Chapter 45 Chip Chip Chip Chip Chip!
Li Jinyu decided to station Dong Jixiang at the Iron and Wood Bureau temporarily.
With Dong Jixiang’s detailed account of the incident, Li Jinyu set out to investigate within the palace walls.
Dong Jixiang’s younger brother had disappeared from home as a mere child of seven or eight, yet many years had elapsed since then, and tracing him solely from a childhood description would prove an arduous task.
Two particular queries were posed by Dong Jixiang that only his true sibling could offer a satisfactory response to.
The imperial palace was of considerable magnitude, housing numerous palace attendants, including even the most junior level, which comprised of young eunuchs aged fifteen or sixteen.
These young eunuchs were manageable and easily molded.
Due to the high turnover rate of eunuchs in previous years while Emperor Jingchang was still living, many of the subsequently transferred eunuchs lacked comprehensive records of their family background.
Fortunately, Huo Caiyu had undertaken multiple reorganizations of the palace, meticulously re-registering personnel, thereby making the investigation process considerably easier.
Within half a day, Huo Caiyu came to report that Dong Jixiang’s younger brother had been found.
Li Jinyu, in the midst of peeling a melon seed, was taken aback by this news and exclaimed, “Is he still alive?”
Huo Caiyu’s lips curled into an enigmatic smile as he responded cheerfully, “He has been found, and he happens to be someone Your Majesty is already familiar with.”
Li Jinyu blinked in puzzlement as he popped the melon seed into his mouth.
Someone he was already familiar with?
With a wave of his hand, Huo Caiyu summoned a young eunuch attired in indigo-colored palace garb, who knelt down timidly and paid his respects to Li Jinyu.
The more Li Jinyu gazed at the eunuch, the more he felt a sense of familiarity.
After a prolonged period, he finally recollected that this eunuch was none other than Ping’an, who had previously served by his side.
In an attempt to accumulate hatred points, he had devised a scheme, feigning Ping’an’s execution and covertly relocating him to the Imperial Kitchen.
Following this incident, Chief Kang had taken over the role of serving by Li Jinyu’s side, while Ping’an had been entirely forgotten.
Ping’an was Dong Jixiang’s younger brother?
Li Jinyu couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt as he faced Huo Caiyu, and laughed nervously.
“Who is this person? Zhen doesn’t recognize him.
Zhen’s Ping’an has already been punished with a lashing.”
He could not admit that it was just acting at that time!
Otherwise, all the effort spent building up that resentment would have been for nothing!
Huo Caiyu’s expression remained inscrutable, as if he had foreseen this response.
He nodded sagely and gestured towards the kneeling figure of Ping’an.
“According to the result of the investigation, Ping’an was brought here by internal officials from Dongma District.
Upon interrogation, it was confirmed that Ping’an is, indeed, Dong Jixiang’s younger brother.”
He paused for a moment and his demeanor turned grave all of a sudden.
“If Your Majesty insists that Ping’an is already deceased, then this person must be an impostor.
He has committed a heinous crime of deceiving Your Majesty.
This official shall have him executed without delay.”
Li Jinyu was taken aback by Huo Caiyu’s sudden threat and almost choked on his melon seeds.
“…Wait a minute!”
He couldn’t help but feel that something was off with Huo Caiyu.
Wasn’t he supposed to be a wise and gentle ruler? Why was he so quick to anger?
Of course, he wouldn’t allow Ping’an to be executed.
But if he didn’t act fast, he would be forced to confess to his deception in front of Huo Caiyu.
Li Jinyu silently cursed himself for not picking a more suitable person to act alongside him.
If he had known Ping’an’s true identity, he would have chosen someone else.
As Li Jinyu struggled to find a way out of this predicament, Huo Caiyu’s smile only grew wider as he observed the Emperor’s struggle to admit the truth and yet couldn’t bear to push the blame onto Ping’an.
“Why did Your Majesty act this way in front of this official back then?”
Li Jinyu froze for a moment and coughed dryly.
“Zhen doesn’t understand what you’re talking about.”
Huo Caiyu nodded.
“So this person is indeed an imposter…”
Ah, ah, ah!
Li Jinyu grabbed Huo Caiyu’a hand and bit his lip.
In the end, he pitifully admitted, “Zhen just wanted to scare you.”
Huo Caiyu looked at His Majesty’s hand holding his, slightly puzzled.
