Chapter 36 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip?
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Li Jinyu’s entire body tensed up in an instant, much more than when he had first caught sight of the cat.
He touched it!
He touched it!
He touched his tail!!
Li Jinyu felt that his tail was now far more sensitive than when he was just a pure hamster, perhaps due to the length of his human form.
Until a moment ago, Li Jinyu still possessed the ability to flip and roll with ease. But as Huo Caiyu’s right hand brushed against his tail, a sudden surge of sour and numb sensations coursed up from his tailbone. Li Jinyu was left helpless, sprawled out on the dragon bed, unable to move or even react as Huo Caiyu touch his biggest secret.
When Huo Caiyu touched his tail through the silk towel, his tail reacted instinctively. Unless Huo Caiyu was an idiot, he would know what he touched!
Time seemed to freeze at this moment.
Li Jinyu’s heart was heavy with despair as he waited with bated breath for the inevitable. Huo Caiyu, upon discovering his true identity, would surely draw his sword and cry out, “Demon, face my sword!” before beheading him.
Was his spiritual power strong enough to fake death?
If push comes to shove, Huo Caiyu might lock him up and found some high-ranking monk or Daoist to purify him…
To Li Jinyu’s surprise, Huo Caiyu’s reaction was not what he had anticipated. The moment Huo Caiyu touched his tail through the silk towel, he hesitated before suddenly withdrawing his hand.
Huo Caiyu’s face betrayed no anger or shock, nor did he remove the blindfold that concealed his eyes.
Li Jinyu watched in amazement as a hint of blush appeared on Huo Caiyu’s handsome face, partially obscured by the silk towel.
“Your Majesty, this servant…has overstepped.”
When Huo Caiyu spoke, his voice stuttered.
Li Jinyu looked at Huo Caiyu in confusion.
He wasn’t exposed?
Swiftly, Li Jinyu turned over and drew the dragon quilt tightly around himself. Only his head remained exposed, alert and watchful.
Huo Caiyu stood frozen in place for a moment before speaking in a hushed voice, “Your Majesty, may this official remove the blindfold now?”
Li Jinyu checked once more to ensure that his short tail was safely concealed beneath the blankets before nodding in assent. “Yes, you may remove it now.”
Huo Caiyu carefully removed the silk towel from his eyes and then averted his gaze, fixing his attention on the side of the dragon bed. He clasped his hands behind his back, reluctant to meet Li Jinyu’s gaze, and asked, “Does Your Majesty have any further orders?”
Li Jinyu leaned forward, intently studying Huo Caiyu’s expression, hoping to discern any hint of suspicion or discovery.
Despite his scrutiny, Li Jinyu could not determine whether his true identity had been uncovered. He decided to play it safe and not alarm the snake.
“I am feeling much better now,” Li Jinyu said, trying to sound nonchalant. “You may leave first.”
Huo Caiyu’s gaze remained fixed on the ground as he nodded in agreement. “As Your Majesty wishes.”
“Wait.” Suddenly, Li Jinyu remembered the ominous black cat that had appeared earlier and felt a shiver run down his spine. He gritted his teeth and commanded, “Tell Chief Kang to move your bed in here.”
Huo Caiyu appeared taken aback and his words came out haltingly. “What does Your Majesty mean?”
“You will sleep in the hall tonight,” Li Jinyu said firmly, pointing to the empty space not far from the dragon bed. “Right there.”
Chief Kang quickly and deftly moved Huo Caiyu’s bed in.
Li Jinyu directed Chief Kang to position Huo Caiyu’s bed closer to him. After careful consideration, Li Jinyu pointed to the scant two-foot gap that separated the two beds. “Put a screen here.”
Puzzled, Chief Kang instinctively sought clarification, “A screen, Your Majesty?”
Once inseparable, Master Huo and His Majesty now slept in separate chambers and distinct beds, with the added request for a partition between them. What sort of game was His Majesty playing this time around?
On the one hand, Li Jinyu wished to be closer to Huo Caiyu, hoping to ward off the ominous presence of the black cat. But on the other hand, he was terrified that Huo Caiyu might discover his tail.
