What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 16

Chapter 16

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Since the decision to seek refuge with Prince Yan, Han Jiao had mentally prepared himself to face powerful political adversaries.

Even though his father was suddenly in danger, he should not lose his composure.

But he did lose it.

Nothing was ready yet. He lacked sufficient status, had no factions or connections, not even a single informant.

Not to mention saving his father, he couldn’t even ensure the safety of his family at that moment.

Despite assuring his mother that Prince Yan would not stand idly by, the truth was that he had no idea why his father was impeached. How could he prove to Prince Yan that his father had been framed for investigating the case of wrongful execution for personal gain?

Prince Yan might even think that he was trying to embellish his own image by claiming to save his father.

Considering this, Han Jiao temporarily decided not to directly seek Prince Yan’s help to save his father.

First, he would try to establish contact with his father’s colleagues at the Grand Court of Judicial Review, who were on good terms with him. Through them, he would gather information on how to reach the presiding official.

As a family member of the implicated official, casually visiting the officials at the Grand Court of Judicial Review would surely cause trouble for others. He had to ask an outsider to deliver the message.

In a situation where his power and status were insufficient, the only way to pave the way was through the power of money.

After finishing dinner, Han Jiao immediately asked his mother to hand over all the savings from their home.

He was prepared to risk everything they had.

His mother brought forward banknotes, cash, even her dowry and precious jewelries, all held in her hands and presented to him. There was no need for a detailed calculation. With just a glance, Han Jiao knew that this amount of wealth was far from enough to smoothen the various connections.

Mrs. Han understood her son’s silence and quietly asked him, “How much silver taels do we need? Shall I go ask your Third Aunt?”

“Do you know how much Aunt’s family fortune is?” 

Mrs. Han pondered for a moment and replied, “They probably have around three to five thousand taels.”

Han Jiao focused his mind and calculated that, according to the purchasing power in Great Chu, such a family fortune was equivalent to that of a multimillionaire. The assets were not considered substantial.

“Mother, how much do you think Uncle would be willing to lend us?”

“Your father’s life is at stake, so of course, we should take as much as we can! A’Jiao, quickly tell me how much you need!”

“Would it be possible to borrow one thousand taels?”

Seeing her mother’s face turn pale in an instant, Han Jiao hurriedly reassured her, “It may not be necessary to spend that much. We just need to be prepared, and it’s better to have more than not enough. Any unused portion can be returned later, and the portion used, I will definitely repay with interest.”

Mrs. Han’s brows furrowed in worry. After contemplating for a moment, she trembled as she spoke, “Your Uncle relies on your father’s support for his business. He would definitely want to help us as much as he can, but… but one thousand taels is truly too much. Their family may not even have that amount in cash. They might need to sell some inventory. Even if they can manage to gather it, your Uncle probably wouldn’t be willing. It’s just too much.”

Han Jiao pondered silently for a moment, then nodded. “Tomorrow, you should go to Aunt’s house first. Inform Uncle that father is under investigation, and his official position is at risk. We need to make arrangements everywhere, so we require more money in case of unexpected needs.”

Mrs. Han anxiously exclaimed, “Your father’s life is on the line, yet you make it sound so casual. How could he be willing to lend more money?”

Han Jiao shook his head. “Although Uncle relied on Father and Mother to start his business, he prioritizes profits over loyalty. If we make the accusations sound severe, he won’t be inclined to lend more. If Uncle helps, it’s because he hopes father will regain his position and continue to be his patron. In reality, this case involves Senior Minister Li, and in the eyes of others, Father… Anyway, please do as I say.”

Mrs. Han was also astute. With a slight hint from her son, she understood and couldn’t help but feel amazed. She had only known her son to be skilled in literary pursuits, but now she realized that he had a deep understanding of human affairs. Truly, things became different once he entered the officialdom.

She lifted her hand to caress her son’s face, choked with emotion. “A’Jiao, you have truly grown up. This is such a significant matter, and I didn’t want to expose you to danger, but…”

Han Jiao held his mother’s hand firmly and said, “Mother, take care of yourself and don’t worry too much. That is the greatest support you can give me. From childhood to now, you never let me take care of any household chores. If I can’t be of use in important matters, then you have raised me in vain.”

