh wilderness, had brought them closer. And to top it off, they even had to share a bed together every night!
This made Li Jinyu worry about the future.
Would all the hatred points he had previously earned be destroyed in an instant?
Li Jinyu couldn’t help but let his imagination run wild as he pondered the potential outcomes of a future where Huo Caiyu seizes power. What if he decided to keep the Emperor alive and well-fed, instead of executing him?
Would Li Jinyu be forced to take drastic measures and end his own life?
Would Heavenly Dao even allow it?
Li Jinyu had initially planned to cause some mischief, but as he watched Huo Caiyu tirelessly strategize how to bring down the Prime Minister, his heart softened. He couldn’t bring himself to impede Huo Caiyu’s progress.
After all, the matter of seizing power could only be discussed after overthrowing the Prime Minister. Li Jinyu never expected that Huo Caiyu would fall in love with an imperial. concubine.
As the ancients said, the greatest source of hatred was killing a father and taking his wife. If Huo Caiyu wanted to marry the concubine he had fallen in love with, wouldn’t he have to depose himself as Emperor?!
The more Li Jinyu thought about it, the more excited he became. He could almost envision Huo Caiyu, with a guilty yet determined expression on his face, wielding a long sword as he protected his tearful beloved. Li Jinyu couldn’t help but mentally cheer Huo Caiyu, “Well done!”
The biggest problem now was… which concubine had Huo Caiyu set his sights on? Wasn’t she the future Empress? He had to ensure that she was well taken care of. Li Jinyu attempted to subtly probe Huo Caiyu. “Huo Aiqing, love affairs are a natural part of life. If you have any thoughts or feelings, don’t hesitate to tell Zhen.”
As Huo Caiyu gazed upon the Emperor’s solemn expression, a sudden wave of thirst overtook him. Even though he continually reminded himself that the Emperor had no interest in him, Li Jinyu’s words had a captivating quality.
Was His Majesty hinting at something?
Was he trying to convey his own emotions?
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