Han Jiao spoke in one breath, feeling refreshingly invigorated and clear-minded, his gaze sharp as he awaited the Prince’s decision.
However, despite his earlier excitement, Prince Yan, who had just stood up, remained completely silent.
Han Jiao, who had also risen in excitement, now felt a bit awkward, quickly trying to recall if he had said anything inappropriate.
The main hall of the royal mansion was quite spacious, with only the two of them standing face to face.
In the heat of their emotions just now, they hadn’t noticed the vastness of this place. For Prince Yan and Han Jiao, this meeting felt like the first genuine encounter.
A perfect match, it was a scene that stirred intense emotions, and those involved found it even more wonderful.
Step by step, Han Jiao had guided Prince Yan, and in the final moment, it was as if he had reached the summit, looking down upon all.
The sudden display of Prince Yan’s heroic spirit made the spacious hall feel cramped, almost suffocating, but at this moment, Prince Yan’s presence suddenly receded.
Han Jiao was puzzled. Then, he saw the future Emperor in front of him suddenly raise his arm. He tore through the air with wide sleeves, hands overlapped, level with his eyebrows, and gave a deep bow to Han Jiao.
“Your Highness!” Han Jiao was afraid to accept such a grand gesture, so he hurried forward to offer support, but he couldn’t move Prince Yan.
He had no choice but to take a step back and bow to Prince Yan.
Prince Yan stood up straight, looking at Han Jiao solemnly, and spoke in a deep voice, “Master, you possess great talents. I have been impolite in my previous manners and disrespectful in my words. I hope you can forgive me.”
Han Jiao found it hard to describe his feelings at this moment. As a poor scholar who had been marginalized and had yet to achieve his ambitions, what kind of treatment could he receive after offering his advice at the cost of his blood and sweat?
Prince Yan’s response greatly exceeded his expectations.
Han Jiao’s blood boiled inside him. He nodded and said, “Your Highness, you are too kind! I am just a junior scholar-official, and Your Highness not only…”
Prince Yan noticed that Han Jiao suddenly choked up and quickly stepped forward to support him. “When I first met you, I, Xie Guang, failed to recognize your true worth and treated you as a presumptuous person. Now, I am grateful that you have set aside grievances and offered me this brilliant strategy. I am deeply touched, and I will not let your talent go to waste!”
Han Jiao lifted his head!
In this close encounter, Xie Guang suddenly noticed that this young junior scholar-official now had a face marked by the hardships of life. His usually clear peach blossom eyes seemed devoid of spirit, and the dark circles under his eyes looked like bruises from a beating.
“These days, Master has worked hard,” Xie Guang supported the slightly swaying Han Jiao and apologized. “I will now escort you back to your residence to rest.”
Han Jiao felt like a heavy burden had been lifted from his heart, and his body seemed to give way in an instant.
After enduring three days and two sleepless nights, he couldn’t really call it hard work. It was more about the aftermath of the kidnapping case. His body, which had been held up by sheer willpower, was now sounding alarms. He stumbled, and Xie Guang quickly grabbed his arm and guided him to a chair.
“What’s happened to you?” Xie Guang noticed that Han Jiao’s spirit had suddenly flagged. “If you’re overly fatigued, you should rest in my palace.”
Han Jiao rubbed his eyes, trying to muster his strength. “I’m fine, Your Highness. Please send someone to retrieve the account books and deliver them all to the Ministry of War. Also, dispatch an Imperial Censor to the border to investigate Zhao Liang’s embezzlement.”
He actually wanted to mention his father’s rescue, but that would be too obvious. It was better to focus on Prince Yan’s matters for now, especially since the case in the Ministry of Justice had been delayed at Prince Yan’s order. There was no rush.
Xie Guang thought for a moment. “Sending the account books back now might give the Ministry of War a chance to destroy evidence, wouldn’t it? I’ll have all the account books moved to the palace, and then I’ll inform the Ministry of War. They won’t dare to bother you, especially since you’re living near me. Who would dare to cause trouble right under my nose?”
Upon hearing this, Han Jiao, sitting in the chair, regained his composure and looked up at Prince Yan. “Your Highness, what are your plans for Zhao Liang?”
