What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 61

Chapter 61

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

“Now?” Han Jiao’s task of comforting the refugees wasn’t finished yet. He worried that if he left, the official in charge of comforting the refugees would stop the distribution of porridge. Wouldn’t that leave the refugees disappointed once again?

The attendant replied loudly, “Now. The two Princes are waiting at the camp. Master Han, please come.”

“The refugees haven’t finished eating their food. They won’t cause trouble again for the time being,” Han Jiao thought for a moment and replied, “Please convey to the Princes: as long as the official in charge of comforting the refugees is kept in check and the soldiers don’t actively attack the hill, I’ll need an hour to complete my work before meeting them.”

Unexpectedly, this Hanlin Compiler dares to refuse the summons of the princes. The attendant said seriously, “The Princes has summoned Master to the military camp for discussions. This is a military order, there’s no room for refusal. Please accompany me immediately.”

Han Jiao had to ask him to wait for a moment. He hurriedly went to find the official in charge of comforting the refugees, with a stern expression, “Master Cheng, Prince Yan and Prince Ling are summoning me to the military camp for discussions. The task of distributing porridge next will have to be handed over to you. You could instruct the guards to transport the food, and the refugees could handle making porridge themselves. At the very least, you had to complete the first round of porridge distribution. I’d take over once I’m done.”

The official was in a difficult situation. “Master Han, as I’ve already mentioned, the food can’t be moved easily. You’re young, so you might not understand the intricacies of this matter. To be honest with you, if the families of rebelled refugees still get relief food and something goes wrong later, won’t the refugees think they can force the court to provide them with food by rebelling? Opening this door will lead to trouble. So, we must wait for the court’s arrangement. We need a suitable reason for comforting the refugees before distributing the food.”

“The reason for the recent refugee unrest is that the officials responsible for comforting them didn’t handle it well. This led to a lack of communication and trust between the refugees and the court, causing the chaos. To avoid future disturbances, we should establish strict procedures for comforting the refugees, preventing officials from being negligent. Instead of using tactics like withholding food and violence, we should find ways to encourage cooperation. Using force will only discourage future refugees from seeking help from the capital and might push them to turn to banditry in nearby regions, even persuading more common folks to join them. At that point, the cost in terms of military expenses and manpower for suppressing the bandits would be many times higher than dealing with these mere ninety thousand refugees.”

The official was left speechless by Han Jiao’s words but still tried to shift the blame, “Master Han, you’re a scholar of the prestigious Hanlin Academy, highly learned with a broad vision, while I am just a lowly seventh-ranking official. I know I should focus on my own responsibilities, and as for long-term planning…”

“I don’t have time to continue this argument!” Han Jiao couldn’t contain his anger and interrupted him. He switched from persuasion to threats, “I know you’ve been trying to avoid your duties regarding the refugees, thinking lightly of a junior scholar-official like me. But have you considered why I, a junior scholar-official with no rank just two days ago, was promoted so quickly after less than half a year in court? Do you really think I’m an easy target to mess with? Right now, in that military camp, the two Princes have summoned me for a discussion. Aren’t you afraid I’ll bring your evasion and neglect before them?”

The official’s face turned pale as he stammered, “Master Han, you’re an honorable and upright gentleman. I’m just following orders. You wouldn’t actually go to the Princes and complain, would you?”

“I’m seriously considering it,” Han Jiao said sternly. “If it takes playing a ‘villain’ to rid the court officials who sit idle, I’d rather be that ‘villain’ for the sake of the people.”

“You… You’ve gone too far!” The official finally lost his composure.

“Master Cheng, I only need you to instruct the guards to bring in the food. You can say that all of this was done at my command. No matter who takes the blame, I, Han Jiao, swear to bear it alone and not implicate you. But if I leave, and the porridge distribution halts, potentially causing another rebellion, I’m afraid even if I wanted to take responsibility for you, it wouldn’t be possible.”

The official’s eyes widened. After a moment, he nervously said, “So, we have an agreement. Everything is according to your instructions, and I’m not involved. Can you please write this down as a formal document?”

