n the borderlands of the Great Di Dynasty.
The Di dynasty held dominion over the opulent and picturesque central plains, renowned as the wealthiest and most alluring heartland in the world.
As long as the imperial court refrained from excessive taxation, the people could lead lives of comfort and prosperity, far surpassing the hardships endured in the grasslands where hunger loomed one day and abundance beckoned the next.
Furthermore, the central plains abounded in valuable commodities such as tea leaves, silk, salt, and ironware, which the Jiao Kingdom could only acquire through costly transactions at Great Di’s commercial hubs or by resorting to forceful seizure.
The Jiao Kingdom boasted an army formed by its entire populace, where even the elderly and children mounted horses and took up arms.
Naturally, they chose the latter path.
Since its inception, the borderlands of the Di dynasty had never experienced lasting tranquility, requiring substantial military expenditures to counter the repeated incursions launched by the Jiao Kingdom.
The notion of eradicating the Jiao Kingdom had crossed their minds, but the absence of a distinct capital or city, with the population residing in nomadic tents, posed a considerable challenge.
Even if the mighty forces of the Di dynasty launched counteroffensives and razed their encampments to the ground, the Jiao people would merely retreat and establish new camps in lush regions with ample water and pasture.
To tackle this predicament, successive generations of Emperors from Di dynasty dedicated substantial resources and labor to erecting sprawling walls spanning thousands of miles along the border, aiming to completely bar the Jiao Kingdom’s cavalry from infiltrating their territories.
However, these circumstances changed drastically upon Emperor Jingchang’s ascension to the throne.
He willingly relinquished his authority to Prime Minister Ye, who gradually curtailed military expenditures.
Consequently, a prevalent culture emerged where soldiers suffered from meager rations, and the once formidable army of the Di dynasty gradually waned.
Seizing the opportunity, the Jiao Kingdom, akin to a ravenous wolf detecting vulnerability, yearned to sink its newly grown sharp fangs into another fragment of flesh from the enfeebled Di dynasty.
This intention became evident through the compilation of the tribute list submitted by the Jiao Kingdom.
Huo Caiyu furrowed his brows, his gaze fixed on the envoy from the Jiao Kingdom, dressed in peculiar attire.
A trace of coldness tinged his voice as he voiced his dissatisfaction, “Hmm, only two hundred cows, two hundred sheep, and a meager assortment of cow and sheep skins? Is this the extent of your country’s tribute list?”
Undeterred, the envoy maintained his composure and respectfully bowed before Huo Caiyu, “Reporting to Your Majesty the Emperor of Di Dynasty, our country faced severe drought last year, resulting in poor vegetation growth across our grasslands.
Furthermore, we were afflicted by two outbreaks of disease, which claimed the lives of numerous cattle and sheep.
Hence, our ability to provide additional items is limited.”
Prime Minister Ye furrowed his brows slightly and scolded, “Bold! This person is the newly appointed Regent Prince of the Di Dynasty, not the Emperor.”
The envoy, taken aback, cast a fleeting glance at Huo Caiyu before offering his apology, “The attire of Great Di and that of our own kingdom differ greatly, causing me to fail in immediate recognition.
I humbly implore the Regent Prince for his gracious pardon”
Li Jinyu sat quietly on the dragon throne behind Huo Caiyu, scratching his ear absentmindedly.
The envoy’s intentions were too obvious, even someone as clueless as him could discern it.
Was he purposely attempting to sow discord between the Regent Prince and the Emperor?
He himself was sitting on this dragon throne, how could the envoy mistake Huo Caiyu for the Emperor?
After decades of paying tribute, could the envoy from Jiao Kingdom not recognize the symbolic colors of the Emperor’s dragon robe— black and gold?
However, it didn’t matter because their relationship was immune to such provocation.
They were originally entwined in a premeditated role, with one carrying the fate of usurping the throne and the other patiently awaiting the moment of usurpation!
Li Jinyu looked at Huo Caiyu with shining eyes filled with confidence and expectation.
Meeting the Emperor’s gaze, Huo Caiyu felt a subtle sense of relief wash over him.
Luckily, His Majesty’s still trusted him.
The Regent’s power was of little concern to him.
If the Emperor wished to bestow it upon him, he would accept it willingly.
And if the Emperor wished to reclaim it, he would relinquish it without hesitation.
His only fear was that this change might create distance between him and the Emperor.
While Huo Caiyu was satisfied by the Emperor’s continued trust, he found the envoy’s attempt to sow discord between him and the Emperor particularly annoying.
In a cold and unwavering tone, Huo Caiyu spoke, “Let us set aside the matter of cattle and sheep for now.
What about the horses?”
The horses of the Jiao Kingdom, bred upon the vast grasslands, possessed superior quality compared to those within the Di dynasty’s army.
Thus, to bolster the military might of the Di dynasty and to curtail the Jiao Kingdom’s cavalry, previous tribute offerings had demanded a significant number of horses.
It was a tribute highly valued by the Di dynasty.
However, this time, the Jiao Kingdom had failed to present even a single horse as tribute! Their intentions to retaliate had been unveiled.
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