Li Jinyu concluded that erecting a screen remained his best choice.
“Yes, a screen,” Li Jinyu reiterated with emphasis, “and it should be sizable, opaque, and impossible to see through!”
Though Chief Kang found the request somewhat odd, he refrained from questioning it and set to work without further delay.
As he prepared to depart, he cast a compassionate gaze towards Master Huo, silently contemplating the nobleman’s tumultuous journey from being favored to disfavored…
However, Chief Kang’s astonishment mounted when he laid eyes on Master Huo. Instead of wearing a sullen or discontented countenance, the man appeared lost in thought, his gaze blank and perplexed. Evidently, he was grappling with some profound inner turmoil.
A tall and sturdy screen was promptly assembled between the two beds, entirely obscuring the view. Li Jinyu heaved a deep sigh of relief as he surveyed the barrier.
As Chief Kang arrived bearing fresh inner garments, he addressed Li Jinyu, “Your Majesty, please change into dry clothes.”
Following the earlier commotion, Li Jinyu remained drenched from the bath, while the prepared clothing was equally sodden.
This time, Li Jinyu proceeded with utmost caution, forbidding anyone from approaching him. He directed Chief Kang to leave the new garment on the bedside table, before drying himself off and donning the dry clothes. He double-checked that his tail remained concealed beneath his undergarment, finally allowing himself to relax.
With his frayed nerves now unwound, Li Jinyu suddenly experienced an intense, pulsing sensation that began from his toes, rippling upwards like a bolt of electricity surging through his thighs.
It was a physical response to the numbness he had felt in the bath earlier…
The prickling sensation proved almost too unpleasant to bear. Li Jinyu was tempted to rub at the sensation, but even the slightest touch elicited another electric jolt. The mere movement of his leg was enough to reduce him to tears.
Huo Caiyu reclined on the plush bed behind the screen, his thoughts in a mess. All of a sudden, he heard a faint noise coming from the Emperor’s side.
Startled, Huo Caiyu lifted his upper body slightly, and inquired in a hushed tone, “Is everything alright, Your Majesty?”
After a brief pause, a voice, tinged with a hint of weeping, responded, “Zhen’s leg feels so numb…”
Recalling how the Emperor had earlier mentioned his legs feeling weak in the bath, Huo Caiyu couldn’t help but feel a trace of amusement.
Having experienced such numbness himself during his martial arts training, he was well acquainted with the accompanying discomfort. Huo Caiyu offered, “Would Your Majesty likes this official to massage the dragon legs?”
There was a brief moment of hesitation from the other side, before Li Jinyu replied, “Do you think it would help?”
“This official has inner energy.”
Li Jinyu hesitated for a moment before moving his leg, and in an instant, an electric current flashed through him, making him shiver and grit his teeth. “Then hurry up and massage me!”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
As Huo Caiyu made to move around the screen, Li Jinyu’s voice stopped him in his tracks. “Stay there!”
Huo Caiyu was taken aback by the command, but then saw Li Jinyu’s legs extending from behind the screen. He heard Li Jinyu’s teeth-clenched voice, “Just massage it like this.”
Li Jinyu added, “Don’t touch too high!”
Huo Caiyu felt his heart rate increase as he pursed his lips, wondering if His Majesty suspected something.
Without delay, Huo Caiyu knelt beside the dragon bed and placed his hand on Li Jinyu’s leg.
At the touch of Li Jinyu’s calf, a groan involuntarily escaped his lips.
Pushing aside any distracting thoughts, Huo Caiyu spoke softly, “Your Majesty, please bear with it for a moment.”
Channeling his inner strength, Huo Caiyu began to massage Li Jinyu’s leg along the meridians.
Huo Caiyu possessed both martial arts expertise and medical knowledge, so dealing with a cramped leg was completely underutilizing his abilities.
Normally, this numbing sensation in the leg would have dissipated in a matter of moments. However, Huo Caiyu couldn’t bear to see His Majesty in discomfort and found himself with inexplicable thoughts.
