What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 65

Chapter 65

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“Just knowing cuju is not enough,” a boy challenged, out of breath, “The Ninth Prince can summon the River Deity, can you?”

Xie Duo’s gaze sharpened as he listened. “Summon what?”

“Never mind!” Han Jiao, concerned that Xie Duo might lose his temper and cause a scene, stepped forward and explained to the children, “This is truly your benefactor, the Ninth Prince. You should thank him for personally guiding your cuju skills.”

The boys reluctantly accepted the harsh reality and said in unison, “Thank you, Ninth Prince, for your guidance.”

Xie Duo scowled at a group of children who were fighting for the ball. “Are you not happy to see your benefactor?”

The boys: “……”

From not far away, a young girl’s innocent response could be heard, “We’re happy.”

Xie Duo followed the voice and saw five or six young girls standing behind a tree, peeking out and watching him.

Among the girls, the younger ones were just five or six years old, while the older ones were around eleven or twelve. They had been timidly watching the Ninth Prince juggle the ball from behind the tree.

At this moment, when Xie Duo suddenly locked eyes with them, the girls all froze like statues.

Xie Duo smirked, took a few casual steps forward, and asked the group of girls in a loud voice, “What about you? Are you happy to see me?”

The girls’ wheat-colored faces all flushed at once.

The younger girls, not understanding shyness, excitedly replied, “Happy!”

“Very happy.”

“We’ve been looking forward to meeting Ninth Prince for a long time…”

With someone taking the lead, the girls overcame their embarrassment, one by one, to express their joy.

Xie Duo was quite pleased with the children’s attitude. He raised his hand, tossed the ball into the air, and said, “Good, this ball is a gift for you.”

As he spoke, the descending ball was swiftly kicked by Xie Duo, heading like lightning towards one of the girls!


The girl didn’t have time to raise her hand to catch the ball. It hit her in the forehead, making her fall backward.

“Sister A’Qiu? Sister A’Qiu!”

“Third Sister!”


The Ninth Prince, who had sent a gift with his foot, turned around with confidence, beckoning the little child prodigy to go with him to see the other gifts brought by his brothers.

Han Jiao was genuinely worried that this stinky little brother’s kick might have knocked the girl unconscious. Just as he was about to go and help, he saw the girl who had been hit sit up, rubbing her head with teary eyes. Fortunately, she wasn’t seriously hurt.

Outside the village entrance, Xie Duo successively uncovered the seven or eight supply wagons.

Wagon after wagon filled with burlap sacks of cotton, poultry like chickens and ducks, and even piglets and lambs stretched from the village entrance to the foot of the distant mountain, leaving Han Jiao astonished.

Prince Yan and the other two princes walked over and mentioned that several hundred head of cattle and donkeys were also on the way to help the people with plowing and grinding.

Han Jiao was amazed and looked at Prince Yan. “How much silver did this cost?”

The Third Prince smiled and said, “All these supplies were donated by nobles and wealthy merchants we’ve been entertaining for the past two weeks.”

Prince Yan nodded. “Each of us brothers donated five hundred taels of silver. It’s a reasonable amount. The account is with Respected Elder Liu, and we’ll have him bring it over later. We’ll trouble you, Master, to calculate the accounts and decide how to distribute these supplies among the thirty thousand households.”

Han Jiao was moved on behalf of the villagers, but they were too afraid to accept such a grand gift.

The eldest member of the clan, the one with the highest seniority, was brought forward to request that Han Jiao ask the princes to take back their generous offerings.

The disaster-stricken villagers already had land and houses to live in, and they were extremely grateful. With so many supplies, they were afraid they wouldn’t be able to repay the kindness in their lifetime.

Han Jiao had to persuade them for quite a while before the villagers understood that this kindness was given without expecting anything in return.

The indescribable gratitude led to a celebration among the villagers, and the princes were invited to visit the village houses that were still under construction.

Amid laughter and merriment, by noon, the princes rested in a tea pavilion. The Third Prince and Prince Yan sat at the northern table, while the Eighth and Ninth Princes studied the waist drums worn by the villagers.

“When we started building, there wasn’t even a decent place, so I brought this for you to rest, Your Highness.” Han Jiao personally brought cold tea.

Prince Yan received the tea, lowered his head to look at the rough wooden tea cup, and sighed softly. “Master, you’re being too formal with me.”

Han Jiao sensed that there was something more to his words and sat down nearby. “How could that be considered formal?”

Prince Yan shook his head, looked at Han Jiao, and said solemnly, “I have disappointed you, haven’t I, Master?”

Han Jiao was taken aback. “Your Highness, why would you say such a thing?”

