What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 63

Chapter 63

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Han Jiao was in a race against time as he worked to rescue the refugees. He didn’t have much leisure to think. Now that the refugees had been sent to the new county in batches and granted citizenship, Han Jiao became anxious.

Despite earning widespread praise for his selfless acts in saving people from fire and water, Han Jiao earned Senior Minister Xu’s strong displeasure.

In ancient times, there was no media for spreading news, but common folks could transmit information through word of mouth. Over the past month, the capital city had been abuzz, and even the storytellers were narrating Han Jiao’s heroic deeds in confronting corrupt officials.

The court couldn’t withstand the public opinion pressure from the city’s residents. The Master Inspector responsible for comforting the people had already been removed from office, awaiting further action from the court.

As for the Censor who caused trouble by indiscriminately killing refugees, he had been thrown into the Ministry of Justice’s dungeons. The court had drafted charges, waiting only for the Emperor’s approval. The outcome was either flogging and exile or autumn execution.

Even the minor official in the refugee camp who hesitated to distribute porridge and waited for instructions from higher authorities had been suspended from duty pending investigation.

The officials responsible for comforting the people were all handpicked by Senior Minister Xu, including Han Jiao, who held the position of Supervisor. Nonetheless, Han Jiao’s role lacked substantial authority, so any achievements could not be attributed to Senior Minister Xu. On the contrary, the group of officials who faced exposure ended up damaging Senior Minister Xu’s reputation.

Han Jiao suspected that his path to seeking refuge with Prince Yan was permanently cut off by Senior Minister Xu. His future career prospects were likely at an end. To achieve his ambitions, he could only outlive Senior Minister Xu.

From storytellers in various teahouses and inn across the capital, Mrs. Han learned about her son’s thrilling confrontations with high-ranking officials.

The situation was already quite perilous, but after the professional embellishment by the storytellers, Mrs. Han’s heart raced so hard that she nearly fainted.

Upon returning home, Mrs. Han scolded her son thoroughly, not forgetting to include Master Han in the reprimand. She said her son had become foolish under his influence, caring only for the well-being of the common people and neglecting his own life and fortune.

Master Han immediately countered, “How is A’Jiao anything like me? If it were me, I’d have just rushed in and fought those officials desperately on the spot, to no avail. But A’Jiao managed to save all those more than ninety thousand refugees. It’s a truly monumental achievement that will be recorded in history and bring honor to our ancestors!”

Mrs. Han didn’t care much about bringing honor to the ancestors and continued scolding her son for the entire morning.

The next day, Han Jiao had to go to the new county to oversee the tedious task of registering the refugees’ land distribution. He began packing his things around noon, but in the late afternoon, a messenger from the palace arrived and informed Han Jiao that he was required to attend the morning court session the following day.

This frightened his parents. Han Jiao’s rank was not high enough to attend the morning court, so it was certain that the Emperor personally summoned him.

Just yesterday, the court had just submitted the report on the refugee incident to the Emperor. Master Han worried whether Senior Minister Xu had manipulated the report to harm Han Jiao.

“If His Majesty questions you, just say that everything you did was under your father’s pressure.” Master Han wanted to take the blame for his son.

Han Jiao, however, remained calm and said, “I was initially worried that Senior Minister Xu might undermine me, but now that the Emperor has summoned me personally, I no longer need to be concerned.”

Master Han asked him why.

“I was initially worried that the Emperor might not mention the refugee issue and would wait for the situation to settle. If that were the case, it would mean the Emperor was entrusting Senior Minister Xu with handling the implicated officials. However, now that the Emperor has summoned me to the court, it’s evident that he intends to personally confront this matter. That means he won’t make things difficult for me because what I did is what the people want. The Emperor won’t openly oppose the common folk.”

Master Han gazed at his son with a hint of admiration. “You’ve been in the court for less than half a year, yet your understanding of court matters is so clear?”

Han Jiao lowered his head and smiled, “Father, you’re too kind.”