Huo Caiyu’s use of inner strength dissipated the stimulating sensation that the numbness had brought, making Li Jinyu feel like his legs were soaking in warm water. It was a feeling that was both comfortable and pleasant, causing him to let out a contented groan.
At first, Huo Caiyu was focused on massaging Li Jinyu’s leg, but when he heard the sound from His Majesty’s throat, he couldn’t concentrate anymore.
Although the Emperor’s legs were completely covered by pants, they were completely exposed from the ankle down.
As Huo Caiyu worked on the Emperor’s legs, he couldn’t help but admire the sight of Li Jinyu’s white feet swaying back and forth. Every so often, when the Emperor felt particularly comfortable, his toes would curl slightly. It was an incredibly adorable sight.
This scene was a bit too much for him…
The Emperor’s feet were as pristine as a newborn’s, not a single blemish or toughened skin to be found. It was clear that he had never been subjected to any form of hardship that would have caused his soles to become calloused.
This thought suddenly flashed through Huo Caiyu’s mind.
He suddenly regretted taking the initiative to give the Emperor a leg massage.
For him, this was nothing short of torture.
In his ears were the Emperor’s contented sighs, and under his hands were the Emperor’s soft calves…
The sweet agony continued for what felt like an eternity, until finally, the Emperor’s breathing slowed and his faint snores filled the air. Only then did Huo Caiyu release a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding.
With a sense of relief, Huo Caiyu reached for the quilt and gently pulled it up to cover the Emperor’s feet.
Yet, the hot blood coursing through Huo Caiyu’s veins refused to dissipate, leaving him in a state of restlessness.
As the room fell into silence, he couldn’t help but recall touching the little Emperor through the soft silk towel while blindfolded.
Huo Caiyu drew in a deep breath, his heart heavy with bitterness as he stole a glance at the figure lying motionless…
Heaven knew how much willpower it took him to hold back just now.
He was probably going to have trouble sleeping tonight.
The matter of the imperial examination involved many people, leaving Huo Caiyu with an even more hectic schedule than usual.
The aristocrats and imperial relatives watched coldly as the Grand Marshal dabbled in the murky waters of politics while the Prime Minister’s faction secretly obstructed.
Huo Caiyu understood that His Majesty had already granted him all the support he could, and without complaint, he updated Li Jinyu regularly on their progress.
The reforms in the imperial examinations and recommendation system garnered the support of countless low-ranking officials and impoverished scholar candidates. As news of the changes spread throughout the capital, ambitious scholars still hungry for success lauded the Emperor and Huo Caiyu for providing them with a fair path to advancement.
The Prime Minister’s faction tried to stir up opposition among the people, but their efforts were swiftly drowned out by the resounding wave of support.
Witnessing this scenario unfold, even those who had previously remained neutral were shaken to their core.
Nevertheless, there existed numerous doubters who questioned whether the court was genuinely capable of achieving absolute impartiality and justice.
Had they not noticed that the buying and selling of official positions was once an open secret? Why were those who had purchased such positions still living it up, and why were they now suddenly preaching about fairness and justice?
These pessimistic thoughts lingered within the minds of many individuals, and their negative sentiments were amplified by those with ulterior motives, causing another wave of despair after the initial excitement.
Huo Caiyu astutely observed the individuals who disseminated such disparaging comments and promptly released comprehensive statements, while also guiding public opinion to prevent any further escalation of the conflict.
In any case, this reform had at least shone a glimmer of light upon the murky world of officialdom that had been shrouded under dark clouds.
Most students adopted the mindset of “let us strive to do our best since we possess no other options” and commenced their studies with earnest dedication.
Huo Caiyu’s schedule was so jam-packed that he could only manage to have dinner with Li Jinyu. While he toiled away, Li Jinyu, with nothing else to occupy his days, began wandering around the palace.
His attention was gradually drawn to the farming conditions of the imperial concubines.
The advocacy for planting peanuts and corn amongst the concubines had been in motion for a while. Li Jinyu suddenly grew curious about how the concubines, who were always pestering him, were faring with their crops.
“Um, has Noble Concubine Xian caused any trouble again?”
