Chapter 22.1 Chip
After the harrowing encounter with the black cat last night, Li Jinyu felt that the imperial Ziwei aura was the one thing in the world that could protect him from harm.
He wished he could bask in it for at least twelve hours a day.
Li Jinyu felt a pang of regret as soon as the command slipped out of his mouth.
He saw Huo Caiyu taking a step back with a strange expression.
“Your Majesty, this official is not a member of the harem.
And there's still a lot of official duties to be completed…”
In that moment, Li Jinyu wished that he could retract his words and pretend that they had never left his lips.
He knew all too well that the term “attending to the Emperor in the bed” was reserved solely for the imperial concubines.
If Huo Caiyu became angry or humiliated because of this, he could completely understand.
Normally, he wouldn't be too concerned about accumulating grudges, but at that moment, all he wanted was for Huo Caiyu to stay with him.
With a pang of anxiety gripping his heart, Li Jinyu lowered his voice, addressing Huo Caiyu with an eagerness that betrayed his vulnerability.
Unconsciously clasping his hands on his chest, he made a motion that resembled that of a hamster begging for food.
“Z-zhen gets bored sleeping alone.
Can you stay and keep Zhen company?”
Despite his initial reluctance, Huo Caiyu eventually relented under Li Jinyu's persistent requests, deciding to stay by his side for the night.
As they settled into the dragon bed, the unfazed Chief Kang brought in the necessary toiletries and even kindly blew out the candles before leaving the two alone.
Li Jinyu quickly fell asleep, his breathing becoming even and deep, but Huo Caiyu remained awake, his thoughts racing and his emotions in turmoil.
When the Imperial Historian came by, he was directly driven away by the Emperor.
As per regulations, the Imperial Historian was tasked with keeping track of the names of those who attended to the Emperor, along with the timing of their arrival and how many times water was requested during the night.
However, this Imperial Historian departed without causing any commotion, possibly because he believed that two men would be unable to conceive children who would inherit the throne, and thus, he didn't see it as an important matter.
Since His Majesty favored Huo Caiyu to straighten out internal affairs, this incompetent Imperial Historian would be the first to go.
This was a decision that Huo Caiyu deeply regretted much later.
When he heard His Majesty say that he wanted Huo Caiyu to attend to him in bed, Huo Caiyu's world turned upside down.
A jolt of shock coursed through him, leaving him reeling and utterly stunned.
Rationally, he knew he shouldn't be surprised.
After all, he had suspected all along that the Emperor had kept him close for this very reason.
The whispers of the palace maids and eunuchs had only confirmed his fears, referring to him as the Emperor's male pet.
And then there were those like Consort Xian, who openly showed their disdain and disgust towards him.
He had suffered humiliation and resentment before and secretly resolved that if the Emperor really had such filthy intentions, he would risk his life to make him pay the price!
However, as he stood there listening to His Majesty's order, Huo Caiyu realized with a sinking feeling that he had none of the righteous anger he had envisioned.
Instead, a sense of panic gripped him, as if the Emperor's words were about to expose something that he had purposely kept hidden.
The previous night, Huo Caiyu had imagined that sleeping on the dragon bed with the Emperor would be the most wonderful experience of his life.
But he never expected to find himself in that same position again tonight.
Unlike last night, the Emperor didn't cling to him this time.
He slept peacefully on his side, curled up like a dumpling with his head resting on Huo Caiyu's shoulder, just as he had done before.
This was nothing more than “attending to the Emperor in bed” to sleep.
Huo Caiyu turned his head slightly and caught a glimpse of the fuzzy head of Li Jinyu's hair.
It reminded him of the night before, when the Emperor's entire body had been exposed, and his long, ink-black hair had been disheveled.
Although a full day had passed, the memory of the Emperor holding onto him with infinite dependence still lingered.
Huo Caiyu vaguely felt that he might go crazy if he continued to have these wild thoughts, so he made a conscious effort to clear his mind and fall asleep.
Despite thinking it would be difficult to fall asleep again like the previous night, Huo Caiyu gradually became drowsy as he listened to Li Jinyu's even and gentle breathing.