To express gratitude, Han Jiao had to thank the big boss because it was the big boss who opened the door to a new world for him, helping him understand how to gauge the thoughts of higher-ups from the right perspective.

But compared to Senior Minister Xu and Senior Minister Li, he was still quite inexperienced.

The following day, Han Jiao, accompanied by his father, waited outside the palace gates even before sunrise.

At the break of dawn, the palace gates swung open. Civil and military officials, accompanied by the Longyin Guards, gathered outside the Huangji Hall. They arranged themselves into two distinct rows, separating into civil and military divisions.

Han Jiao was ushered to a corner by a eunuch, awaiting an audience with the Emperor.

Court sessions were usually held outdoors, as Master Han had informed him. Only on certain holidays and special occasions would the Emperor conduct court sessions inside the hall. Han Jiao hadn’t expected so many participants.

Besides civil and military officials, there were ceremonial guards stationed around. In front of the hall, there was the dragon throne, and even what could be considered a “band.” When the Emperor arrived, there was actual background music. Quite a surprise!

Filled with curiosity, Han Jiao secretly observed the grand entrance of the Emperor.

He knelt with the other officials and, upon rising, the formal morning court began.

Due to the vast space, Han Jiao’s position made it impossible for him to hear what the Emperor and the assembled ministers in front were discussing.

After standing for about three-quarters of an hour, he suddenly heard eunuchs in front calling out one after another, “Announcing Han Jiao, Hanlin Junior Historiography Compiler, to come forward!”

At this moment, Han Jiao felt as if he were about to give a speech at a flag-raising ceremony. Even though he knew there was no danger, he couldn’t help but feel excited and nervous. He jogged his way to the front and wasn’t sure where to stop. Fortunately, a eunuch reminded him to stand in the appropriate place.

The Emperor, with a stern expression, spoke, “Han Jiao, I appreciate your strategies. A few days ago, the court was directed to consider promoting you. Senior Minister Xu intended for you to gain experience in practical matters through your involvement in this refugee issue. However, you took the lead and removed all five appointed officials from the Censorate. You certainly have a bold spirit.”

The Emperor’s voice, not particularly loud, was like thunder striking directly overhead. Just like their first meeting in the study, it made Han Jiao’s hands and feet go cold in an instant!

He nodded, wanting to explain, but he didn’t know where to start.

Seeing the bewildered Han Jiao, the Emperor surprisingly smiled. His stern tone suddenly became warm, “You, a seventh-rank Compiler, dared to stand up to third-rank high-ranking officials for the sake of tens of thousands of people. If there were more officials like you in the court, there would be no worry about the people’s well-being or uprisings in disaster-stricken areas.”

Han Jiao: “……”

Do you have this hobby of scaring people just like the big boss?

Oh, wait, maybe it’s the other way around, the big boss might have learned it from you.

“I’ve heard that the common folk in the new county call you ‘Righteous Master Han’?” The Emperor smiled as he looked at Han Jiao.

Han Jiao nodded and replied, “The people are too kind, I dare not accept such a title.”

“You saved their lives, how can you not accept it? Not only can you accept it, but you must embrace it fully.”

After saying that, the Emperor signaled to a eunuch, who immediately announced a decree, appointing Han Jiao as the Inspector General of the newly established county. He was given full authority and responsibility for implementing the pacification efforts in the county.

Han Jiao was taken aback.

The eunuch hurriedly reminded him, “Master Han, accept the decree with gratitude.”

Han Jiao then came to his senses, dazedly accepting this high-ranking position typically held by a third-rank court official.

The Emperor continued, “Starting today, you can work with the court to review and judge officials responsible for the refugee issue. If you encounter any obstacles, I grant you the authority to report directly to me. We can’t afford any more mishaps in the new county’s relief efforts. It would hurt the people’s hearts. We must act swiftly, Han Jiao, can you do it?”

“This humble subject will never let down Your Majesty’s grace!”