Han Jiao took a deep breath and replied loudly, “Bring pen, ink, paper, and inkstone.”


Down the hill at the military camp.

Inside a tent, the Censor responsible for triggering the rebellion, knelt on the ground. Prince Yan, still seething with anger, paced back and forth, too furious to speak.

The Master Inspector in charge of comforting the refugees, sweating profusely, finally spoke up when Prince Yan paused his steps. He suggested in a hushed voice, “Your Highness, the most pressing matter is to quell the rebellion as soon as possible. The court has sent relief food to this county multiple times for the sake of its people. These troublemakers not only show no gratitude but gather in rebellion. If this reaches the Emperor’s ears, it will grieve His Majesty!”

Prince Yan retorted angrily, pointing at the Master Inspector, “You can stop trying to shift the blame! If these rebels truly received relief food, would they still need to come to the capital for help? They’ve traveled a long distance to reach the capital, and who knows how many of their family members they’ve lost along the way. In the end, they only met the military’s forceful eviction. If it were you, would you be grateful?”

The Master Inspector hung his head in disarray.

The trembling Censor on the ground said, “The fact is, the refugees have rebelled. I’m willing to personally lead the Forbidden Army to attack the hill and suppress the rebels for Your Highness. Please allow me to share the burden.”

Prince Yan retorted, “Do you still want to personally lead the troops to kill these refugees? I don’t want to see another refugee’s corpse. Since you caused this trouble, it’s your responsibility to resolve it. You won’t be in charge of leading the troops. You’ll go up to the hill alone and apologize to those refugees, making them understand that the indiscriminate killing of refugees was not the court’s order. You’ll bear the blame on your own!”

The Censor on the ground trembled and pleaded, “Your Highness, if I go up alone, I’ll undoubtedly be seen as a spy. They won’t give me a chance to speak. They’ll just kill me on the spot!”

Prince Yan said coldly, “That’s precisely the point. You have no patience for the refugees, and they naturally won’t give you a chance. It’s only fair.”

“Your Highness! Your Highness!” The Censor pleaded with repeated knocks on the ground before Prince Yan.

“Old Sixth, don’t waste time with this scoundrel,” the Third Prince, seated at the central table in the military tent, urged, “Hurry, bring in the two generals and discuss tactics to minimize casualties among the refugees.”

Prince Yan heeded his Third Brother’s advice, gesturing for the two ineffective officials to leave. He sat down at the table, and as he lifted his head, he gazed anxiously at his elder brother, while the younger brother kept his head low.

Prince Yan let out a sigh, then turned to his attendant and instructed him to bring the two generals in.

The two elderly generals, who had been waiting outside the tent, entered with heads held high. They offered a respectful salute to the three princes, their physical strength and vitality still evident despite the passage of time.

These two generals had previously participated in campaigns against Wokou pirates. Although they had returned to the capital to retire due to their advanced age, their wealth of combat experience made them more than capable of dealing with several thousand refugees.

While waiting outside the tent, the two Generals had quietly discussed strategies against the rebels. They were now ready to share their insights when Prince Yan inquired.

Just as Prince Yan was about to invite the two generals to sit, someone lifted the tent flap and entered.

Han Jiao had arrived.

“Your Highness.” Prince Yan, not having seen him for several days, noted Han Jiao’s solemn expression and exchanged greetings with a respectful bow.

During that fleeting instant when their eyes locked, Prince Yan experienced a twinge of sorrow in his heart and detected the melancholy in Han Jiao’s eyes.

“Master, please proceed. With two Generals here, there won’t be any further issues.” Prince Yan gestured for Han Jiao to sit beside him.

The two elderly generals also took their seats. Upon Prince Yan’s inquiry, they each presented their respective strategies for the upcoming operation and awaited Prince Yan’s decision.

After hearing their plans, Han Jiao was nearly taken aback. Their strategies, compared to setting the hills on fire, only seemed to have the advantage of being more environmentally friendly. They were aiming to eliminate all thirty thousand refugees!

