Chapter 35 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip?
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As the night settled in, Li Jinyu still arranged for Huo Caiyu to sleep in the outer hall.
The following day was a day of rest, and according to tradition, he was obligated to pay his respects to the Empress Dowager. However, on his previous visits, she always seemed to be preoccupied with studying Buddhism and praying for the Emperor’s well-being, and as a result, had refused to see him.
Even when they did meet, her demeanor towards him was distant and cold, almost as if they were strangers rather than mother and son. At first, Li Jinyu was perplexed by her behavior, but as time went on, he learned to accept it.
He wondered if perhaps the Empress Dowager had grown disillusioned with Emperor Jingchang, and that was why she chose to distance herself. After all, she had devoted much of her life to her spiritual pursuits, and maybe her disappointment in him had led her to withdraw further.
Anyway, Li Jinyu didn’t really believe the excuse of “praying for the Emperor’s blessings”.
He was quite content with this kind of relationship. Among all the people in his life, he only allowed Huo Caiyu to come close to him.
Moreover, he had no recollection of Emperor Jingchang’s memories and how he had interacted with the Empress Dowager. To avoid the risk of exposing himself, he must maintain a calculated distance from her.
Today, unlike her usual routine of chanting Buddhism in seclusion, the Empress Dowager received Li Jinyu cordially.
Following his customary manners, Li Jinyu inquired about her well-being and settled on the jujube wood chair adorned with embroidered phoenixes. He then lowered his gaze to savor the tea.
After just one sip, he pursed his lips and set the cup aside.
This tea was too bitter, and the fragrance was too strong.
It was far inferior to the tea that Huo Caiyu brewed for him…
Li Jinyu contemplated whether to request Huo Caiyu’s assistance in preparing a suitable tea to offer as a sign of filial piety to the Empress Dowager. As he pondered, he was startled by her sudden inquiry. “Aijia hears the Emperor have plans to seize power from the Prime Minister?”
Li Jinyu was taken aback, raised his head and unconsciously looked around. He found that the palace maid who had just served them had quietly withdrawn, leaving only a familiar senior handmaiden to serve the Empress Dowager.
Observing Li Jinyu’s wariness, the Empress Dowager’s face softened into a smile that was less than kind. “Rest assured, Aijia only employs reliable individuals here.”
Li Jinyu breathed a small sigh of relief, uncertain of the Empress Dowager’s position on the matter. He responded cautiously, “Zhen just wants to manage more court matters.”
The Empress Dowager appeared somewhat disappointed with his answer, but nodded in acquiescence. “It is good that you have come to this realization. It is never too late to reclaim power.”
Come to this realization?
Li Jinyu sensed that the Empress Dowager’s words carried a subtle undertone. He ventured cautiously, “Does the Empress Dowager support Zhen?”
The Empress Dowager fingered her sandalwood prayer beads, sighing softly as she replied, “As the Emperor’s mother, why would Aijia not offer support? However, Aijia must caution you that leaving a lasting impression in history is a formidable task. Many Emperors have been forgotten over time.”
Li Jinyu felt increasingly perplexed as he listened. “Zhen feels the same way.”
As a clever hamster, Li Jinyu had only heard of a few ancient Emperors such as Qin Shihuang, Han Wudi, Tang Zong, and Song Zu.
“It is good that you have come to this realization,” the Empress Dowager repeated wearily, her hands resting on her prayer beads as she spoke. “I’m tired now. You can go back. The Meng and Han families will support you, so just go and do what you need to do.”
Li Jinyu stepped out of the Cining Palace, his mind still reeling from the conversation.
What did the Empress Dowager mean by all of this?
Did Emperor Jingchang have some unresolved issues that drove him to such self-destruction?
Li Jinyu pondered over the conversation with the Empress Dowager on his way back to the palace.
It seemed that Emperor Jingchang was somewhat obsessed with leaving his mark in history. But what did that have to do with being self-destructive?
Could it be that he thought he couldn’t achieve the great accomplishments of a wise and capable ruler and leave behind a lasting legacy, so he might as well follow in the footsteps of King Zhou, who was remembered for his infamy for thousands of years?
How could he be so destructive to his own ancestral heritage?
Li Jinyu returned to his sleeping quarters full of doubts and decided to call for Huo Caiyu.
He told Huo Caiyu about his conversation with the Empress Dowager, hoping that his insight could help him analyze it.
Huo Caiyu was taken aback that His Majesty had confided in him about such a delicate matter. Suppressing any unwarranted thoughts, he pondered the situation for a moment and a look of satisfaction crossed his countenance. “It appears that the Empress Dowager’s message was that General Meng has given his approval.”
“The Han family, to which the Empress Dowager belongs, and the Meng family, represented by General Meng, are connected by marriage.” Huo Caiyu proceeded to give a brief history of the numerous times the two families had intermarried, leaving Li Jinyu feeling somewhat dizzy.
Meng and Han are the maternal families of the Grand Empress Dowager and the Empress Dowager, respectively. The previous generations of the two families had intermarriages, and there were countless side branches. The royal family’s kinship ties were truly complex and intertwined.
Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but find the Emperor’s perplexed expression endearing. “As of now, the Han family represents the external relations of the Di dynasty and wields less influence in court compared to the Meng family. However, their standing among the imperial clans remains formidable,” he explained, his tone softening. “This official has been considering ways to sway the Han family’s position, but Your Majesty brought such good tidings today.”