Before he knew it, he slipped into a deep slumber and found himself dreaming for the first time in what felt like ages.
In the dream, he experienced things he had never dared to imagine in reality, causing him to blush even in his sleep.
His mind conjured up the handsome face of His Majesty, which floated up and down, luring him further into the dream world.
The next morning, Li Jinyu greeted Huo Caiyu as he usually did.
But he couldn't help noticing that something was off about his demeanor.
Huo Caiyu's gaze was evasive and he didn't face him directly.
After getting up, he immediately ran off on the pretext of handling official business.
In the following days, he was completely out of sight.
When Li Jinyu wanted to go to the Jiaolan Palace to absorb some Ziwei energy, he was told by the servants that Huo Caiyu was handling documents in the gatehouse of Taihe Hall.
Li Jinyu could only sleep on Huo Caiyu's bed, feeling a sense of deep injustice.
Can it be that he sleeps too poorly?
He didn't know if the bedding and pillows that were imbued with Huo Caiyu's Ziwei aura could help him drive away that dark force that plagued him.
Despite Huo Caiyu's absence, however, he seemed to be making great strides in his work.
Li Jinyu received frequent updates from Chief Kang about the impressive progress that Huo Caiyu was making in restructuring the internal affairs of the palace.
Under Li Jinyu's decree, Huo Caiyu took his attendants to the Ministry of Rites and meticulously organized all the eunuchs based on the registry.
They then diligently combed through the account books, carefully scrutinizing every entry and dismissing anyone who had received any illicit favors from various high-ranking concubines.
They only retained those who were honest and diligent to be reassigned.
Moreover, the imperial concubines who dared to approach the Emperor's attendants were held accountable for their actions.
The brazen Consort Xian, in particular, was personally demoted one rank by Li Jinyu based on the evidence presented by Huo Caiyu.
In addition, Huo Caiyu consulted with Li Jinyu and suggested trimming down certain departments, such as the Wine Brewing Bureau and Performing Arts Bureau, which were originally established by Emperor Jingchang solely for the purpose of pleasure.
These departments were merged into the Vinegar and Noodle Bureau and Imperial Garden Bureau respectively, and the surplus manpower was utilized to fill the vacancies created by the dismissals.
Later, Huo Caiyu presented the palace regulations that were previously established by the Ministry of Rites but had been completely ignored, and strictly enforced the rules of reward and punishment.
All the palace personnel who made mistakes were sent to Laundry Bureau to do manual labor as punishment.
Despite facing many obstacles during the process, Li Jinyu vigorously supported Huo Caiyu.
It wasn't long before the internal affairs of the palace were cleared up, and Li Jinyu no longer had to worry about his orders being leaked to the imperial concubines before the officials.
Watching Huo Caiyu devoting himself entirely to the reorganization of the palace, Li Jinyu admired his dedication to his future home and even considered giving him another plate of melon seeds as a reward.
Despite not having seen Huo Caiyu for many days, Li Jinyu's topmost concern had always been him.
He used to contemplate every day about how to handle Huo Caiyu and prevent his Ziwei aura from affecting him.
Now that he couldn't see Huo Caiyu for an extended period, he was struggling to adjust to this change.
After the palace reorganization was mostly complete, Huo Caiyu finally reappeared.
However, before Li Jinyu could even compliment him on his hard work, Huo Caiyu requested, “Your Majesty, please allow this official to go to Qingshui Prefecture.”
Li Jinyu asked in confusion, “Why?”
“A few days ago, this official has reviewed the reports from the Ministry of Personnel and the Ministry of Revenue regarding the implementation of the new taxation policy in Qingshui Prefecture.
This official is afraid the implementation may not be going as planned.” Huo Caiyu lowered his head slightly.
“This official wants to go and see for himself.”
Prior to this, he had a nagging feeling that something was off about the new tax policies in Qingshui Prefecture, put in place by the Ministry of Personnel and the Ministry of Revenue.
Despite his intuition, he couldn't quite put his finger on what exactly was wrong.