Prince Yan also frowned as he listened and gently advised, “These thirty thousand refugees aren’t rebels. The conflict yesterday resulted from the officials’ mishandling. Their actions don’t warrant death penalties. It’s best if we can capture and pacify them.”

The two elderly generals exchanged a glance upon hearing this, their expressions showing clear discontent.

One of the elderly generals diplomatically argued, “Your Highness, the battlefield is unpredictable. Even with a significant advantage in troop numbers, we cannot be complacent. Moreover, these refugees hold a geographical advantage. If, during your military order, you request to spare lives, it may lead to breaches in our defenses, potentially causing heavy casualties among our troops.”

The other elderly general was more straightforward, “On the battlefield, there’s only a distinction between friend and foe. If we treat these rebel refugees as innocent civilians, then we shouldn’t be sending troops to surround them. Now, the lines between us and them are clear. If we show mercy to the enemy, we risk following the example of Duke Xiang of Song, who refused to attack halfway, putting the army in a dangerous situation. If we intend to fight, we should leave no room for doubt. Otherwise, we might as well withdraw our troops and let the rebels escape.”

Prince Yan was taken aback by the unreserved criticism from the two Generals. Still, he couldn’t afford to get angry, considering that he had specifically invited these two experienced generals to help. As a military leader, he aimed for an operation with no room for error or fault.

Han Jiao couldn’t hold back any longer, extending his leg to nudge the big boss’ foot, using his toes to signal that a certain “military genius” should contribute to the discussion.

However, the big boss simply retracted his long legs, avoiding Han Jiao’s toe-reaching “attack range.”

Han Jiao was getting anxious.

Why is this salted fish silent at such a crucial moment? Speak up!

Seeing Sixth Brother being scolded by the two stubborn old generals, Xie Duo felt uneasy and didn’t dare to risk embarrassment in front of the two headstrong elders.

To urge the big boss to shine in this situation, Han Jiao gathered his courage and abruptly asked, “Do any of the Princes have other proposals?”

Xie Duo, observing that the little child prodigy was almost frantic, took a deep breath and pointed at the map in the center of the table. He sternly suggested, “I think we could dig a trench at this location…”

“Don’t interrupt,” the Third Prince quickly whispered to halt his younger brother, and then praised the two elderly generals’ viewpoints. He delicately inquired if there was a possibility of combining pacification and encirclement, minimizing direct confrontations, and outflanking for negotiation later.

One of the old generals replied, “Our strategies are also aimed at early intimidation to make the refugees abandon resistance. If we initially use a gentler encirclement plan, the refugees might not fear us and could persist stubbornly.”

Prince Yan furrowed his brow and pondered, then asked quietly, “In such a case, approximately how many refugees might be injured or killed to stabilize the situation?”

After contemplating for a moment, the old general answered, “I can’t give a precise guarantee. If you want to minimize casualties, you’d have to make the Forbidden Army hold out for a few more days until the refugees run out of food. Their morale will naturally weaken.”

“The General’s point is reasonable,” Xie Duo gathered his courage and spoke again, pointing at the location on the map he mentioned earlier. He continued to present his perspective, “During these two days of waiting, our troops could dig a trench extending about a mile from here…”

Prince Yan quickly coughed twice, lowered his eyes, and used a stern look to signal his younger brother not to give orders recklessly. He was afraid his younger brother might make a fool of himself in front of the old generals.

“Your Highness, are you suggesting we dig a river channel?” Han Jiao, no longer concerned about the reactions of those around him, boldly continued, playing the role of an ignorant observer and looked at the big boss in surprise. “What’s the purpose of doing this?”

The two old generals exchanged a glance and, seeing that Han Jiao was just a young fellow, chose not to make an issue of it. Instead, they willingly prompted the Ninth Prince to finish explaining.

These two generals had earned significant military achievements for the court. Afterwards, they would point out the Ninth Prince’s mistake straightforwardly, without it being seen as an offense.

It was crucial for the young prince to understand that military matters weren’t something for outsiders to casually comment on.

If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

Leave a comment