Seeing Han Jiao’s puzzled expression, the Third Prince nudged Prince Yan under the table, signaling him not to say more.

However, Prince Yan didn’t hesitate and voluntarily confessed to Han Jiao, “It seems you are not aware that the two officials responsible for comforting the people are both my men.”

Han Jiao’s eyes flickered.

He had long suspected that the officials in the Censorate were aligned with Senior Minister Xu, but he hadn’t connected them to Prince Yan.

“It seems I misjudged the situation,” Prince Yan said with a serious expression.

Han Jiao wanted to respond but didn’t know how to begin.

The issue wasn’t fundamentally about Prince Yan. It revealed a problem with Senior Minister Xu.

Senior Minister Xu focused solely on superficial achievements, disregarding the lives of the people. His unwavering loyalty to Prince Yan was only to preserve his position as the Prime Minister, not to uphold principles like adhering to tradition and loyalty to a wise ruler.

Could he say this to Prince Yan?

In other words, was Prince Yan truly unaware of Senior Minister Xu’s conduct?

Probably not.

The reason Prince Yan accepted Senior Minister Xu’s support was primarily because he was the only one in the court capable of countering Prince Duan’s faction. Additionally, Senior Minister Xu was genuinely working hard to pave the way for him.

Senior Minister Xu couldn’t do without Prince Yan, and, in reality, Prince Yan also couldn’t do without Senior Minister Xu. If they were to part ways, neither of them would be a match for Prince Duan’s faction.

In comparison, Han Jiao currently didn’t have the necessary influence to cultivate his own faction. He was just an advisor with similar views to Prince Yan, and Prince Yan couldn’t afford to sever ties with him.

“Your Highness, there’s no need for self-blame.” Thinking about this, Han Jiao could only offer some consolation. “The issues exposed by the pacification of the people case aren’t limited to those two Censorate officials. The prevailing culture of exploiting the people and disregarding their lives is an accumulation of corruption in the officialdom over hundreds of years. Now that the Emperor has personally dealt with the implicated officials and made it public, the whole nation knows. In the future, both in the court and at the local level, the atmosphere is sure to change for the better.”

“I hope so,” Prince Yan said with a worried expression.

Han Jiao furrowed his brow slightly and spoke in a low voice, “I have distanced myself from Your Highness for over a month now, fearing that I might genuinely drift apart from Your Highness. I only hope that Your Highness can openly share any concerns.”

“I never actually doubted you, Master. I just… worry that you might be disappointed in me.”

“Why does Your Highness have such concerns?”

Prince Yan sighed. “I heard that on the day of the incident, you went to Wenhua Hall to request Senior Minister Xu to investigate the faults of the Right Deputy Censor. Senior Minister Xu was eager to quell the unrest and rejected your request, which left you quite disappointed.”

Han Jiao was taken aback.

On the day of the incident, Han Jiao went to see Senior Minister Xu to prevent the soldiers from setting the mountains on fire. The argument occurred because Senior Minister Xu seemed to side with the Censor, not because Han Jiao was eager to assign blame.

Senior Minister Xu must have portrayed Han Jiao as a reckless and impulsive person in front of Prince Yan, filing his complaint first.

Han Jiao remained calm and defended himself loudly. “At the time of the incident, the Ninth Prince happened to be present, and he can testify as to why I was arguing with the Senior Minister.”

Prince Yan pressed Han Jiao for the details.

Han Jiao calmly explained the true sequence of events to Prince Yan.

Upon learning the truth, Prince Yan was visibly upset but struggled to find words.

Han Jiao breathed a sigh of relief. Prince Yan clearly believed his account of the events but couldn’t openly criticize Senior Minister Xu’s bias in front of him.

“It’s good that we’ve cleared this up,” the Third Prince admitted, “Senior Minister Xu is simply overly cautious. I believe Master Han’s only concern was for the refugees, with no ulterior motives.”

Han Jiao looked at the Third Prince warily, “Your Highness, when you mentioned ‘ulterior motives,’ what did you mean?”

The Third Prince realized he had accidentally let something slip and looked up at his younger brother, who was pacing with his hands behind his back.

Prince Yan stopped in his tracks and confessed to Han Jiao, “Senior Minister Xu claims that you privately sought help from Senior Minister Li and urgently requisitioned a batch of grain from the Ministry of Revenue.”

Han Jiao’s eyes widened. He suddenly stood up.

Prince Yan hurriedly reassured him, “Master, don’t worry. The grain requisition was also for the refugees. Your dispute with Senior Minister Xu and your subsequent turn to Senior Minister Li can be justified. I will never doubt you for this.”

