Xie Jing assumed that Ninth Brother’s imposing demeanor meant he wanted to confront Han Jiao. He quickly stood up and advised, “Let’s forget about it. Let’s just mind our own business. Master Han must have something important going on.”
Third Prince snorted, “I think that guy lied about being sick, and since he got caught red-handed, he’s too afraid to show his face.”
“There must be a reason,” Xie Duo turned and grinned mischievously at Xie Jing, tugging his arm, “I’ll go fetch the little child prodigy. You all wait to see him come up with five hundred excuses on the spot.”
Xie Jing laughed. He had seen how Master Han cleverly argued in front of Third Brother before. It was indeed adorable, but he didn’t want Ninth Brother to go and catch Han Jiao, fearing it might cause trouble.
However, what Ninth Brother had to do was something he couldn’t prevent, regardless of his wishes.
Xie Jing was pushed back into the chair by a hand. He watched as Xie Duo elegantly wiped his mouth with a cloth and, wearing a mischievous smile, exited the room with confident strides.
He promptly reached the elegant room of the little child prodigy, only to be taken aback by its emptiness.
Thinking he might have gone the wrong way, Xie Duo checked the two rooms on the left and right, but there was no sign of the little child prodigy. He raised his hand to stop a passing server and asked quietly, “Where did the guests at this table go?”
The server was busy serving dishes and glanced towards the elegant room, also puzzled. “Huh? Where are the customers? They were just here! The food isn’t even all served…”
Realizing that the guests hadn’t settled the bill, the server quickly turned and shouted for help from others.
Xie Duo looked puzzled.
Even if the little child prodigy felt guilty, he wouldn’t run away with the customers, right? They didn’t even finish their meal.
He was really annoyed. Xie Duo returned to the elegant room, and suddenly a serious question crossed his mind: the little child prodigy had bought him a packet of medicine worth around ten silver taels, saying he needed to save and scrimp for half a year. So why would he leave all these dishes worth more than ten silver taels on the table?
Xie Duo was never a broad-minded person, and throughout his life, no one had dared to play tricks on him repeatedly like this.
He was genuinely getting angry. Xie Duo turned and hurried downstairs, left the inn, mounted his horse, and asked the attendant waiting outside, “Did four men rush out just now? One young man, one middle-aged man, and two commoners.”
The attendant stepped forward and bowed. “Replying to Your Highness, a few people matching that description just hurriedly left this place. The middle-aged man supported the young one as they quickly boarded a gray-green carriage across the street, heading east.”
Without a second thought, Xie Duo spurred his horse and went after them to the east.
“My lord!” Some attendants rushed to mount their horses to follow, but they heard the Ninth Prince, who was far ahead, call back, “I’ll be back soon.” It didn’t take long for him to be swallowed by the crowd at the end of the long street.
Inside the carriage.
His little brother, who was tied up and seated across from him, had his mouth gagged. His face was covered in tears and snot.
Han Jiao’s anger, which filled his eyes, was no longer hidden. He looked at Liu Changqing beside him and said, “Brother Liu, we’re all in a tough spot. Do you really want to make things irreparable?”
Liu Changqing shook his head with a sigh. “It’s because Master Han left no room for us.”
Han Jiao furrowed his brow. “I only went out to buy a few buns on the street, and inexplicably, you all lured me to the inn. Inside the inn, I coincidentally met acquaintances from the palace. It’s not something I arranged. You can’t just turn against me over this, can you?”
The more Liu Changqing thought about it, the more he felt scared. He stopped looking at Han Jiao and remained silent.
“Please calm down first,” Han Jiao calmly advised, “We’re both working for higher-ups. I understand your difficulties, and I won’t pursue this matter, alright? Let’s stop the carriage for now, and we can discuss things. At worst, I’ll return a portion of the account books. I won’t let Prince Yan find out. My little brother is still young and easily frightened. Let me take him back first, and then we can talk.”
“The problem is that the people from the palace have already seen us looking for you,” Liu Changqing said with an unpleasant expression.
“It’s their eunuch who saw us. What’s there to worry about? They probably think we’re just buddies having a drink together.”
Liu Changqing shook his head. “It’s not that simple. When they saw you, they didn’t initially greet you. Later, they invited you alone. Don’t you think they’ve figured something out?”
Han Jiao closed his eyes in agony.
It was incredibly frustrating to be unable to quell the unfounded fears of a guilty person.
Taking a deep breath, Han Jiao explained with a friendly tone, “You’re overthinking it, Brother Liu. Let me be honest with you. The one who called me was the palace’s young prince. When the young prince wants something, he doesn’t care about others’ dignity. It’s not his habit! If he genuinely suspected you, would he have the patience to let you talk with me for so long? That’s impossible!”
Mind in turmoil, Liu Changqing was unwilling to listen to reason. He had assumed that this young junior scholar-official would be concerned about his family’s safety and wouldn’t dare to risk everything. He was frustrated with the young man’s stubbornness, wasting time with so much words and ultimately exposing his true colors to the palace lords.
Just then, one of their men sitting at the back of the carriage urgently exclaimed, “Master! Someone on horseback is chasing us from behind, seems like they’re coming after us!”
Liu Changqing’s heart skipped a beat. He quickly bent over to walk to the back of the carriage and lifted the curtain to look outside. In the distance, he saw a man in luxurious hunting attire, riding a pure black steed, rapidly closing in.