Xie Guang stood up straight, sneered, and said sternly, “Of course, with the evidence you’ve found, we’ll apprehend all those involved in the case!”
Han Jiao’s worst fear was coming true.
The male lead was only nineteen now, in that reckless phase of youth where he hadn’t faced any setbacks. Han Jiao was worried he might overestimate his abilities.
“Absolutely not, Your Highness. I investigated the accounts only to clear your name from any involvement in the Qining case. Zhao Liang is the one who falsified military achievements. In this case, you should primarily deal with Zhao Liang. These pieces of evidence are enough to intimidate him, and we can deal with the others at the right time. We must not tip our hand.”
Xie Guang frowned at Han Jiao’s words, then turned with a disappointed look. “I thought of you as a great talent unafraid of corrupt officials and one who seeks to rectify the world, but why do your words echo those of Senior Minister Xu?”
Han Jiao: “……”
What a mess!
He had sought refuge too soon. The male lead was proving to be headstrong now!
Xie Guang realized he misspoke and quickly reverted to a more gentle tone, “I’m not blaming you, Master. I just thought you were being overly cautious. We have solid evidence in our hands now. Dealing with a few border military officials and a corrupt Ministry of War official shouldn’t require careful planning. I can’t tolerate it, and Father Emperor won’t spare them either!”
Han Jiao furrowed his brow and asked, “Is there anyone else behind these people, Your Highness? I believe you must know.”
“Let’s focus on the matter at hand,” Xie Guang replied. “This case has no connection with that Senior Minister. The evidence is undeniable, and even if he wants to meddle, I won’t be afraid.”
Han Jiao stood up, walked to Prince Yan, and bowed. “Your Highness, I believe that justice has a chance to prevail only in the hands of the powerful. If we act recklessly without considering the bigger picture, it will only lead to a tragic hero in history, which won’t serve any purpose.”
That was a bit harsh.
But Han Jiao couldn’t afford to worry about it too much. He couldn’t let a well-intentioned act turn into a blunder. He had to advise this ironheaded fellow, even if it meant stepping on some toes right after presenting his strategy.
As expected, Prince Yan’s expression turned a bit unpleasant. He said in a huff, “How can you be so sure, Master, that my strength is inferior to that old man? His only support is Old Seventh. As long as I have breath in my body, can he break the rules of Great Chu that favor primogeniture and seniority?”
Han Jiao looked at Prince Yan in silence for a while, then spoke softly, “Forgive my bluntness, Your Highness, but you clearly know that Senior Minister Li has more than just the Seventh Prince backing him. In fact, the reason he dares to consider the Seventh Prince’s intentions is that he has a more significant ‘patron’ behind him. In other words, calling Senior Minister Li the Seventh Prince’s support wouldn’t be an overstatement.”
Seeing Han Jiao speak frankly without caring about his pride, Prince Yan appeared deflated and remained silent.
Everyone knew that Senior Minister Li’s rapid rise from being in charge of the Hanlin Academy to becoming the Minister of Rites in just five years was unprecedented in the history of Great Chu. Fundamentally, his true ‘patron’ was the Emperor himself.
Senior Minister Li initially had no intention of being antagonistic and had even tried to win favor with Prince Yan, aiming to replace Senior Minister Xu in Prince Yan’s favor.
Unfortunately, Prince Yan had actively opposed Senior Minister Li a few years ago, forcing Senior Minister Li to consider his “unique asset,” the Seventh Prince.
But they hadn’t completely severed ties, and Senior Minister Li was still observing the situation.
Based on their current strengths, it was wiser for Prince Yan to lie low for now.
“Master, go and get some rest,” Prince Yan said in a low voice, “I’ll consider this matter.”
Han Jiao knew Prince Yan had a pretty good idea of what to do. He couldn’t force this proud prince to back down right then and there. So, he nodded and took his leave, allowing Prince Yan some time to think.
Surprisingly, Prince Yan was quite thoughtful. He personally escorted Han Jiao to the door.
As the two of them entered the courtyard, the Third Prince and Ninth Prince happened to be coming from the study.
Prince Yan was feeling somewhat weary at the moment, so he called out to his younger brother, “Perfect timing, A’Duo, help your Sixth Brother escort Master Han back.”