“Very well, I trust you. Are there any other difficulties in the relief efforts at the moment?”

“With Your Majesty’s gracious inquiry, I dare to request funds from the Ministry of Revenue to purchase building materials for the thirty thousand households in the new county. Winter is approaching, and if we let the people spend it in makeshift huts, the elderly and children may not survive.”

The Emperor raised an eyebrow and smiled. “You, Righteous Master Han, are indeed quite bold. You’ve just gained power, and the first thing you do is reach out to me for funds.”

Han Jiao nodded, admitting his audacity. But he still needed the funds, and this was the perfect opportunity.

The Emperor sighed and turned to the Minister of Revenue, “Huang Yao, take a look. This new county is just starting, and the people do need shelter. Can we allocate funds for them to build houses?”

The Minister of Revenue looked visibly irritated.

These refugees had already reached out to the Ministry of Revenue several times. Was this ever going to end?

Holding his tally stick, he stepped forward to object, “Reporting to Your Majesty, in the past, when refugees were sent back to their original homes or resettled in neighboring regions, it only required one year’s relief funds. This group of refugees, after being included in the new county, will receive relief grain for two years and exempted them from one year of taxes. As for the construction costs, the Ministry of Revenue has no precedent for allocating funds. In my opinion, the Ministry can provide a loan, but setting a precedent for funds allocation isn’t advisable.”

Standing side by side, Han Jiao could already feel the fiery temper of the Great Chu’s Minister of Revenue beside him.

It seemed that he might not get this money. Han Jiao tactfully accepted the Minister of Revenue’s proposal, “I second Minister Huang’s suggestion. We can allow the people of the new county to borrow from the Ministry of Revenue. However, regarding repayment terms and interest, I kindly request Minister Huang’s flexibility.”

The Emperor looked at the Minister of Revenue’s begrudging expression and Han Jiao’s hopeful negotiations. After a pause, he asked in a solemn tone, “How much silver do you need in total?”

Han Jiao had already calculated this issue in advance. Since the new county was considered a large royal estate, land costs were free, and labor was provided for free. The local residents would build their own houses, and they only needed assistance with construction materials.

In a place like the new county, where there were no nearby towns or stores, even buying a house would cost only three to five taels of silver. After accounting for labor, the costs were extremely low. Even the timber could be sourced directly from the nearby forests. The critical need was materials for making bricks.

The approximate cost for bricks and tiles for thirty thousand households amounted to eight thousand taels of silver, but Han Jiao reported it as ten thousand taels to allow some room for negotiation with the Minister of Revenue.

This quoted price brightened the Emperor’s eyes. He hadn’t expected that building houses for the common people would be so much cheaper than constructing his own palaces and gardens.

Ten thousand taels of silver would be recouped with a single year’s tax collection from the thirty thousand households.

The Emperor waved his hand generously and declared, “I’ll allocate the silver from the Imperial Treasury for the people. No need for them to repay.”

Han Jiao was surprised by the Emperor’s generosity.

“Are there any other challenges?” the Emperor asked Han Jiao.

Han Jiao quickly replied that there were none.

“Very well,” the Emperor smiled, “I’ve helped you resolve all your challenges. Now, you must help me with one.”

Han Jiao waited, puzzled, for the instructions.

The Emperor said sternly, “I’m promoting you to the position of Hanlin Expositor-in-waiting and appoint you as Prince Ling’s advisor .”

Han Jiao looked up at the Emperor in surprise.

He was being asked to become a private tutor for the big boss!

It seemed like this old Emperor was practically forcing him to join his own son’s household!

The Emperor curled his lips and locked his profound dragon-like eyes onto Han Jiao. “You better tutor Old Ninth diligently. Don’t allow him to get too engrossed in cuju. If his essays are not up to par within a year, I may have to claim ten thousand taels of silver from you.”

Han Jiao: “……”

Forbidding the big boss from playing cuju, was the Emperor trying to make him and the big boss bitter enemies?

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