Li Jinyu strolled through the imperial garden, his nose held firmly to ward off any pollen irritations, as he listened to Chief Kang’s report.
“No, not anymore. Most of the other imperial concubines have found plots within the palace to cultivate, while some have left theirs untouched.”
Li Jinyu’s original intention was to find something for these idle concubines to do, but seeing as they were not taking to planting, he gestured and said, “Reward the concubines who have diligently sowed their seeds.”
Chief Kang had been serving in the palace for a considerable amount of time, yet this was the first instance where he had heard of the Emperor issuing a reward to concubines for planting corns and peanuts. Puzzled, he replied, “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“Zhen wants to see how the peanuts are doing.” Li Jinyu had never seen the sprouts of those delicious nuts, so he was thrilled and picked the nearest concubine’s residence. “Let’s go to Concubine Hui’s palace.”
Although Concubine Hui was not born into an aristocratic family, her maternal family was a wealthy merchant from Jiangnan. Thus, she was quite astute and skilled in the handling of finances. She had entered the palace as a concubine at a young age.
Li Jinyu had only flipped Concubine Hui’s plaque once before, and the Jiangnan dialect of the water town song she sang gave him a different hypnotic experience.
He remembered that Concubine Hui had come to seek favor before, but he had refused her once and she had been understanding and did not bother him again.
Concubine Hui lived in Anhua Palace, where the lush garden of greenery had been dug up and replaced with peanuts.
As Li Jinyu strolled around the field, he couldn’t help but crouch down every now and then to inspect the crops. The sight of the sprouts and buds filled him with curiosity and excitement. “Concubine Hui’s land is exceptional!”
He was very excited to see how the peanuts would turn out.
Concubine Hui followed behind, lowering her head obediently, “It’s all thanks to Your Majesty’s blessings.”
Chief Kang’s reports revealed that Concubine Hui’s crop yield was not only abundant, but also of the highest quality.
Li Jinyu was very pleased and wasted no time in rewarding her with a promotion to Noble Concubine.
It could be considered as setting an example for the other concubines.
Not long after the promotion, a voice came complaining, “Your Majesty, Concubine Hui is cheating!”
At first, Li Jinyu thought it was Noble Concubine Xian again, who was always trying to stop him on his way. But as he looked closer, he saw that it was just an ordinary palace maid.
The maid looked young, with a plain face and a stubborn expression.
Li Jinyu was intrigued. “What kind of cheating?”
“Concubine Hui’s peanuts are growing so well because she bought seeds and fertilizer from other concubines!” The maid’s voice was sharp and assertive. “Your Majesty should not let her get away with this!”
Li Jinyu listened with a sigh, “How do you know?”
“Because, because this slave’s mistress was the one who sold the seeds,” the maid explained. “This slave warned her mistress not to sell, but Concubine Hui is eloquent. This slave’s mistress refused to listen and only wants money.”
Not only did the imperial concubines know how to please His Majesty, they already had all the money they need!
Li Jinyu could see that, regardless of whether the mistress of the palace maid was greedy for money or not, the palace maid herself was indeed quite naive.
Blocking the imperial procession in this way, if it were the original Emperor Jingchang, he might not even have listened and would have just ordered for the person to be executed.
Although Emperor Jingchang would not do such a thing as letting his concubine farm the land…
Li Jinyu saw nothing wrong in Concubine Hui’s conduct. She had not resorted to bribing the palace officials like Noble Concubine Xian had. Instead, she had merely purchased the necessary items from other concubines who had the choice to sell or not.
However, Concubine Hui’s idea went beyond just growing crops for personal use. She intended to sell the palace’s crops and profit from them.
Lost in thought, Li Jinyu entertained this notion for a moment before snapping back to reality and refocusing his attention on the present.
The sight of a stranger often sent shivers down his spine, but this palace maid gave him a different feeling. It seemed like there was some inexplicable temperament that dispelled his guard.
Among the crowd of people, there was one caretaker at the pet store, who possessed a special skill in handling hamsters. Their mere presence could ease the hamster’s wariness, more so than anyone else.