“It was the Empress Dowager who took the initiative,” Li Jinyu corrected automatically.
Regardless, with the support of the Empress Dowager’s relatives and General Meng, they could proceed with the reformation of the imperial examinations.
However, when the new policy was introduced, it was met with fierce opposition from the Prime Minister’s faction.
During the early court session, Prime Minister Ye remained stoic at the forefront of the civil officials. However, his followers behind him were a different story, as they shed crocodile tears and vehemently denounced the new policy, acting again as though the Great Di Dynasty would collapse the very next day if the policy was followed. As expected, Huo Caiyu was almost drowned out by the Prime Minister’s faction’s venomous words.
Li Jinyu had grown accustomed to giving the naming rights of the new policy to Huo Caiyu, wanting him to continue building up his political achievements. Although he knew that the backlash from the Prime Minister’s faction was inevitable, he couldn’t help but feel heartbroken and angry seeing Huo Caiyu bear the brunt of the officials’ vitriol.
And yet, these corrupt officials had the gall to don a patriotic and benevolent guise and spew nonsense! They did nothing but flatter, take bribes, and break the law.
The more Li Jinyu pondered on the matter, the angrier he became, and he couldn’t resist slamming his hand on the armrest of the dragon throne. “Enough!”
Who were these people to accuse Huo Caiyu of wrongdoing?
The previously noisy ministers below suddenly fell silent.
Among the sea of officials, Huo Caiyu stood tall and still. Only when Li Jinyu spoke did he raise his head, looking up at the Emperor with shining eyes.
“Huo Caiyu’s views align with Zhen’s,” declared Li Jinyu firmly, “General Meng, what are your thoughts on this?”
General Meng covertly glanced at Huo Caiyu before readily agreeing, “This official thinks it is worth trying.”
The officials of the Prime Minister’s faction were left in disbelief. Did General Meng just blatantly pick a side?
Li Jinyu purposefully disregarded the opposition and turned to the Duke of Jiangguo, who stood at the court meeting as the representative of the noble relatives. “This matter involves the politics of various large families. What does the Duke of Jiangguo think?
The Duke of Jiangguo, who was the current Empress Dowager’s father and leader of the high-ranking nobilities, always attended court to protect himself and remained silent.
However, upon being addressed by the Emperor, the Duke of Jiangguo spoke up slowly, “This old minister also agrees with the general.”
His words carried the weight of the opinions of the top noble families, causing the officials sent by the Prime Minister to feel a sudden chill run down their spines.
Why were the Grand Marshal and the Duke of Jiangguo supporting Huo Caiyu, a seemingly insignificant figure in the court?
Shouldn’t these noble families be united with the Prime Minister’s faction?
The officials of the Prime Minister’s faction were all in a state of panic and anger, and their gazes eventually settled on their leader, Prime Minister Ye.
Li Jinyu finally turned his attention to the Prime Minister and inquired, “What does the Prime Minister think?”
Prime Minister Ye lifted his head to meet Li Jinyu’s gaze before shifting his cold eyes to Huo Caiyu. Despite the Prime Minister’s animosity towards him, Huo Caiyu returned the glare fearlessly.
Although Huo Caiyu was unsure why the Prime Minister harbored such hostility towards him, he was resolute in his stance against the corrupt actions of the Prime Minister’s faction, particularly towards His Majesty.
All eyes were on the Prime Minister, who eventually spoke, “This minister thinks… the Duke of Jiangguo’s suggestion is good.”
The Prime Minister was conceding?
On such a crucial matter?
No matter which faction they belong to, the officials were all taken aback, a hint of incredulity in their eyes.
Everyone knew how the Prime Minister made his fortune, so could it be that Prime Minister Ye was really willing to give up the Ministry of Personnel, a significant piece of cake, to someone else?
However, some calm and rational officials within the Prime Minister’s faction were not surprised by the Prime Minister’s decision.
With both the general and the neutral factions suddenly supporting the Duke of Jiangguo, it was highly likely that the Emperor had done something behind the scenes to persuade them.
Just what did His Majesty do behind the scenes to convince them?
Since it was difficult to fight the overall situation, it was better to step back and seek a foothold.
Li Jinyu made a decisive decision to arrange for Huo Caiyu to lead the reform arrangements for this year’s Spring Examination at the Ministry of Personnel.
Normally, the position of Chief Examiner for the imperial examination was highly coveted, but this year, with the sudden demand for reform and confrontation with the Prime Minister, any official with a bit of insight chose to remain conservative and wait and see.
However, there were a few scholar officials who doubted Huo Caiyu’s ability to shoulder the responsibilities of the Chief Examiner.
Huo Caiyu didn’t let Li Jinyu lose face on this matter and immediately debated with those few scholars using classical texts, quickly convincing all the officials present. Even some ministers who had always looked down on Huo Caiyu for using his body to rise to power had a change of heart.
The target that His Majesty put forward was not so useless after all?
Li Jinyu was completely confident in Huo Caiyu’s literary talent and scholarship. He sat comfortably on the dragon throne as he watched him debate with the scholars.
As Huo Caiyu successfully convinced his opponents and turned to face him, Li Jinyu gave him a warm smile, impressed by his skillful argumentation.
It might have been a trick of the light, but Li Jinyu couldn’t help but feel that Huo Caiyu’s eyes sparkled even more brightly after his smile.
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