“Scare this official?”
In a few swift movements, Li Jinyu had already fabricated a reason to deceive Huo Caiyu.
He certainly couldn’t reveal that he had deliberately sought to provoke Huo Caiyu’s anger.
Since his cruel demeanor had failed to impress, he would adopt a different approach, acting childish, self-centered, and petty!
“Zhen sees you as a young and brilliant man, handsome, accomplished, and knowledgeable, which made Zhen jealous,” Li Jinyu spewed forth a string of flattery before adding emphatically, “So Zhen wanted to see you frightened and whimpering like a baby in front of Zhen.”
For Huo Caiyu, the most significant part of this conversation was the Emperor’s assessment of him.
Did the His Majesty truly believe that he was so exceptional?
As for the rest…
The Emperor’s feigned jealousy did not deceive Huo Caiyu’s perceptive eyes.
When his father was still alive, he had experienced countless insincere compliments and could easily distinguish between genuine admiration and concealed envy.
As the Emperor praised him, Huo Caiyu felt his heart warming up.
His eyes shone with pure joy, like a bright sun that dispels all darkness.
Afraid of excessively teasing the Emperor, Huo Caiyu released his hand and didn’t pursue the matter any further.
“If Your Majesty confirms it, this official will take Ping’an to find Dong Jixiang,” he said instead.
Li Jinyu’s attention finally shifted to Ping’an, who was still kneeling on the ground.
“Ping’an, do you want to go home?”
Ping’an knelt there honestly and did not dare to move.
He did not expect the Emperor to ask for his opinion and hesitated for a moment before timidly raising his head to meet Li Jinyu’s clear eyes.
Ping’an’s face showed a mixture of emotions— relief, disbelief, and a hint of sadness.
“This slave is a person of the palace.
According to the law, this slave cannot leave the palace.”
Palace maids and eunuchs had to reach a certain age before they could leave the palace, and those serving important figures like the Emperor and Empress were bound to the palace for life to prevent any leakage of secrets.
Naturally, Li Jinyu paid little heed to these rules.
“If you want to leave, Zhen won’t stop you.”
As the Emperor, he kept his core secrets hidden, but other secrets were of little concern to him.
For a while, Ping’an remained silent, struggling to find the courage to speak.
Finally, he managed to gather his thoughts and stammered, “If Your Majesty is kind enough, this…this slave would like to return home.”
Despite being brought to the palace at a young age, his memories of his parents’ faces and expressions were blurry.
And despite having endured the castration that ensured he could never marry or have children, and having only the skills to serve in the palace, he still longed for the warmth of home.
That was a place where he could finally be himself without having to worry about others’ opinions.
He could laugh, curse and express himself freely.
In the past, he would never have dared speak such words.
The Emperor’s unpredictable temper made it hard to discern if this was a test of his servants’ loyalty.
Those who failed to demonstrate loyalty had no place in the palace and were met with dire consequences.
But over time, the Emperor’s temperament softened.
He smiled more often, and no longer executed people without reason.
He even worked to eradicate much of the darkness that had once plagued the palace.
Although sometimes he spoke with a sharp tongue, there was a flicker of hope that gradually took root in his heart.
The prospect of achieving personal success and security through hard work made life in the palace seem less daunting.
But who would have thought that his elder brother, whose face he could hardly recall, would be able to persuade the Emperor to find him?
Li Jinyu remained oblivious to the tumultuous emotions brewing within Ping’an.
So, upon hearing of his decision to return home, he let out a sigh of relief before saying, “Then, let the Regent escort you in your search for Dong Jixiang.”
Ping’an was stunned for a moment, then a joyful expression appeared on his face as he repeatedly kowtowed.
“Many thanks, Your Majesty! Many thanks, Your Majesty!”
With just a single glance, Dong Jixiang recognized his younger brother.
The two brothers wept bitterly with their heads in their arms, only to learn that the Emperor had granted permission for Ping’an to leave the palace with Dong Jixiang.
Overwhelmed with gratitude towards Li Jinyu, they vowed to craft exceptional armor for the Emperor.
Armor modification was Dong Jixiang’s greatest obsession, and Li Jinyu already had a prototype for the lightweight armor.
With the support of the Iron and Wood Bureau, they soon produced a modified version.
Huo Caiyu personally tested the armor, and the results were impressive.
It took five or six points of internal energy to break the lightweight armor completely.
