What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 64

Chapter 64

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In just a few days, Han Jiao, an unknown junior scholar-official, was promoted unusually to the rank of a seventh-grade Compiler, and now he had become a sixth-grade Expositor-in-waiting.

Typically, it took five to nine years for a regular scholar to progress through these two steps.

Once he held an official position as a lecturer at the Hanlin Academy, it was possible for him to concurrently hold positions in the Ministry of Rites and the Imperial Academy, both of which were shortcuts to enter the core of the court.

This rapid promotion pace made Han Jiao feel like the Emperor was determined to employ him.

After the court session, Han Jiao and the lower-ranking officials stand on both sides, waiting for the high-ranking officials of the Six Ministries to exit before following closely.

The officials gradually dispersed in the palace alley. Han Jiao hurried and caught up with the Minister of Revenue. “On behalf of the ninety thousand people in the new county, this inferior official expressed our gratitude to the Master Minister.”

Huang Yao, upon hearing this, paused for a moment, then also extended his courtesy to Han Jiao, “For the people’s affairs, Master Han has been tirelessly involved. This Minister does not dare to claim credit.”

Han Jiao earnestly said, “After the relief grains were taken by thirty thousand refugees, the Ministry of Revenue quietly allocated another batch of grains the very next day. Without this life-saving supply, at least thousands of those sixty thousand refugees at the camp would have starved to death. How can we overlook the effort behind it by the Master Minister?”

Han Jiao was certain that the second batch of grains couldn’t have been ordered by Senior Minister Xu. When the court was busy suppressing the thirty thousand rebels, no one had the time to worry about the fate of the remaining refugees.

Allocating the second batch of grains so efficiently must have been a direct order from the head of the Ministry of Revenue, bypassing the court’s instructions.

It was for this reason that when the Minister of Revenue declined to allocate funds for building houses, Han Jiao readily accepted his proposal.

Hearing this, Huang Yao took a deep breath and sighed, “Now that the refugees have settled, let’s keep these matters from becoming public.”

“I understand. I only wanted to express gratitude on behalf of the people to the Master Minister.”

Huang Yao shook his head. “I can’t accept this gratitude. After the first batch of relief grains was looted, Senior Minister Li personally came to my office and urgently requested the allocation of the second batch of grains for the remaining refugees. The Elder said it was a temporary directive from the court without the Emperor’s approval. I understand that those refugees couldn’t wait, so I reluctantly followed the order. If you want to thank someone on behalf of the refugees, go thank Senior Minister Li.”

Han Jiao was surprised, not expecting that the second batch of grains had been allocated privately by Senior Minister Li.

Regaining his composure, Han Jiao clasped his hands and said, “If it weren’t for the urgent need to save lives, you wouldn’t have ‘reluctantly’ accepted the order. Please accept this gratitude.”

Huang Yao nodded and smiled at Han Jiao. “A young talent with limitless potential.”

Outside the palace gates, Han Jiao found his father waiting for him, preparing to ride home on a donkey. His gaze happened to meet Senior Minister Li, who was speaking with officials near the western side of the palace gate.

Senior Minister Li’s gaze lingered on Han Jiao’s face, still carrying that aura of a strategist and a wise advisor.

Han Jiao looked grateful and respectfully bowed in Senior Minister Li’s direction.

Though they exchanged no words, it seemed Senior Minister Li understood the meaning behind Han Jiao’s bow. He gave a subtle nod and a smile, as if silently responding with, “A pleasant cooperation.”


In the following two weeks, the fields in the new county were divided. Han Jiao began organizing the people to cut wood and transport bricks.

As the Inspector General, Han Jiao could directly coordinate low-ranking officials and servants in the Six Ministries. So, the village locations and house structures in the new county were personally designed by the renowned “Imperial Architect” from the Ministry of Works. This saved building materials and made the houses both beautiful and practical.

The people, after busy days of cutting wood, making bricks, and tending to the fields, still had rosy faces and didn’t seem tired. They gathered around “Righteous Master Han” daily, chatting for a while before returning to their huts to rest.

Han Jiao was delighted to share in the joy with the common folk. He had set up a temporary hut to stay in the new county and hadn’t returned to the capital for several days.

The newly established mountain village had its fair share of wild animals. At night, there were clusters of campfires outside the huts.

Men took turns standing guard to prevent attacks from fierce tigers, jackals, and wolves.

