“Aiyo, my little A’Mo! I’ve missed you so much, nephew!”
Under the wisteria, Han Jiao, startled by this shout, turned his head and saw his uncle, swooping in like an eagle grabbing a chick, embracing his little brother, and giving his chubby face a strong kiss.
“I haven’t seen you in a few days, and you look thinner. Don’t worry! Uncle has brought some delicious treats for you!” His uncle, excited, urged his aunt, “Quick! Bring out the date pastries. It’s been too long since we visited our little chunky!”
Han Jiao immediately stood up, walked over with a serious face, and snatched his little brother from his uncle’s arms.
Han Jiao felt very resentful towards this couple.
Uncle was born into a small official’s family. After splitting from the main family, as a concubine-born son, he only inherited a few acres of meager farmland and lived a very frugal life.
Han Jiao’s mother felt sorry that her sister had married such a poor man. So, she used both gentle persuasion and coercion, pushing Master Han to step in and, by pooling their savings, secure a business deal with the Ministry of Works. This was what allowed Aunt’s family to enter the construction materials business.
After making their first pot of money, this couple repaid only the initial half of the cost that the Han family had contributed, keeping all the profits for themselves.
Master Han, being an educated man, just wanted to help his relatives without seeking profits. So, he didn’t pay much attention to the actions of this couple.
Afterward, Uncle still needed to use Master Han’s influence for his business, so he frequently visited the Han family, bringing food and clothing for Mrs. Han and the children. The relationship between the two families remained good.
Unexpectedly, after Master Han encountered trouble, the outwardly strong bond between the two families was torn apart.
Mrs. Han borrowed six hundred taels of silver from the couple. The very next day, hearing that Master Han might face downfall, they hurried to collect the debt.
Aunt gently advised Mrs. Han to abandon saving her husband and let Master Han in prison “accept his fate.”
Logically, considering their financial situation, the Han family requested a substantial portion, and the couple had no reason to refuse.
Having reached this point, it seemed as though they believed the men of the Han family were all scholars with thin skin, letting them take charge.
This situation made Mrs. Han sick, and indirectly led to Han Jiao taking his little brother to buy buns on the street, where they encountered a kidnapping.
All these events surfaced after moving to the new residence, as Madam Han couldn’t hold her frustrations and started complaining to her son.
When Han Jiao found out, he immediately had the servants deliver the six hundred taels of silver, eleven taels of medicinal money, and several days of interest to the couple, without any message. It was a clear signal to cut off ties.
Surprisingly, they now have the audacity to get close again.
If Han Jiao wanted to deal with these ungrateful relatives, with his current power, he could maintain a friendly appearance while silently causing their business to suffer significant losses.
But hearts are made of flesh, and it seems that Han Jiao’s body carried the feelings of the book Han Jiao. He had emotions deep down for his aunt and couldn’t bring himself to be harsh. He just wanted to cut off ties from now on.
The deeper the emotions, the more piercing the hurt. Right now, Han Jiao couldn’t even manage polite small talk. He greeted the couple with an expressionless face, “Rare visitors, A’Mo just had some desserts sent by the Prince. He’s not hungry.”
When Aunt saw Han Jiao’s attitude, her heart grew noticeably colder.
Uncle, on the other hand, greeted him casually, “A’Jiao, why do you look thinner? Oh, you see… ever since your father ran into trouble, your aunt and I haven’t had a moment’s peace! We went to your house that day to console your mother, but it seems she misunderstood our intentions. Well-intended actions can backfire!”
He wore a pained expression as he told Han Jiao, “We knew your mother’s temperament, and we didn’t dare to explain at the time. So, we just went back home, thinking we’d wait for your mother to cool down. But a few days ago, your mother suddenly returned the money she borrowed to save your father’s life! It’s a disaster, I tell you!”
“That’s right, A’Jiao!” Aunt hurried forward, took out a silver note from her pocket, and held it out to Han Jiao. “The day we went to your place, we heard that your father’s situation was serious. Six hundred taels might not be enough, so we sold the lumber from our estate and raised another six hundred taels. Here’s twelve hundred taels for you. Take it now. If it’s not enough, your Aunt is willing to sell everything…”
“Father has already come back,” Han Jiao interrupted her.
“He’s… he’s back?” Uncle hadn’t expected that there was a chance Master Han would be released from prison. He hadn’t prepared for this line of conversation, and he stumbled over his words for a moment.