With his martial prowess already at its peak, Huo Caiyu was unmatched on the battlefield.
The cavalry of the Kingdom of Jiao paled in comparison to him.
In addition, the production cost of the light armor was minimal, and it could be easily distributed to every soldier!
The key advantage of the lightweight armor was that it weighed and measured much less than the prior heavy armor.
This made it much easier for battle-hardened generals and soldiers to wear as regular attire, without adding to their already considerable fatigue.
Li Jinyu breathed a sigh of relief, having finally fulfilled his obligations to the black cat.
After completing a set of lightweight armor, he handed it over to the cat at the agreed-upon time.
The black cat swaggered in as Prime Minister Ye, snatched up the armor, flipped it over once, and vanished without a trace.
Li Jinyu felt a twinge of envy and asked, “How is it that you seem to know everything?”
Why was there such a big gap between them even though they were both demons?
Prime Minister Ye regarded him with disdain and retorted, “How long have you been a demon? I have been one for far longer than you.”
Feeling a sense of indignation, Li Jinyu replied, “I have already passed the Heavenly Tribulation.”
Li Jinyu knew that passing the Heavenly Tribulation was no small feat, as it was a requirement for becoming a high-level demon according to Heavenly Dao’s teachings.
As soon as he said this, Prime Minister Ye’s expression became a bit complicated.
For a moment, he looked at Li Jinyu as if he wanted to say something.
But ultimately, he held his tongue and diverted the conversation to the topic at hand.
“For now, focus on being the Emperor, then cultivate well later until we dry up Huo Caiyu.”
Li Jinyu was shocked that the black cat was still determined to fight with Huo Caiyu.
He hesitated for a moment before saying, “You know, you can still enjoy wealth and glory even if you don’t get rid of him.”
After a few recent encounters with the black cat, Li Jinyu sensed a decrease in the feline’s hostility toward him.
He couldn’t help but offer advice to his fellow demon and transmigrator.
“If you resign now, I can reward you with many good things.”
Li Jinyu believed that since he could easily solve the issue with the Prime Minister’s faction, Huo Caiyu probably wouldn’t object.
Prime Minister Ye’s expression twisted into one of contempt.
“Ha, it seems he’s played you for a fool.”
Perplexed, Li Jinyu asked, “What do you mean?”
“Humans aren’t to be trusted.
Right now, he finds you cute with your fluffy fur, but once you fall ill, age, or shed, his affections will transfer to other new pets.”
Prime Minister Ye sneered, pointing to Dumpling, who was happily munching on peanuts in his cage beside them.
“See him? Huo Caiyu is already raising a second hamster.
Who knows how many more he’ll acquire in the future? When that happens, you’ll either be tossed aside or forced to compete with a swarm of hamsters for his attention.
Can you handle that?”
Dumpling looked up at them for a moment, then resumed stuffing peanuts in his mouth as if nothing had happened.
Li Jinyu couldn’t help but shudder at the thought of being in that situation.
“I don’t want that.”
He definitely didn’t want to compete with other hamsters for attention!
“The only ones we demons can truly rely on are ourselves,” Prime Minister Ye said, closing the distance between them.
His eyes glimmered with a strange, green light.
“Why are you still following him? You should follow me instead.”
Li Jinyu was caught off guard and couldn’t help but think to himself: Following Huo Caiyu is like being kept as a pet, but following you is like being kept as a food!
But he quickly reacted, “Wait, Huo Caiyu is not my owner!”
Had the black cat misunderstood something?
Prime Minister Ye sneered arrogantly, “Based on how much Huo Caiyu dotes on you, isn’t he practically your owner? Or could it be that he’s your sweetheart?”
Li Jinyu: “…”
For some reason, he subconsciously didn’t want to continue this topic and forcefully changed the subject, “Aren’t you a wild demon? How do you know so much about humans?”
As if struck by a nerve, Prime Minister Ye’s face turned sour.
“You talk too much.
I’m done here.”
He stood up abruptly, his sleeve swishing with his movement as he started to walk away.
Just as he was about to leave, Prime Minister Ye paused and looked back, his tone serious.
“Seeing that you’re preparing light armors, I must warn you that my dear niece still has her sights on you.
Be on your guard.”
With that, Prime Minister Ye disappeared, leaving Li Jinyu alone with his thoughts.
Was the black cat hurt by humans before? That could explain his strong reactions.
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