Meanwhile, the Grand Marshal’s faction speculated that His Majesty’s decision was a compromise, intended to placate the Prime Minister’s supporters and ensure that their leader would have a share of the spoils in the new examinations.
The neutral faction, however, had already been swayed by Huo Caiyu and was confident that they would perform better than the Prime Minister, whom they regarded as incompetent.
The Prime Minister himself showed no surprise at the announcement and readily agreed to follow the order, “As Your Majesty commands.”
Li Jinyu had been concerned that the Prime Minister might resist the appointment, but was relieved to see his immediate compliance.
Following the morning court session, Li Jinyu was instructing his juniors to observe the rules and regulations while munching on melon seeds, when Chief Kang arrived with a report, “Your Majesty, the Prime Minister requests an audience.”
Surprised, Li Jinyu cast a glance at Huo Caiyu, who sat next to him.
Huo Caiyu frowned, his face showing no surprise.
“The Prime Minister must be here about the matter of the chief examiners.”
“What should we do?”
“Your Majesty, please listen to what he has to say.” Huo Caiyu stood up.
“This official will step aside for now.”
He knew that if he stayed here, Prime Minister Ye wouldn’t provide any useful information.
Li Jinyu comprehended his point, but he worried that during this time, the black cat’s assassins would target Huo Caiyu.
Quickly popping some melon seeds into his mouth, he grabbed Huo Caiyu’s sleeve and said, “Wait, Zhen will go with you to take a look.”
With his accumulated spiritual power, he could easily set up warning and protection measures around the area where Huo Caiyu would be staying.
Having not used his spiritual power for a while, he had built up a considerable amount of it.
Once he had ensured that Huo Caiyu was settled in a secure side hall, he meticulously surveyed the surrounding environment before telling him to come find him in the main hall within the time it would take to drink a cup of tea.
Li Jinyu then made his way back to his palace’s main hall, where he overheard Prime Minister Ye’s voice saying, “You’re obedient now.
This gives me a chance to get rid of Huo Caiyu.”
Li Jinyu was stunned, then entered the room and saw Prime Minister Ye sitting next to a hamster cage, talking to Dumpling, who was lying in the sawdust inside the cage and munching on melon seeds.
Prime Minister Ye was stroking his beard with a look of confusion.
“You’re not so afraid of me today.”
Li Jinyu: “…”
A sudden, immense feeling of cold, mysterious dread welled up within him, causing him to shudder involuntarily.
The impulse to turn and flee overwhelmed him in an instant.
But it was too late.
As he stepped into the main hall, Li Jinyu saw that Prime Minister Ye had already taken notice of his presence and was staring at him with a puzzled expression.
Prime Minister Ye then glanced down at Dumpling, who was still obliviously munching on melon seeds inside his cage, before returning his gaze to the Emperor who had frozen at the entrance.
Prime Minister Ye’s expression abruptly turned inscrutable.
Li Jinyu’s own expression also shifted into one of ambiguity.
The two stood there motionless for a while before Prime Minister Ye sneered, “Who would have thought that you know how to play tricks with the eyes?”
Li Jinyu gathered his courage and retorted, “It was clearly you who made the mistake! How could Dumpling and I be alike?”
Prime Minister Ye stood up, “Hmph.
You rats all look the same.”
Mistaken for Dumpling, Li Jinyu reluctantly held his nose and endured it.
After all, he didn’t even recognize the black cat before.
But being called a rat was too much for him to bear.
“Hamsters and rats are two different animals!”
“They’re all the same,” Prime Minister Ye took two steps forward, but before he could say anything more, Chief Kang’s voice suddenly echoed from outside the hall, “General Meng has arrived!”
The two men’s expressions immediately changed.
Upon entering the hall, General Meng took in the sight of the Emperor and Prime Minister seated far apart from each other, one playing with a small pet while the other sipped tea in silence.
In the past, General Meng had witnessed the Emperor and Prime Minister’s close relationship during their meetings.
It was often the Prime Minister who was fawning and the Emperor being proud.
However, the current atmosphere was frigid and distant, which was a rare occurrence.
The Emperor was now openly vying for more power from the Prime Minister, leading to a deterioration of their once harmonious relationship.
It was no surprise that their interactions were now strained.
General Meng was keenly aware of Prime Minister Ye’s cunning and devious nature.
It was his personal opinion that the Emperor should distance himself from him as soon as possible.
Despite his own ambitions in court, General Meng held a deep desire for the Emperor and the court to prosper and endure for eternity.
Prime Minister Ye, who was greedy and only cared about his own wealth and glory, had never considered the stability and prosperity of the country.
Thinking like this in his heart, General Meng’s attitude towards Prime Minister Ye was always relatively cold.
Prime Minister Ye probably also knew that he did not have a good image in General Meng’s heart, so he always kept his distance from him.
When the two met with the Emperor this time, they avoided each other.
Li Jinyu clutched onto General Meng as though he had found a savior.