After nightfall, Han Jiao sat by the campfire beneath the starry sky and told the children in the village his own adapted fairy tales.

In his stories, the knight was replaced with a prince, sparking the curiosity of the children.

“Is that Prince who rescued the Princess and summoned the River Deity to protect our fathers the Ninth Prince?” asked a child with hopeful eyes.

The refugees hadn’t seen any other benefactor to this day. The Ninth Prince only existed in the stories they told, and after all the retelling, they almost turned him into a legend.

A seven or eight-year-old boy eagerly replied, “That Prince who saved the Princess couldn’t even defeat wild animals, but the Ninth Prince isn’t afraid of the mountain beasts. He can call upon the Mountain Deity to seal the beasts in the mountains!”

Han Jiao, listening in bewilderment, asked the kids, “The Ninth Prince can summon the Mountain Deity?”

“Yes!” the boys exclaimed, excitedly jumping up and vividly describing the situation.

The children explained that when the refugees were trapped on the mountain, soldiers were approaching from the northwest. The Ninth Prince summoned the Mountain Deity to block the soldiers’ path with large rocks. So, the refugees fled down the mountain from the southeast. They encountered soldiers coming from the opposite direction, and the Ninth Prince summoned the River Deity to stop the soldiers with a flood, saving everyone.

Han Jiao couldn’t help but laugh and snort. No wonder some ancient folk legends were both absurd and had some logic to them. It turned out that the way folktales were adapted had some connection to the actual events, at least in terms of the sequence of events.

The Ninth Prince as the children imagined must have been a reassuringly strong figure for them. Even the artillery fire driving away the refugees wasn’t part of the story. The way he blocked their path turned out to be unexpectedly gentle.

As he rested inside the tent, Han Jiao couldn’t shake the image of the big boss looking nervous and flustered that day.

The future War God of Great Chu who would strike fear into the hearts of invaders in the northwest was strangely rendered powerless by Han Jiao’s teary eyes.

“Your eyes have turned red.” 

This subtly reminder echoed in Han Jiao’s mind, and he belatedly smiled.

Even in comforting people, the big boss only seemed to know how to intimidate. He really had no concept of gentleness.

However, the people he protected imagined him as such a gentle person. It was truly a “beautiful misunderstanding.”

Smiling, Han Jiao realized he hadn’t reported to Hanlin Academy for about seven or eight days.

As the newly appointed private tutor for big boss, he shouldn’t have been absent for this long.

It was time to return to the capital tomorrow.

The next day, after handing over his work for the people, it was already noon. Mounting his donkey, Han Jiao saw a group of soldiers clearing the way, leading a convoy of carriages and horses toward the village.

The princes had brought supplies collected from the capital and had come to personally comfort the people in the new county.

Han Jiao spotted Prince Yan on horseback at a glance. He heard the eunuch’s report that the Third Prince, Eighth Prince, and Ninth Prince were also present, probably riding in carriages.

Upon learning that the princes had personally delivered supplies, the people of the new county, touched beyond words, left their farm work and rushed to the village entrance. They warmly surrounded the royal guests, turning cheers of gratitude into choked sobs and heartfelt cries.

Prince Yan dismounted and personally helped an elderly villager to his feet, encouraging the rest of the people to stand as well.

Some children dashed through the crowd, encircling Prince Yan, joyfully shouting, “Ninth Prince, long live, long live!”

Han Jiao, upon hearing this, almost lunged to give them a piece of his mind!

Thankfully, Prince Yan was gracious, and he smiled, lowering his head to tell the children, “I’m the sixth in line. The Ninth Prince you’re looking for is…”

Prince Yan turned his head, pointing to the rear of his own steed, only to find that his ninth brother’s mount was empty.

“Where is he?”

Not far away, Han Jiao, too, eagerly looked in the direction Prince Yan indicated but couldn’t spot the big boss. He sighed in disappointment, muttering, “Where did he run off to? What a… “

Before he could finish his sentence, Han Jiao suddenly felt an arm hook around his neck, and he was hauled away from the crowd without any warning!

“Hey! Hey, what are you doing? You…” Han Jiao struggled and looked at the assailant who had attacked him!

The familiar, handsome profile of that face made Han Jiao instantly silent. He obediently allowed himself to be led away from the crowd, still encircled by that arm.

“Do you want to get into trouble, Han Xiaobai?”

After stopping under a large tree, Han Jiao was pressed against the trunk by the big boss with one hand.