“I did not seek help from Senior Minister Li privately,” Han Jiao stated firmly, “It was indeed Senior Minister Li who urgently allocated the second batch of grain. I only learned about it on the day I met His Majesty during the morning court. When the rebellion occurred, I was concerned that the soldiers might set the mountains on fire at any moment. So, I asked the Ninth Prince to convey the message to you. If I had thought about requisitioning grain at that time, I would have sought your assistance. It’s impossible for me to turn to Senior Minister Li instead.”

Prince Yan thought it over carefully and sighed. “Indeed, it seems Senior Minister Xu was overly concerned.”

Han Jiao nodded without speaking.

How could this be called excessive concern? It was clearly malicious framing. It appeared that Senior Minister Xu was determined to discredit him.

Han Jiao remembered another matter and said seriously, “Some time ago, I came across certain accounts of significant importance. After I return to the capital, I plan to find the right opportunity to personally present them to Your Highness.”

Prince Yan asked in a low voice, “What kind of accounts?”

“Your Highness will see for yourself.”

“Involving which individuals?”

After thinking for a moment, Han Jiao replied in a low voice, “The Eldest Prince.”

With Senior Minister Xu already whispering in Prince Yan’s ear, Han Jiao couldn’t allow the Eldest Prince to further influence him. He had to alert Prince Yan in advance.

Prince Yan was taken aback, but he composed himself, took a sip of tea, and quietly arranged a meeting place with Han Jiao for when they returned to the capital.

In the afternoon, the villagers were going to the forest to gather wood.

Hearing that there might be wild animals in the mountains, the Third Prince became interested and went to the carriage to fetch a bow and arrows. He took the Eighth and Ninth Princes with him to join in the fun.

The Eighth Prince enthusiastically invited Han Jiao to join them on the mountain, but Han Jiao didn’t want to climb. He said he had to stay behind to handle accounting and distribute supplies. The Eighth Prince tried in vain to persuade him.

“Are you afraid of encountering tigers?” Xie Duo raised his bow and arrow. “With me and this bow, Master Cotton can witness a tiger firsthand without being eaten. Seize the opportunity while it’s here.”

“……” Han Jiao shot this stinky little brother a discreet glare and insisted he wouldn’t go.

Who said he couldn’t survive without Xie Duo? Did they think he’d never been to a zoo before?

“Master Xiaobai, rest assured!” The Eighth Prince persistently invited him. “The three of us brothers can protect you together!”

“I’m not afraid of encountering wild animals,” Han Jiao refused to admit defeat and had to confess, “It’s just that this mountain was rarely visited in the past, and the path is difficult to traverse…”

Prince Yan, seeing Han Jiao’s discomfort, immediately stepped in, waved his hand to shoo away the Eighth and Ninth Princes. “You go ahead and play. Master Han has to stay behind to assist me.”

“Assist with what?” Xie Duo suddenly glared at his sixth brother. “The two of you will be empty-handed, just staying in this shabby tea pavilion. What kind of assistance can you provide?”

It was rare to see the usually nonchalant Ninth Prince looking quite nervous. Prince Yan was startled and asked, “Why are you shouting?”

With an intense glare, Xie Duo immediately picked up the little child prodigy sitting by the table and forcefully claimed, “Master Han is my personal tutor. I may have questions on the way and need to consult with him. Master Han, please accompany me up the mountain.”

“Can’t you just ask your questions here?”

“No,” Xie Duo insisted, carrying the little child prodigy away from his sixth brother.

Han Jiao sighed in despair and finally agreed, “Alright, alright! I’ll go up the mountain with you. Your Highness, please wait. I’ll go get my donkey.”

A moment later, the reluctant Master Xiaobai, leading his equally unwilling little donkey, reluctantly followed the princes to the foot of the mountain.

Han Jiao politely asked if the princes wanted to ride his donkey, but the Third and Eighth Princes both declined.

Only the Ninth Prince, who had never ridden a donkey before, was curious. He followed Han Jiao, climbing onto the saddle one after the other.

The donkey had never carried two people, and the Ninth Prince’s acrobatic maneuvers as he hopped onto the saddle were particularly impressive. However, the moment he landed behind Han Jiao, the donkey let out a pitiful scream!

Han Jiao lovingly patted his little donkey and, with a resentful heart, began the journey up the mountain.

The donkey, trembling on its four slender legs, managed to take a few steps and then suddenly stopped in its tracks…

Han Jiao awkwardly tugged at the reins, but the donkey remained motionless.

The stinky little brother behind him asked in confusion, “Have we reached the mountaintop already? Master Han, your donkey is quite fast.”

Many many thanks to Jamie!

⸜(。˃ ᵕ ˂ )⸝♡

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