Watching helplessly as the two scholars left, the library was now left with only Han Jiao and the top-level threat, the big boss.
Did the Emperor and the Empress ever educate their own little son that eavesdropping at the corner of the walls was a bad habit?
It might even lead to fatal consequences.
With the boss’ intimidating gaze about to descend upon him, Han Jiao obediently lowered his head, trying to quickly guess from which point the boss had been eavesdropping at the walls.
If he only heard the sentences, “The efficacy doesn’t matter. It’s more about expressing my sincerity,” he could still eloquently explain it away.
Naturally, compared to the precious medicinal herbs in the palace, folk recipes were definitely ordinary.
But if the boss had already been listening when he was criticizing the boss’ homework…
Han Jiao gathered some courage and probed, “With Your Highness’ talent, if you had sincerely written the essay before, my poorly written draft would not have been exposed.”
Xie Duo kept a cold expression. “Do Master actually think highly of me?”
Han Jiao said seriously, “I speak the truth. While your essays lack thoughtful phrasing, upon closer inspection…”
“Han Xiaobai,” Xie Duo interrupted his flattery and said coldly, “I have been listening and learning from you since the time you made fun of my improper use of allusions.”
Han Jiao’s eyes, filled with a desperate desire to survive, dimmed visibly. He gazed more subserviently at the big boss.
“Are you always like this, acting one way to my face and another behind my back?” Xie Duo’s gaze was stern. “If you want to be under my wing, show some loyalty. Otherwise, no matter how well you write essays, I won’t favor you.”
Han Jiao was very afraid of death, but he inherited some of his father’s integrity. A scholar can be killed but not humiliated. He couldn’t believe that the big boss had decided right there and then that his meticulously written policy was just seeking favor.
Unable to bear the injustice, with a rush of blood to his head, Han Jiao squared his shoulders and retorted, “I did put effort into that essay, but it wasn’t to seek anyone’s favor. If you insist on accusing me of having ulterior motives, it’s only because I was worried about the quality of the article. I didn’t have enough experience in this matter, and I had no intention of currying favor.”
The Ninth Prince couldn’t understand this child prodigy, sometimes timid and at other times resolute.
Xie Duo tilted his head in confusion. “So, I misunderstood? I can hardly remember which gentleman sat beside me so eagerly the first time they visited the study.”
Han Jiao, who faced death fearlessly, instantly turned red and stammered anxiously, “Th-th-that’s because I wanted to sit right behind His Highness the Eighth Prince, and that spot happened to be closer to you…”
The big boss laughed, revealing his mischievous little tiger teeth.
“It’s true! I don’t understand why Your Highness would have such a misunderstanding. If I really had ambitions for power, wouldn’t I have sent that policy to the Hanlin Chancellor or the Senior Ministers, or even Prince Yan… instead of…”
Often, disasters come from careless moments.
When Han Jiao realized that the boss’ pleased and arrogant smile had turned into a furious expression, he couldn’t take back the words he had just uttered.
“All of them are better choices than me?” Xie Duo locked his gaze onto the child prodigy who looked down on him. “I’m not worthy of your flattery, am I?”
The killing intent in the boss’ eyes forced Han Jiao’s anger to retreat. With the return of his rationality, he immediately stared at the big boss with determination. “Since you’ve already seen through me, I’ll be honest―― the first time I saw you in the study, I was determined to serve you faithfully. That’s why I sat close to you, and I put effort into writing that essay hoping to gain your favor. What I said earlier was just out of anger, please don’t take it seriously.”
Xie Duo, who was brewing with anger, was caught off guard by the sudden admission from the child prodigy.
The big boss looked at Han Jiao in bewilderment for a moment, then suddenly lowered his head and laughed, his shoulders shaking.
He had never seen someone who acted tough but suddenly became afraid in the middle of it all. His emotions were thrown into disarray.
Han Jiao: “……”
Watching the big boss burst into uncontrollable laughter, Han Jiao took a deep breath and recalled a catchy song he had heard before, “Don’t get angry! Don’t get angry! Anger gives the devil a foothold!”
Xie Duo finally suppressed his amusement and looked at the little child prodigy with a face flushed from holding back.
Sensing that the boss was contemplating his final decision on how to deal with him, Han Jiao immediately put on an innocent expression and took the initiative to admit his mistake, “Regardless of anything else, I can’t escape responsibility for Your Highness’ punishment this time. At the moment of the incident, I wanted to speak up and take the blame on behalf of Your Highness several times, but I couldn’t find a suitable reason.”
Xie Duo raised his chin, glanced downward, and glared at the little child prodigy. “You even know that you can’t escape responsibility? Emperor Father questioned me all morning, and I didn’t implicate you. But the moment you entered the room, you kneeled down.”
Han Jiao: “……”
This rascal boss actually didn’t blame him for mishandling the essay but blamed him for losing his composure!
He was simply a natural-born little devil!
“It’s… It’s my fault for not being as composed as Your Highness. Please punish me, Your Highness.”
Xie Duo laughed. “Do you really want to be punished?”
Han Jiao was taken aback.
Why was this big boss not following the usual script?
Weren’t these just perfunctory words? How could he take them seriously?
