After seeing off his uncle and aunt, Han Jiao asked his mother if she had reconciled with her younger sister.
Mrs. Han took a deep breath before answering, “I told her that, as the elder sister, I practically raised her like a mother, and despite the way she treated me, I want to forgive her. But some things have happened, and we can’t go back. It’s best for both our families to keep their distance from now on.”
“We’ve been in contact for so many years. A short break won’t make much difference,” Han Jiao shared his thoughts, “Mother, since we have maids and servants at home, you often say that idleness is boring. Are you thinking of starting a business to pass the time?”
Mrs. Han was puzzled. “You want Mother to start a business? To join your uncle and aunt? I’m not cut out for that!”
“Of course not,” Han Jiao explained, “I’ll handle all the preparations for you. You only need to arrange for someone to meet when discussing the business.”
Mrs. Han frowned. “You want Mother to become a merchant? Wouldn’t that risk our modest savings? I know nothing about timber, and your uncle has been in the business for over ten years and still occasionally makes mistakes. How could I…”
“It’s not timber business.”
“Then what is it?”
“Have you seen those big materials used to make glass decorations? I plan to create something similar to glass.”
Mrs. Han looked bewildered. For the first time, she doubted her son’s reliability.
She thought to herself, “He’s an educated man. Dabbling in business will likely end in disappointment.” Mrs. Han gently advised, “Those materials are brought in from other provinces, and generations of people from those regions have made a living from it. How can we compete?”
“It’s similar in appearance to their products but fundamentally different. Their materials are mainly used for decoration, while I want to create something that can be used as tools, durable, not like their glass that shatters with hot water. It can be used for tableware, tea sets, and even as a substitute for window paper.”
Even after explaining, Mrs. Han couldn’t fully grasp it. Han Jiao had to summarize the differences between the two.
Although he had been busy lately, Han Jiao had been attentive to the technological differences between this era and his own. He found a potentially profitable opportunity in an area he understood – glass manufacturing.
Glass production had been on his mind for a while. The most challenging part was acquiring a large amount of soda ash, which meant he had to go to alkaline lakes.
Salt production in ancient times was controlled by the state as a monopoly, making it necessary to establish connections to access the by-products. Therefore, he had to accumulate some capital before proceeding.
Mrs. Han still had doubts. “Why do you think your materials won’t break when exposed to hot water?”
“Well, when the finished product is ready, you’ll see for yourself.”
Not holding much faith in her son’s abilities in this area, Mrs. Han reluctantly asked, “How much money do you need as capital?”
Han Jiao raised an eyebrow. “Don’t worry, Mother. I’ve already made a deal with Uncle. I’ll help him secure some additional business from the Ministry of Works, and we’ll split the profits. It’ll be enough for the capital.”
Mrs. Han stood up in shock. “I won’t allow you to get involved in those dealings! If Prince Yan finds out…”
“Don’t jump to conclusions. Doing business with the Ministry of Works requires having connections with the government. It’s a well-established practice. It doesn’t break any laws. Besides, real high-ranking officials don’t pay much attention to these small businesses. Our competitors are just minor fifth or sixth-grade officials. The Ministry of Works chooses based on the bids, and even if we earn a bit less, we can secure a deal. Once we have enough capital, we’ll part ways with Uncle, as you suggested, and cut ties with his family. Let him do business honestly with the common people.”
“Is your uncle the type to accept losses willingly? Can you really just cut ties with him like that?”
“You can rest assured, Mother. When the time comes, I’ll find a way to make him willingly step back, and he’ll be grateful to me.”
Although she still had doubts, considering that her son had managed to handle things with Prince Yan and that government case, perhaps he did have the confidence now. Mrs. Han said, “Then you need to create a heat-resistant utensil for people to see before I believe you.”
Han Jiao gave a thumbs-up. “No problem.”
Since Han Jiao had come up with a remarkable account, Prince Yan would send messengers to invite him for evening conversations at the royal mansion almost daily.
This situation caused Han Jiao a great deal of distress.
It was because, in ancient times, scholars and literati were particularly fond of playing chess.
Not just any chess, but the kind that baffles novices – weiqi!
Being a complete novice at weiqi, Han Jiao had to prepare a thousand excuses in advance every time he sat down with Prince Yan to avoid playing.