“General Meng, do you have anything to say to Zhen?”
With a sharp gaze, General Meng scanned the room, lingering on Prime Minister Ye before answering bluntly, “This general came here today to discuss the matter of tribute from the Kingdom of Jiao.”
“The envoy from Jiao has probably already set out this year.” Since the Emperor had requested his presence, General Meng didn’t mince words and continued, “In recent years, the Kingdom of Jiao has become increasingly restless, so we must plan accordingly.”
The Kingdom of Jiao was located in the northeast and was primarily inhabited by nomads.
They had repeatedly violated the border with their iron cavalry, causing headaches for all the emperors of the Di Empire.
By the time the current Emperor ascended the throne, the border had already been fortified with thousands of miles of defenses.
The Emperor spent ten years consolidating the border and thoroughly defeating the Kingdom of Jiao, forcing them to pay tribute every year in exchange for peace.
But time had passed, and the military of Di Empire was no longer as formidable as it once was, while the Kingdom of Jiao had grown stronger and more rebellious than ever before.
Li Jinyu remembered from the novel that the Kingdom of Jiao had launched an invasion not long after Huo Caiyu had ascended to the throne, throwing the fledgling dynasty into chaos and threatening its very existence.
General Meng’s foresight had warned of this danger, but his advice had fallen on deaf ears.
Emperor Jingchang had refused to listen, and Prime Minister Ye had blocked funding, leaving the nation defenseless and vulnerable.
As for now…
Li Jinyu’s heart burned with a fierce determination to defend the land that Huo Caiyu had worked so hard to conquer.
He refused to stand by and watch the country fall into the hands of foreign invaders.
“We must train the troops!”
General Meng was surprised by the Emperor’s sudden cooperation, but he quickly composed himself and turned to Prime Minister Ye.
“Prime Minister, if His Majesty agrees, does the Ministry of Revenue have any plans?”
The training of troops was no small task, as it required a constant supply of silver and provisions to sustain the army.
With a serene expression, Prime Minister Ye savored the tea’s aroma before setting the cup down gently.
“Since His Majesty has given the order, this minister will naturally do everything in his power to assist.”
General Meng was stunned again.
Why was everything going so smoothly this time?
In the past, the Emperor had been indecisive, and the Prime Minister had been evasive, resulting in endless delays.
Li Jinyu noticed Prime Minister Ye’s subtle gesture out of the corner of his eye and couldn’t help but question Prime Minister Ye’s motives.
Prime Minister Ye looked back, and a hint of greed flickered in his eyes, making Li Jinyu sit up straight in fright.
He realized at this moment that Prime Minister Ye only cared about wealth and power.
If the Di Dynasty were to fall, where would he find the wealth and power to enjoy?
In the novel, Prime Minister Ye was blinded by his own arrogance and believed that the small border officials would not pose a threat to the powerful country.
He was too focused on internal fighting.
However, the current Prime Minister Ye had read the novel and naturally knew the enemy’s threat.
Li Jinyu felt somewhat relieved that at least they had a common stance in this regard.
General Meng was perplexed by the unusual cooperation between the two.
However, with the funds from the Ministry of Revenue coming through without any delay, he wasted no time and made his exit to handle the matter at hand.
Li Jinyu grabbed him again and said, “Wait, General Meng!”
Don’t leave me alone with the black cat!
General Meng was very surprised and asked, “Your Majesty?”
“Why don’t you sit a little longer, General Meng?” Li Jinyu grabbed General Meng’s arm and pleaded pitifully.
General Meng was actually the uncle of Emperor Jingchang.
Back then, General Meng accompanied the young Crown Prince, who was still a soft and squishy little bundle, with other family elders.
At that time, the Crown Prince was still naive and obedient, and he was not as indulgent as other spoiled children.
He earnestly studied his lessons with his chubby baby face, which melted General Meng’s heart.
It was only later that the Crown Prince became the Emperor, and took the path of a tyrant that he shed his innocence and never again displayed his childhood cuteness.
The sudden gesture of the Emperor touched a chord in General Meng’s heart, evoking memories of the past and melting the heart of this tough warrior.
“Since Your Majesty …”
Before the General’s words were finished, he heard Chief Kang outside announcing, “Master Huo has arrived!”
Li Jinyu’s fingers went rigid.
A cup of tea had passed so soon?
As Huo Caiyu entered the room, he saw the Emperor leaning against General Meng, while the Prime Minister sat nearby, leisurely sipping his tea.
Li Jinyu read a hint of grievance in Huo Caiyu’s eyes, as if he was a scum who had caused chaos and then abandoned it.
He instinctively let go of General Meng’s sleeve, and the three of them turned to him in unison.
Li Jinyu began to sweat profusely, feeling a strong sense of awkwardness in the air.
After pondering for a moment, he suddenly had an idea and clapped his hands together, exclaiming, “Why don’t the three Aiqing dine with Zhen?”
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