The big boss was amused again by his bewildered expression. With a fierce glare, he said, “If you sincerely admit your mistake, I won’t punish you. But if you pretend in front of me, then I’ll grant your wish.”
Han Jiao closed his eyes in despair, awaiting the verdict.
“You’ll be punished by copying a Legalist work.”
Upon hearing this, Han Jiao looked at the big boss as if he had received a great gift. This little rascal wasn’t too cruel after all.
The Legalist works with significant reputations didn’t have many words, so copying one of them wouldn’t be too severe of a punishment.
“Which one should I copy?” Han Jiao humbly inquired.
“All of them.”
A bad premonition.
“All of them… Which ones do you mean?” Han Jiao looked at the boss suspiciously.
Xie Duo raised his hand and placed it on the child prodigy’s shoulder, gently turning him around to face a row of bookshelves…
“On the sixth row, at the very top, there’s a vermilion lacquered wooden box. Do you see it?”
Han Jiao followed the direction of the boss’s finger and looked up. “I see it.”
“Go and bring it down. That box contains all the Legalist works.”
Han Jiao took in a sharp breath and turned his gaze solemnly toward the big boss.
Xie Duo pointed with his chin towards the southeast corner of the library. “If you can’t reach it, there’s a stool over there.”
Han Jiao: “……”
Don’t get angry! Don’t get angry! Anger gives the devil a foothold!
Dragging his heavy footsteps, Han Jiao moved to the corner and brought a stool over. With a dejected expression, he climbed onto the stool and reached for the wooden box on the top shelf.
The box wasn’t too large, about the size of a printer, but when he exerted force to pull it, it didn’t budge an inch.
His heart sank. It must be a box full of books!
Han Jiao closed his eyes to calm his emotions and gritted his teeth, gradually moving the heavy wooden box out.
The box was incredibly heavy. Han Jiao’s efforts to pull it out made the entire bookshelf wobble.
The big boss quickly walked over and steadied the bookshelf with one hand, looking up with delight as he watched Han Jiao move the box.
This boss was indeed a little devil even during his adolescence!
All the worries and gratitude Han Jiao had felt for the boss in the past few days vanished. He grumpily yanked the wooden box out.
As an eighteen-year-old, Han Jiao had strong arms, and he easily pulled the box out. Holding it overhead was not too strenuous. However, the weight made the small round stool beneath him lose balance unexpectedly, causing Han Jiao to fall backward with the stool!
The box he held over his head slipped from his grasp and, due to inertia, began to fall directly towards his forehead!
If the box was damaged in the library, he would undoubtedly become a laughingstock at the Hanlin Academy.
In this life-and-death moment, Han Jiao’s concern was about his reputation. Flailing his hands in mid-air, he tried to push away the box but couldn’t find the right position.
Just as the box was about to hit the ground, he saw the big boss, who was supporting the bookshelf, slightly raise his eyes. With an unbelievably fast reaction speed, he flicked his hand, and the heavy wooden box spun and flew elsewhere.
As he moved the box aside, Xie Duo instinctively reached out his other hand to grab the little child prodigy, but coincidentally, he caught Han Jiao’s flailing right hand!
Han Jiao’s instinctive grip in an attempt to save himself delivered a powerful blow to the big boss’ injured left hand.
Hearing a sudden painful groan, Han Jiao immediately let go like he had been electrocuted and fell to the ground.
The vermilion wooden box crashed into the wall, shattering and scattering books all over the floor.
Looking up, Han Jiao saw the big boss holding his injured hand with his right hand, lowering his head and taking a step back, leaning against the bookshelf. Cold sweat covered his forehead, clearly showing the intense pain he was enduring.
Regaining his senses, Han Jiao quickly took out the pack of pain-relieving powder from his pocket, opened it, and crawled over to Xie Duo, reaching out for his left hand.
“Don’t move.” Xie Duo mustered his strength and glanced at the murderous child prodigy.
Han Jiao couldn’t help but wonder if he and the boss were destined to clash.
“A fall for a lowly subject like me is nothing, but Your Highness’s hand injury has not healed yet. How can I not help?” Han Jiao truly couldn’t understand what the big boss was thinking. He always teased him with great enthusiasm, then “risked his life” to save him. In the end, the one who was the most injured was the boss himself. It was like picking up a stone to hit his own foot.
Xie Duo’s voice was hoarse. “I instinctively reached out my hand, and you dared to grab it?”
“I acted on instinct too…”
“You dare talk back?”
Han Jiao could only accept it and gently said, holding the medicine pack, “Your Highness, applying this pain-relieving powder will ease the discomfort.”
Xie Duo’s eyes were fiercely menacing. “To make me feel better, I’d have to cripple one of your hands.”
Han Jiao didn’t dare to retort and followed the boss’ intention, comforting him, “It’s a pity there’s no ruler here. If there’s one, I would take it to you and vent your anger. Your Highness, your body must be taken care of. Shall I go and fetch an imperial physician for you?”
Xie Duo felt his dignity as a warrior being offended. “Do I need a weapon to cripple your hand?”
Han Jiao could tell from the boss’ expression that he wasn’t joking.
The barely conscious big boss straightened up and extended his right palm to the child prodigy. “Give me your hand.”
Han Jiao: “……”
Boss, can you not use such a romantic invitation method for such a crazy act?