However, as he sifted through the internal affairs of the palace in recent days, he stumbled upon some valuable information.
His investigation uncovered personnel arrangements within the palace and details on deficit bribery that shed light on the situation.
The Prime Minister could not possibly let this new policy go smoothly.
Li Jinyu had previously wondered about what the Prime Minister might do, but based on his trust in Huo Caiyu, he had never asked and only knew that the Prime Minister had been keeping a low profile during this time.
It seemed, however, that the Prime Minister was planning to take direct action on the ground.
If Huo Caiyu personally intervened, Prime Minister Ye would never withstand Huo Caiyu, the main protagonist.
Only then could the new policy be smoothly implemented, and Huo Caiyu could further consolidate his power.
Li Jinyu looked at Huo Caiyu with a hint of reluctance in his eyes.
If Huo Caiyu left, what could he do?
Without Huo Caiyu's Ziwei aura, what would happen if he encountered that eerie black cat again?
“Is it really necessary to go?” Huo Caiyu's heart trembled slightly at the sight of the unabashed fondness in the Emperor's eyes.
He quickly lowered his head and spoke in a voice that sounded normal, “It is necessary for this official to personally oversee the implementation of the new policy.”
Li Jinyu rose from his seat and began pacing around the room.
After much consideration, he finally made his decision.
“You are right, but Zhen will accompany you.”
It should be much safer to stay by Huo Caiyu's side than in the palace!
He was only worried whether Heavenly Dao would allow him to leave without any consequences, or if it would bind him…
Li Jinyu scratched his ear and silently prayed in his heart, “Dear Heavenly Dao, I'm supervising your favorite son to walk through the plot safely.
I'm definitely not trying to run away, please support me!”
Although it remained unclear whether the Heavenly Dao would support him, it seemed that the Heavenly Dao's favored son did not.
Huo Caiyu quickly voiced his opposition, “Your Majesty, this cannot be allowed!”
“As the ruler of a country, Your Majesty should stay in the palace to handle court affairs.
How can Your Majesty leave the palace without reason?”
Li Jinyu looked at him in surprise.
“Does Zhen have any court affairs to handle?”
Most state affairs were in the hands of the Prime Minister, and those not in the Prime Minister's hands were given to Huo Caiyu.
Huo Caiyu hesitated for a moment, then insisted, “The world outside the palace is unstable, and people's hearts are unpredictable.
Your Majesty is safer inside the palace.”
The common people were growing increasingly disgruntled with tyrannical rulers and corrupt officials, and if the Emperor were to leave the palace impulsively, there was a risk of extremists resorting to assassination attempts!
Unaware of Huo Caiyu's concerns, Li Jinyu mistakenly believed that he didn't want to bring him along.
Perhaps Huo Caiyu was secretly tired of him, which explained why he had been avoiding him for so long.
But wasn't it his goal to make Huo Caiyu tired of him?
Moreover, if he left the palace, he might find a chance to slip away secretly…
At worst, he might encounter an assassin or something, then Huo Caiyu would have no choice but to be crowned.
Li Jinyu was determined to leave the palace.
“This is Zhen's order!”
“Your Majesty, please reconsider.”
This was the first time Li Jinyu had encountered such straightforward resistance to his order from Huo Caiyu.
After his initial shock, he felt a sense of satisfaction.
This move was the right one! By resisting his order, Huo Caiyu was now taking the first step towards attempting to usurp the throne!
He became more excited.
But Huo Caiyu refused to give in.
Even Chief Kang tried to persuade him politely, “Your Majesty, the outside world is chaotic.
This slave knows that Your Majesty doesn't want to part with Young Master Huo, but Your Majesty's safety is the most important thing.”
Li Jinyu ignored him completely and was thinking about how to make Huo Caiyu agree.
Drawing inspiration from his experiences as a hamster in modern society, Li Jinyu resorted to an extreme tactic.
He declared to Huo Caiyu, “If Huo Aiqing refuses to take Zhen with him, Zhen won't eat!”
He was going on a hunger strike!
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