Fortunately, after being turned down seven times, Prince Yan finally seemed to grasp that Master Han didn’t really enjoy playing chess. He hadn’t brought it up in the last couple of days.
However, this was very peculiar to Prince Yan and would seem strange to people of this era.
Strategizing while playing chess, to them, was like the inseparable combination of a double-layered burger and a soda for a couch potato. Where could you find a genius who didn’t enjoy playing chess?
So, in the past couple of days, Prince Yan’s admiration for Han Jiao had turned into some bewilderment.
“Gulp,” Han Jiao took a sip from his tea cup, tactically avoiding Prince Yan’s gaze and calmly changed the topic. “I’ve heard that tomorrow is Your Highness’ eldest brother’s birthday.”
“You are truly well-informed. Indeed, tomorrow is my Eldest Brother’s birthday, so we won’t be able to enjoy our evening conversations.”
Han Jiao asked with a serious tone, “I wonder if all the Imperial Princes are as close to Your Highness as the Ninth Prince?”
Prince Yan hesitated, looked at Han Jiao, thought for a moment, and replied, “Well… it’s not easy to explain in a few words. My Ninth Brother is still young, and aside from being playful, he doesn’t have other concerns. The older brothers, though… they definitely have more worries.”
Han Jiao gave Prince Yan a puzzled look, indicating he wanted a clearer explanation.
Since he was treating Han Jiao as an adviser, it was only appropriate for Han Jiao to take the initiative to express his readiness to assist the Prince in his concerns, without overstepping his role.
Seeing Han Jiao’s curiosity, Prince Yan lowered his gaze, contemplated for a moment, and then said, “How about this, Master Han, would you like to accompany me to my Eldest Brother’s house tomorrow for a meal? You might understand the differences better if you experience it firsthand.”
Han Jiao had been waiting for this response. “Your Highness is too kind, but I hold a humble position…”
“It’s not a grand banquet, just a family gathering of my brothers. You needn’t worry.”
So, the following afternoon, Han Jiao accompanied Prince Yan to the residence of the eldest son of the Emperor, Xie Zhao.
Upon entering the inner courtyard, it was clear that this birthday party was a modest outdoor gathering.
Low tables were set up in the garden next to a lotus pond, surrounding a temporary stage in the center.
On the stage, a songstress with a pipa was adjusting the strings, and in a distant corner of the courtyard, there were various props that a theater troupe would use.
“Ah! Old Sixth?” a tall man suddenly strode over, wrapping his arms around Prince Yan and the person beside him, Han Jiao. He laughed heartily and said, “Why are you the first one here today? Have you caught a whiff of the ladies’ fragrance?”
Prince Yan’s expression changed, glancing at Master Han by his side. He quickly turned to his older brother, gesturing for him to be more dignified.
Because this was a private gathering, Han Jiao wasn’t wearing his official attire. He was dressed in a simple dark-colored long robe, making him look like an ordinary commoner. With his youthful appearance, Xie Zhao mistook him for Prince Yan’s attendant. He continued to jest, “Big Brother brought some renowned lean horses for all of you. I’m sure this young one will enjoy them!”
Prince Yan, keeping an eye on Master Han’s expression, blushed slightly and pushed his older brother away. He began to act seriously, “What lean horses? Let’s just enjoy the wine today. My household isn’t lacking good horses.”
Xie Zhao was taken aback, not expecting his younger brother to be so innocent. He hastily explained, “They’re not horses! They’re from Yangzhou…”
“Bah!” Prince Yan roared, interrupting his older brother’s explanation, and said solemnly, “We’re here to drink, don’t bring up anything else! Today, we’re only here to enjoy wine and a play!”
The Eldest Prince Xie Zhao was utterly bewildered by his righteous Sixth Brother.
Han Jiao, who was on the side, remained expressionless.
After all, Han Jiao had read an entire novel with millions of words, where he was the male lead of a typical harem story. No need to pretend to be virtuous and upright now. Be it lean horses or plump horses, Han Jiao was mentally prepared.
However, Prince Yan wasn’t aware that his secret had been exposed to Master Han. He practically pushed his older brother away, and then, with graceful style, invited Han Jiao to take a seat.
Han Jiao had to play along, pretending he didn’t understand anything. Following Prince Yan’s guidance, he gracefully knelt on the cushion beside a low table.
Everything seemed perfect until several other princes began to enter the garden one by one.