The next day, Han Jiao arrived at the Hanlin Academy as usual and immediately noticed several colleagues casting strange glances at him.

The news in the official circles did spread rapidly indeed.

Zhou Hao arrived a step later. As soon as he entered, he looked at Han Jiao with a worried expression and went to his own seat.

Han Jiao remained composed and waited for Zhou Hao to finish his official tasks before finding an opportunity to talk to him.

Zhou Hao was one of the junior scholar-officials who had been summoned to the study room along with Han Jiao during the incident of the Prince’s critique. He had personally heard the Emperor instructing the Expositor-in-waiting to read Han Jiao’s essay and witnessed Han Jiao’s calm demeanor throughout. Since that day, he had held a deep admiration for Han Jiao.

In the past few days, Zhou Hao had grown closer to Han Jiao. However, he never expected such a situation to befall the Han family.

Han Jiao’s father being detained and interrogated by the Ministry of Justice was an embarrassing private matter. Zhou Hao was unsure if Han Jiao would be willing to discuss it with others, so he never initiated a conversation. When he saw Han Jiao approaching him, he immediately stood up, feeling somewhat uneasy.

“Brother Sheng Guang, let’s talk outside,” Han Jiao whispered.

Zhou Hao’s father was an official in the Ministry of Rites. Although it had no direct connection to the Ministry of Justice, his rank allowed him to attend the morning court, so he should be aware of what happened yesterday. Han Jiao walked to a secluded spot in the corridor and immediately inquired about the situation.

Since Master Han’s impeachment charges had not been presented with evidence, they were not published in the court gazette. Han Jiao’s father was detained by the Ministry of Justice and couldn’t be contacted. As a result, Han Jiao was not even aware of the exact accusations against his father.

Zhou Hao saw Han Jiao’s straightforwardness and immediately disclosed all the information he knew:

The Chief Supervising Secretary of the Office of Scrutiny for Personnel had brought two charges against Han Jiao’s father, Han Yushen.

It started half a year ago when the Ministry of Works was renovating the palace in the south. Some merchants from the Jiangnan region accused a eunuch overseeing the construction of accepting bribes privately and unlawfully replacing the government-selected construction material suppliers.

When this case reached the Grand Court of Judicial Review in the capital, Han Yushen happened to be the presiding official.

The case was correctly adjudicated, and the imperial court replaced the overseeing eunuch. However, after the case was closed, Han Yushen submitted an additional memorial.

In the memorial, Han Yushen roughly recounted some insider information shared by the Jiangnan merchants. It stated that the Ministry of Works had chosen certain types of wood that were priced higher not because they were superior in quality or appearance compared to other construction materials, but because their transportation costs were higher. This allowed certain departments to profit from the transportation process.

After reading this, the Emperor immediately issued an edict to use the wood of comparable quality but with lower transportation costs.

This matter had already been resolved long ago.

The impeachment content from the Chief Supervising Secretary of the Office of Scrutiny for Personnel heard that Han Yushen’s relative, who was also involved in the construction materials business, had attempted to participate in the construction project of the palace in the south. However, their quotation was too high and was politely declined by the overseeing eunuch.

Out of resentment, Han Yushen maliciously framed the overseeing eunuch, which was the first charge against him.

The second charge was corroborated by multiple timber merchants. The original choice of wood for the palace construction, although similar in quality to the cheaper option, had slightly better moisture resistance, making it more suitable for the Jiangnan climate. Despite the relatively higher transportation costs, the maintenance expenses would be lower once the palace was completed.

The accuser impeached Han Yushen, alleging that he deceived the Emperor under the pretext of saving imperial funds while being shortsighted and ignorant, resulting in greater losses.

Han Jiao felt his blood turn as cold as ice upon hearing these two charges.

The old foxes in the political arena were far more terrifying than he had imagined.