Han Jiao didn’t understand why the big boss was so furious. He hadn’t actually said those “stinky little brother” words out loud!

Han Jiao politely replied, “This humble subject only wishes to return to the capital to visit Your Highness as soon as possible.”

Xie Duo squinted his eyes and menacingly asked, “You want to hurry back to the capital?”

Feeling something off, Han Jiao asked in confusion, “Your Highness, don’t you want me to return to the capital?”

Xie Duo, with an air of fury, spoke in a low voice, “You want me to write five policy essays before you return to the capital? Even my previous advisor never asked this Prince to write this many policy essays in half a year! You’d better return to the capital right now, Han Xiaobai. I can’t write a single policy essay. If you dare, come and personally give me a beating on my writing board!”

In the midst of his shock, Han Jiao slowly regained his composure and suddenly felt more wronged than Dou E. He roared, “What five policy papers? Who said I made you write five policy papers? Who said that?”

“Father Emperor said it.”

“Ah?” Han Jiao’s heart sank, and he dared not deny it. “Did His Majesty say that?”

Seeing the little child prodigy looking so dejected, Xie Duo asked, “Was Father Emperor deceiving me?”

“No!” He couldn’t blame the Emperor, could he? Han Jiao immediately straightened his posture and reluctantly accepted the blame, “This humble subject has been away from the capital for some time and was worried about Your Highness’ studies, so I suggested you practice writing more! Your Highness, there’s no need to worry. There’s no deadline for these five policy papers. You can write them whenever you like, and I’ll return to the capital accordingly.”

“Then prepare to settle down in the new county, Master!” Xie Duo released his grip and stared at the little child prodigy, straightening his crumpled collar in frustration.

Just as Han Jiao was about to respond, he heard excited shouts from the children beside him, “Righteous Master! Righteous Master! His Highness the Prince has brought us lots of chickens, ducks, cows, and sheep!”

“And there are balls! Look, look! This is the cuju ball that the palace princes play with. It doesn’t get deflated!”

Han Jiao turned to look and was surprised to see a child holding the ball he had designed some time ago.

“This Prince gave these balls,” came the voice of the big boss next to him, tinged with pride.

Han Jiao: “……”

The other princes donated poultry and livestock to the refugees, while the Ninth Prince donated soccer balls. It seemed that these were all essential necessities in the eyes of this prince.

The children surrounded the two of them, inviting Han Jiao to play cuju with them, all the while casting timid glances at the young man next to him.

“Why are you all looking at me?” Xie Duo stared aggressively at the children around them.

One child gazed in awe at the Ninth Prince and sincerely exclaimed, “You’re even more beautiful than our village’s Sister A’Liu!”

Offended, the Ninth Prince stepped forward, and Han Jiao quickly intervened, “Your Highness, he’s complimenting your good looks!”

Excited by Han Jiao addressing the young man as “Your Highness,” the children looked up and asked, “Are you also a Prince of Thousand Years? Do you know where the Ninth Prince is? We’re all looking for the Ninth Prince!”

“What are you looking for him for?”

“He’s our great benefactor!”

Xie Duo’s eyes lit up. He smiled, revealing a tiny, charming pair of tiger teeth. “I am the Ninth Prince.”

The children: “……”

“What’s wrong?” The children’s enthusiasm for their savior left the Ninth Prince somewhat dissatisfied.

The children couldn’t believe that the young man before them was the Ninth Prince.

In their hearts, their great hero should have the benevolent and dignified demeanor of a Bodhisattva.

“Do you know how to play cuju?” one child inquired cautiously. “Righteous Master said that the Ninth Prince is excellent at cuju, and only the Ninth Prince can play cuju!”

Xie Duo chuckled and motioned to the child holding the ball, “Come here.”

The child obediently approached, and Xie Duo suddenly lifted his leg, leaving the child feeling empty-handed. When he looked down, he realized the ball was gone!

At this moment, the ball was already skillfully hooked onto the foot of Great Chu’s number one cuju player.

Xie Duo scanned the children around him and provocatively challenged, “Come at me together.”

So, Han Jiao helplessly watched as the future stormy War God ruthlessly defeated a group of seven or eight-year-old children…

Xie Duo flicked the ball with his toe, caught it with his left hand, and raised his head, looking around with an air of superiority. “Now, do you know who the Ninth Prince is?”

The exhausted children remained breathless on the spot!

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