At that moment, Han Jiao instinctively counted the seating arrangements around the stage.
There were a total of ten…
Just enough for the ten Imperial Princes.
Did Prince Yan have a bit too much confidence?
Han Jiao maintained his composure and stood up. He cleared his throat and beckoned a passing eunuch to ask, “Pardon, are there any other low tables? We have an additional guest today.”
“Oh?” The eunuch appeared flustered. “His Highness didn’t give any prior instructions. Please wait a moment.”
Soon, the eunuch led two servants to bring another low table.
As the princes hadn’t all arrived yet, the eunuch wasn’t certain if they needed to add more seating immediately. So, for the time being, the servants placed the table in a corner of the courtyard. Depending on the situation once everyone was present, they would decide. After all, it would be considered a mistake on the eunuch’s part if they added an extra seat without the Prince’s explicit order.
Several of the princes who had already arrived were chatting with Prince Yan by the lotus pond. Han Jiao didn’t want to disturb them. After some consideration, he quietly went and moved the low table from the corner by himself.
Although this low table was only about half a meter in height, it was over two meters in length and made from solid wood, exceptionally heavy. It would take at least two people to lift it.
Han Jiao clenched his teeth, moving it a few steps with great effort. He felt like his back was about to give in. As he reached the final stretch, he circled around to stand in front of the low table and pushed it backward.
The low table had a very slick finish, and there were no points around the tabletop where he could get a grip with his fingers. Han Jiao’s fingertips slipped, and he was suddenly forced to take several steps back. He couldn’t even steady himself until his back bumped into an obstacle.
Luckily, he didn’t fall. Han Jiao let out a sigh of relief. Leaning against the “obstacle” behind him, he shook his aching arm.
“Did you hurt yourself?”
From very close by, the voice of the big boss sounded dangerously soft.
Han Jiao’s moving arm suddenly froze. He had a bad feeling as his back leaned against the “obstacle.”
The “obstacle” felt a lot like the lean chest of a young man.
“Do you need this Prince to carry you inside for a rest?” The big boss’ voice grew even more intense.
Han Jiao quickly stood up straight and turned around. He looked up to see Xie Duo’s extraordinarily handsome face, with those light, chilly eyes fixed on him!
“Your Highness?” Han Jiao was momentarily at a loss for how to apologize.
Xie Duo let out a soft hum and whispered, “Master Han has truly impressed me by finding my location even with your back turned.”
Han Jiao: “……”
The big boss was now wearing an expression of cold indifference that clearly said, “Do you think that bumping into me from a distance will make me forgive you? Don’t dream.”
Unfair! So unjust!
Han Jiao quickly pointed to a nearby low table and explained, “There was one seat missing here. I was trying to move that low table over, but it’s just too heavy, and I accidentally collided with Your Highness!”
Xie Duo cast a sidelong glance at the little child prodigy, then took a long step towards the low table. He bent down and effortlessly lifted the low table with one hand!
Like it was a small stool, Xie Duo strolled back, easily placing the low table between the seats. He turned his head to taunt the child prodigy, “Too heavy?”
Han Jiao: “……”
You can’t measure weight with your freakish superhuman strength, aaaaaaaaargh!!!
I really didn’t mean to bump into you!
I didn’t transmigrate in a domineering CEO novel! These scenes don’t happen in reality!
Boss, could you please stop overthinking!
However, judging by the big boss’ smug expression, Han Jiao was afraid he couldn’t explain things clearly.
He had no choice but to swallow his pride and walk forward. With a lot of effort, he pushed the low table to a spot beside Prince Yan’s seat, making sure they were arranged side by side to avoid encroaching on the other Princes’ territory.
Yet, just as Han Jiao managed to set up the table with great effort, he saw the boss looking somewhat disdainful, unable to conceal a trace of satisfaction… as he took a seat at Prince Yan’s place!
Han Jiao: “……”
Heck, the boss probably thought that Han Jiao went through all this trouble to sit next to him, just like the first time they met in the study.
He was done for! Why did fate want him to confront the big boss?
That incredibly good-looking small fair face was definitely not meant to be slapped! This would lead to a deadly situation!
How could he explain this?
Han Jiao stood beside the boss, at a loss for words, still trying to figure out a way out of this predicament, when he suddenly noticed someone approaching.
He turned his head and saw Prince Yan walking briskly toward his seat.
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