Could it be that this palace maid was entrusted with the task of looking after the hamsters for one of the concubines?
Li Jinyu couldn’t help but ask, “What do you do?”
Taken aback by the Emperor’s sudden question, the palace maid hesitated before giving an honest reply, “This slave used to raise pigs at home.”
Li Jinyu frowned, sensing that something was off.
“Nowadays, this slave takes care of Concubine Lan’s cat,” the maid continued.
Li Jinyu felt a chill run down his spine, causing him to stiffen. He forced a smile and asked, “Cats?”
“Yes, Concubine Lan loves cats. The palace has about ten of them! Noble Concubine Xian even took a kitten from my mistress,” the maid said enthusiastically, not realizing the Emperor’s true feelings.
So Noble Concubine Xian’s cat came from Concubine Lan’s palace.
Li Jinyu remained expressionless, recalling the laws regarding abolishing imperial harem.
The palace maid, unaware of the Emperor’s thoughts of banishing her mistress from the palace, continued, “If Your Majesty has time, why not visit Her Highness’ palace? There’s all kinds of cats, including a handsome black one that recently arrived.”
Li Jinyu was taken aback. Black cat?
He tried to hold back the cold sweat that was forming on his back and asked carefully, “What black cat?”
“Your Majesty likes black cats?” The palace maid’s eyes lit up, thinking that she had done a great service for her mistress. “Chonky appeared in Her Highness’ palace last month. He’s very big, his fur is shiny, and he seems well taken care of. Her Highness has asked the other mistresses of palaces, but nobody claimed ownership, so Her Highness decided to keep him. Chonky is very intelligent and seems to understand human speech.”
Li Jinyu unconsciously took a step back. “What does this black cat look like?”
“Chonky is completely black, but his eyes are bright green, and he’s so handsome!”
A completely black cat with bright green eyes that could understand human speech.
Li Jinyu had intended to order his guards to capture the black cat and execute it on the spot, as well as evict all the cats from that palace.
However, although cats could be very scary, brutal, and fierce, they still had owners like Concubine Lan and this palace maid who truly loved them.
Li Jinyu suddenly felt a bit sad.
Before he gained spiritual awareness, he was just a pet hamster. After inexplicably cultivating into a spirit, he never had any ambition and still lived peacefully in a cage. Then, when he was about to “die of old age”, he would play dead and return to the pet shop, waiting for the next owner.
Some pet owners treated hamsters as nothing more than a cheap and amusing toy, while others showered them with genuine affection.
Just like the palace maid who stood before him.
Li Jinyu suddenly lost interest in driving away the cats.
Those cats were of no concern to him. They couldn’t come to him anyway, so he decided to leave them in the care of Concubine Lan. He made a mental note to avoid her palace in the future.
But the black cat was the only exception.
Li Jinyu calmed down and coughed, “Zhen wants to see that black cat. Bring it over.”
The palace maid, who had been enthusiastic just now, suddenly became speechless, then stammered, “Your Majesty, Chonky is a wild cat. It rarely stays at home and this slave rarely sees it…”
Li Jinyu asked a few more questions and learned that the black cat, called Chonky by the palace maid, only appeared once every few days and almost never spent the night in the palace. It only ate the cat food that Concubine Lan personally prepared.
Li Jinyu: “…”
This was clearly a scam for free food and drinks. How could that be considered as being raised by them?
Hmph, cats were just wanderers. Hamsters were more loyal. Once they ate your food, they were your rodents forever!
After harshly condemning the bad behavior of cats in his heart, Li Jinyu felt much more comfortable and his tone became much more gentle.
“Next time you see that black cat, secretly tell Zhen.”
He wanted to set up a trap and get rid of that opportunist black cat!
The palace maid watched Li Jinyu leave, feeling perplexed and unsure of what to do next. She couldn’t help but call out after him, “When will Your Majesty go see Her Highness and the cats? They are looking forward to Your Majesty’s visit!”
Li Jinyu almost stumbled and fell. He waved his hand, quickening his pace, “Another day.”
Forget about Concubine Lan, did those cats really look forward to his visit?
Looking forward to eating him up, maybe!
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