“Faster!” Liu Changqing anxiously urged their carriage driver, “Hurry! Someone is catching up!”
Han Jiao tried to reason, “Brother Liu, since we’ve been discovered, it might be better to stop and explain ourselves. I can help cover for you.”
Liu Changqing clenched his teeth. “Cover for what? If they didn’t suspect us, why would they chase us so urgently?”
“If they suspect, then it’s even more important to explain.”
Liu Changqing ignored him and shouted at to the coachman, “Head north to the woods on the western hill, quickly!”
The carriage swiftly entered the woods. The uneven ground made A’Mo fly up, then tumble back into the seat. He cried so hard that he could barely catch his breath, continuously calling for his big brother.
Han Jiao hastily tried to stand up but was pushed back into his seat by Liu Changqing’s men. “Don’t move!”
“Let me hold him, alright? Do you want my brother to get hurt?”
One of the men with some humanity left in him got up and scooped the child into his arms, then handed him over to Han Jiao.
“That person’s horse is too fast, we can’t outrun it!”
“Seems like he’s alone?”
“Maybe he’s a scout. There must be pursuers behind us!”
“Faster! We’re about to be caught!” Liu Changqing yelled in frustration at the coachman.
However, their horses were still pulling the carriage. How could they escape a high-quality steed in pursuit?
The person behind them got closer and closer. When he reached a reasonable distance, he shouted sternly at them.
“Stop! Why are you running? Immediately stop the carriage!”
Upon hearing this, they realized it was a slightly youthful voice. The tension inside the carriage eased a bit.
“It does seem like he’s alone, right?”
Seeing the person getting closer, Liu Changqing realized the rider was indeed a youth. He immediately turned and gave orders, “Chen Er, go intercept that guy. Don’t take his life, just knock him out.”
“Please don’t!” Han Jiao hastily intervened. “Listen to me…”
“Understood!” The men accompanying Liu Changqing were top-notch experts. Dealing with an inexperienced boy was a piece of cake. Even if a group of sturdy men came, it wouldn’t be a problem.
Before the carriage came to a halt, one of the men leaped down, brandishing a nine-section whip. As the young man on horseback approached, the long whip cut through the air and aimed directly for the young man’s neck!
His plan was to ensnare the whip around the young man’s neck, yank him from the horse, and incapacitate him swiftly, ensuring the young man wouldn’t recognize his face.
However, plans often don’t keep up with changes.
Before the man jumped from the carriage, he was unaware that Han Jiao’s “Please don’t” wasn’t about fearing he’d harm the young man’s life but rather fearing he’d be killed on the spot…
At this moment, the young man on the horse was not the future “War God Xie Duo,” who would strike terror into the hearts of foreign invaders and bandits, but rather an obscure figure within the deep palace, known as the “Salted Fish Ninth Prince.” Besides being exceptionally fair-faced, there were no legends or stories about him in the common folks’ knowledge.
Therefore, when the man saw the young man effortlessly catch the nine-section whip, he merely thought he might have made a mistake in his attack posture. He was considering retracting the whip for another strike when he suddenly found himself flying through the air, along with the whip…
The young man had firmly grasped the other end of the whip, then forcefully yanked the man into the air!
Before he could release his whip, the young man swiftly spun the long whip, reversing it around the man’s neck, then forcefully slammed him into the ground!
With a loud “thud,” the man created a deep mud crater in the leaf-covered soil.
The young man tugged on the reins, circled the man, and held his long whip, pointing it at the man’s nose. “Dare you lay hands on me?”
The man, his face filled with resentment, believed it was his own carelessness that led to his grievous injury. He stared at the young man, spitting out blood and venomously said, “It was you who did this!”
Xie Duo, rarely leaving the palace, rarely encountered such life-threatening provocation within his limited social circle. He raised the nine-section whip and struck the man across the face. “Get up! Let me see if you can fight back!”
The man had fallen heavily and couldn’t get up immediately. He could only spit a large mouthful of saliva towards the horse’s leg.
Xie Duo, after all, was a prince, and he had a somewhat higher standard when it came to uncivilized behavior. He couldn’t return the gesture by spitting back, and considering the carriage was getting farther away, he decided not to engage with the man any longer. He spurred his horse and continued the pursuit.
Initially, Xie Duo had wanted to capture the little child prodigy for some amusement, but as he chased into the woods, he felt something was off. Why was that carriage speeding away like thieves?
At the same time, the people in the carriage were left in shock.
Liu Changqing hadn’t expected that the renowned “Nine-section Whip Master Chen Er” would be overthrown by a mere youngster in the blink of an eye.
Liu Changqing turned to Han Jiao with a frightened expression and asked, “Who exactly is this person?”
Han Jiao held his little brother, his expression emotionless as he spoke softly, “I told you not to act rashly. Now stop the carriage, and I can explain to him on your behalf.”
Despite appearing confident on the surface, in truth, Han Jiao was no less shocked than Liu Changqing at the moment. This was because, a short while ago, Han Jiao had observed through the partially drawn curtain as the boss effortlessly defeated the man.
The extent of this boss’ abnormal combat ability had truly exceeded his expectations!
Recalling the day when the boss had threatened to cripple his hand, he couldn’t help but shudder with fear.
If he hadn’t accidentally hit the boss’ funny bone back then, it wouldn’t have been as simple as just a dislocated joint.
Who knew, he might have turned into Yang Guo by now.
The big boss could easily tear him apart barehanded.