Aunt quickly added, “That’s truly a stroke of luck! With a good official like our brother-in-law, if he got into trouble, we common folks would have lost all hope!”
Han Jiao interrupted the dramatic performance, “Please, both of you, take a seat in the side hall. If you have something to discuss, my mother is still unwell.”
“Big Sister is sick?” Aunt looked concerned. “Did you call for a physician?”
Han Jiao nodded. “Yes, we did, but it’s mostly due to stress.”
Uncle’s face changed, and he quickly changed the topic, “Oh, yes, indeed. If we talk about the case your father is involved in, it’s really serious. Not to mention how worried Sister-in-law is. We’re all stressed out about it.”
“A’Jiao, let them in.”
Suddenly, Mrs. Han’s cold voice came from behind.
Han Jiao turned around and saw his mother standing at the main door, looking sternly at her sister and brother-in-law.
Contrary to Han Jiao’s expectations, his usually somewhat petty mother was surprisingly hospitable to her sister and brother-in-law.
Not only did she prepare a grand feast, but she also had maidservants attend to her sister’s dining needs.
Mrs. Han did this to prove to her sister that she could have whatever kind of life she wanted.
Han Jiao didn’t quite understand the subtle rivalry between the two sisters. It pained him to look at the table full of dishes.
He was worried that these were dishes from Prince Yan’s kitchen. Han Jiao was particularly sensitive about owing anyone anything in this regard.
This was an inherited trait from Master Han, so when Mrs. Han wanted to pour a good wine and have Han Jiao join his uncle for a couple of drinks, Han Jiao quickly made excuses, claiming he had official business to attend to in the afternoon.
Seeing that Mrs. Han wasn’t interested in bringing up old issues, his uncle took the opportunity to explain his purpose to Han Jiao. He wanted Han Jiao to use his influence to arrange a meal with a few officials from the Ministry of Works.
Han Jiao was completely astonished by the audacity of his uncle’s request.
Before he could refuse, Mrs. Han spoke up in a stern and direct manner, not leaving her brother-in-law any face.
“My A’Jiao won’t get involved in your government and business affairs. My husband was forced into it in the first place, and now that he’s managed to keep his life, he won’t engage in these thankless activities. Sister, Brother-in-law, from now on, let our families each lead their own lives. I wish you success in your business.”
This was a clear declaration. The faces of the aunt and uncle turned pale.
“Big Sister!” The aunt immediately got up, walked around the dining table, and knelt beside Mrs. Han, clutching her big sister’s arm and choking back tears. “You’ve truly misunderstood me. The words I spoke that day were harsh, but it was out of worry for you and the boys. I swear by the Heavens that I harbor no ill intentions toward you!”
Mrs. Han, who had been expressionless all along, now showed a hint of bitterness on her face. She turned to her son and said, “Take your uncle to the garden room to have some snacks. I need to have a word with your aunt.”
Han Jiao understood that his mother was a typical person who talked tough but had a kind heart. She might forgive her sister with just a little hesitation.
Unable to remind her directly, he could only escort his uncle to the adjacent garden room.
They walked in silence through the cloister, entering the garden room’s courtyard from the East Corner Gate.
His uncle had already guessed that Han Jiao intended to distance himself from their family. After pondering for a while, he reluctantly said, “A’Jiao, your aunt is truly misunderstood. Do you know what she said that upset your mother? She simply said we should save money to help you find a way to climb the ranks in the future. Just that sentence! Your aunt’s intention was clear: even if your father lost his position, we could still save money to fully support you. It was meant to console your mother, a heartfelt sentiment from the two of us! But who knew your mother would think we were pressuring her to repay the money, and the misunderstanding snowballed!”
The fragrance of the flowers in the courtyard wafted through the air, dissipating Han Jiao’s anger. Suddenly, he had another thought, so he halted and turned to his uncle. “It’s better to hold your savings in your own hands. In the past, because my father helped you with several business deals, you were deeply grateful to him. You’ve often shown excessive respect, making it seem like you’re a generation lower than him, which really did you an injustice.”
His uncle was taken aback by these words, his face filled with confusion. He couldn’t tell if this young man was being sarcastic or simply going through the motions. So, he forced a smile and said, “Your father was a fourth-rank official, showing him respect is only right, isn’t it? How could it be an injustice? Look at how you’re putting it. I couldn’t ask for anything better!”
“You’re being too kind,” Han Jiao replied with a flash of scholarly brilliance in his eyes. “In the future, our family can help you find opportunities, with you providing the funds. If we do business together and succeed, we split the profits equally. After all, we’re family, and since we’re in business together, there’s no need to distinguish between high and low ranks. It should be an equal and fair partnership. Do you think this sounds appropriate?”