It was clear that he had been framed because of investigating Senior Minister Li’s henchmen, but the charges brought against him had nothing to do with the case of wrongful execution for personal gain.

Regarding these two charges, the first one was simply a joke. Everyone knew that Han Yushen was known for his integrity as an official, not even accepting a piece of coal or a stick of incense. How could he seek revenge afterward just because his relative’s business venture didn’t succeed?

Moreover, if the bribery case involving the overseeing eunuch had been decided, it meant there were abundant witnesses and evidence, making it an ironclad case!

However, in the shameless words of the accuser, it turned into “rumors that Han Yushen sought revenge for his relative and framed the palace eunuch.”

Dealing with this one charge alone wouldn’t be so problematic, but the second charge was terrifying.

The second charge directly threatened Master Han’s life.

If this accusation were to hold true, the Emperor would undoubtedly be furious.

Considering the magnitude of the palace construction project, the Emperor would be extremely upset if it was true that the wrong choice of building materials resulted in significant losses.

Furthermore, the Emperor would feel deceived by Han Yushen’s words, which would tarnish his wisdom and cause immense humiliation.

Even if this case resulted in the lightest punishment, ruling that Master Han was only negligent, the Emperor would seek an opportunity to destroy him, even his entire family.

In reality, the second charge was merely based on hearsay.

This accuser somehow gathered a group of false experts who forcefully claimed that the moisture resistance of the wood was slightly superior. In truth, this was simply impossible.

This substantial difference must have undergone comprehensive scrutiny and verification by specialized government officials when the materials were first exchanged. It was inconceivable for such a fatal discrepancy to suddenly emerge.

All these charges were baseless accusations, yet the Investigating Censors and the Chief Supervising Secretary of the Office of Scrutiny for Personnel held the power to investigate rumors and present their opinions.

The law clearly stipulated that if their accusations lacked substance, they would not be held accountable. However, if they were found to have knowingly misled or deceived the country, they would face severe consequences. To put it in modern terms, it was a logic similar to that of a bandit—better to wrongly punish a thousand than to let one escape.

“Xiaobai?” Zhou Hao noticed Han Jiao’s pale face and quickly reached out to support him. “These two charges lack solid evidence, and there were already conclusive findings in the past. The Ministry of Justice shouldn’t make things difficult for your father. It’s likely just going through the motions. You don’t have to worry excessively.”

Han Jiao’s heart twisted like a knife. In such a case, it all came down to who held the strongest fist and who had the power to make decisions.

The mastermind behind that accuser was Senior Minister Li, while Han Jiao’s father had no influential backer. The outcome no longer needed guessing.

Zhou Hao, lacking worldly experience, was unaware of the true reasons for Master Han’s impeachment. He still believed that there would be evidence and justice to prevail in the case. However, Han Jiao knew that the situation seemed hopeless.

Witnessing Han Jiao stumble and almost fall to the ground, Zhou Hao realized how fragile one’s spirit could be. He quickly assisted Han Jiao, fanning him while offering tea. After a while, seeing no signs of improvement, Zhou Hao promptly excused himself to inform the Expositor-in-waiting and escorted Han Jiao back to his family’s residence.

Once they exited the palace gates, Han Jiao gradually regained his strength. However, his face remained pale as Zhou Hao helped him onto the carriage. Nevertheless, he gathered his spirits and regained composure.

Aware of his current appearance, Han Jiao knew he couldn’t let his mother see him like this. He instructed the coachman to take him to a tea house in Changming Lane, where he could rest temporarily.

Sitting alone in the private room of the tea house for a long time, Han Jiao considered all possible counterattacks. Ultimately, there was only one feasible path ahead of him—to seek refuge with Prince Yan.

In truth, even if it were proven that Master Han was a victim of a plot related to the case of wrongful execution for personal gain, Prince Yan might not be willing to exert significant efforts to save a mere pawn. Those two charges were highly complicated and could potentially offend the Emperor.

If Han Jiao wanted to save his father, he needed to convince Prince Yan that his abilities were worth the investment.

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