Ninth Prince Xie Duo, who was most favored in Great Chu, the top swordsman with the prettiest face, and seemingly a pawn to Sixth Brother: “? ? ?”
Han Jiao, who had just been about to leave, felt the intensity of the big boss’ displeasure. He immediately turned on his heels and quickly said, “No need, no need! How could I trouble Your Highness? I’ll take my leave right away!”
Xie Duo, with a bit of a short temper, wasn’t one to tolerate such treatment repeatedly. He took a big step forward, blocking Prince Yan’s path and raised his chin, looking down at the Sixth Brother, and asked, “Do I look idle to you?”
“What else?” Prince Yan asked in confusion. “Can’t you at least escort Master Han? He even helped you with your policy essay.”
Xie Duo’s gaze sharpened. “Is this a taunt?”
“You feeling frisky today, Little Brother?” Prince Yan reached out and pinched his younger brother’s ear, frowning. “Will you go or not?”
In that split second of pinching his younger brother’s ear, Prince Yan suddenly remembered something. It seemed like the Third Prince was here today.
No one had ever dared to bully the Ninth Prince in front of the school’s bully, the Third Prince.
Thinking of this, Xie Guang quickly let go of his own cursed hand, swallowed hard, and slowly turned his gaze toward the direction from which the hostile atmosphere was emanating…
In an instant, his eyes met with the wide-open eyes of the Third Prince!
“Third Brother, let me explain…” Xie Guang began retreating as he prepared to flee, all the while attempting to explain!
However, the Third Prince was already diving towards him like a hundred-meter hurdler!
Smirking, the Ninth Prince turned around to the little child prodigy who stood in shock behind him. “Close your eyes. Big Brother will take you home in a moment.”
Han Jiao: “……”
This was what he had said to his little brother, Han Mo, on the day of the kidnapping!
Why did this stinky little brother of his have the audacity to call himself “Big Brother”?
He never expected that the big boss would actually be sending him home.
Regardless of the fact that the Sixth Brother was being beaten up by the Third Brother behind them, Xie Duo casually led Han Jiao out of the courtyard, readying a carriage with the eunuch.
“No need, Your Highness. I currently reside right next to the royal mansion,” Han Jiao pointed towards the east side of the alley. “It’s just a few steps away.”
The relaxed expression on the big boss’ face disappeared. “How did you end up staying in my Sixth Brother’s residence?”
“These past few days, I’ve been helping Prince Yan with financial accounts, so I’ve temporarily taken up residence here. It’s convenient for me to report the financial matters to His Highness.”
The big boss’ puzzled look gradually transformed into something more menacing. “When did you become so familiar with my Sixth Brother?”
Han Jiao thought seriously for a moment and honestly answered, “It’s only been in recent days.”
Oddly, why did it feel like there was an aura of darkness swirling above the big boss’ head?
Xie Duo also didn’t understand why he was feeling so displeased.
At that moment, he suddenly understood the strange rivalry between the Sixth Brother and the Seventh Brother.
Anyone who sought refuge with the Sixth Brother could no longer have any ties with the Seventh Brother, and vice versa.
Xie Duo used to not mind those courtiers who attempted to play both sides, but at this moment, he began to realize the issues involved.
This little child prodigy had been rescued by his own hands from the kidnappers, and while he might be a bit naive, he was quite amusing. Xie Duo hadn’t intended to share him with his Sixth Brother.
Encouraged by his survival instincts, Han Jiao mustered the courage to ask, “What’s wrong, Your Highness? Is there something inappropriate in what I said?”
The big boss turned away, slowly running his tongue over his thin lips.
This was a standard move in the novel, portraying the boss restraining his murderous intent in the later stage…
Han Jiao immediately froze in place, attempting to pass as a statue!
Xie Duo turned back and his golden, transparent pupils stared straight at the little child prodigy. He patiently whispered, “Han Xiaobai, you can’t help one prince write a policy essay and then assist another prince with accounting.”
Han Jiao looked up at the boss who seemed ready to explode.
A silent standoff.
Han Jiao quivered and softly asked for guidance, “Why can’t I?”
He asked the most life-threatening question in the most submissive tone.