His uncle’s smile froze on his face.
He never expected the Han family, typically poor scholars, to suddenly change their ways. Han Jiao was discussing profits with him without a hint of embarrassment!
Had this young man taken the wrong medicine?
His uncle was completely dumbfounded.
Half of the profits, so how much silver would he have to earn less? It felt like they were cutting into his flesh!
He wanted to refuse right there, but he knew he couldn’t show his displeasure.
To be honest, if another family wanted to find a fourth-rank official as their backer, just the money to pay their respects to that patron would eat up seventy percent of the profits. Master Han never took a single cent from them and had been assisting them for over a decade.
Because of this, his uncle was able to offer the lowest bid. If other businessmen offered such a price, even if they secured the deal, they would have to pay extra.
But now, Han Jiao was asking for a “management fee,” and he started with a fifty percent share!
“This… this… Of course, it’s not a problem. It’s just that our business doesn’t have much profit, and I’m afraid a person of noble character like yourself might not be interested!”
Han Jiao shook his head. “The amount of money is not the main issue. It’s about not making my uncle feel inferior.”
“I… I…” His uncle was quite willing to feel inferior if it meant getting back that half of the profits.
Han Jiao’s expression turned serious as he warned, “If you keep being so polite, our family won’t get involved in any business matters in the future.”
“No! No…” His uncle was almost in tears. “A person of noble character is right. We’ll share everything equally… equally…”
Han Jiao gave a satisfied, kindly smile.
In truth, this wasn’t about revenge for his uncle’s ingratitude but because Han Jiao really needed the money.
Before the trouble happened, he didn’t consider this issue a big deal. But after Master Han got into trouble, Han Jiao realized that he really needed money to save his life.
The salary levels of government officials in Great Chu were just appalling.
Han Jiao didn’t plan to rely on the filial piety offerings from high-ranking officials in the future. He needed to accumulate some wealth first to prepare for making money through underground business in the future.
Seated in the garden room, his uncle wore a forced smile on his face, but underneath that, he looked pale and a bit blue. He pretended to be calm as he discussed the idea of inviting officials from the Ministry of Works to dinner with Han Jiao.
Han Jiao appeared composed on the surface but had some doubts in his mind.
Despite earning the favor of Prince Yan, he was still an unimportant junior scholar-official. Junior scholar-officials had a fixed apprenticeship period after leaving Hanlin Academy, and only after that, they could seek a fast promotion by building connections.
In other words, the Ministry of Works might not necessarily do him a favor because the lower-ranking officials in the ministry were unaware of the murder case he had solved or how much he had helped Prince Yan.
His uncle, misinterpreting Han Jiao’s calm demeanor, assumed he had a plan in mind and got a bit carried away. He asked Han Jiao, “Now, Prince Yan’s favor to you is significant. That grand residence is right next to the royal mansion…”
Han Jiao smiled. “His Highness has only let me stay temporarily.”
His uncle was thrilled. “That’s still the highest honor! A’Jiao, in a couple of days, it’s the Eldest Prince’s birthday. The imperial family and various government officials will attend a banquet at the Eldest Prince’s residence. If it’s convenient for you, you can ask Prince Yan for an invitation, or join the banquet with Prince Yan. There will be many high-ranking officials in attendance that day…”
Han Jiao shook his head with a smile. “I’m just a junior scholar-official. It would be out of place for me to attend such an event.”
“Oh, you’re just like your father, too thin-skinned. In these gatherings, even a stray dog would want to get in!” His uncle spoke without thinking, “And… And Prince Duan will be there. Don’t blame your uncle for not reminding you. Now that you’ve gained the favor of Prince Yan, it’s best for you to show respect to Prince Duan. There are many hidden intrigues in this. Take your uncle’s advice, so no one undermines you in the future.”
Han Jiao was taken aback. “Prince Duan will be there?”
His uncle nodded. “Certainly, all the Princes will attend to show their respect to their eldest brother.”
Han Jiao lowered his head in thought, genuinely wanting to meet that unfortunate child, Xie Xiu.
At the same time, he also wanted to test the waters with the big boss and see if his words from that day had the meaning he suspected.
30+ chapters and still no romance arc ƪ(`▿▿▿▿´ƪ) how dare this author waste some people’s precious time (╯‵Ⱉ′)╯︵┻━┻