What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 66

Chapter 66

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“My donkey has never carried two people before,” Han Jiao complained. “Usually, I’m the only one riding it, and it runs quite briskly.”

“Can it only carry one person?” Xie Duo asked.

“Yes!” Han Jiao said confidently.

Xie Duo asked in fake confusion, “So, should we make Master get off the donkey and walk, or should we let the Great Benefactor and Savior of Thirty Thousand Refugees His Highness the Ninth Prince dismount and walk up the mountain?”

Han Jiao: “……”

Did Ninth Prince really need so many prefixes?

Han Jiao stayed on the donkey without moving a muscle. “The Ninth Prince is quite strong. Walking a short mountain path is no problem. I’ve been helping the common people cut wood and make bricks these days. I really don’t have any strength left.”

Xie Duo smiled and, deliberately not letting the little child prodigy have his way, raised one foot and grumbled, “On the day I rescued the refugees, my toe got crushed by a cart full of cotton, and it hasn’t healed yet.”

Han Jiao lowered his head to look at the stinky little brother’s foot. “Was it really hurt badly with just a little toe bump?”

Xie Duo sighed. “It’s fine. There are still four toes left to use.”

“It’s not that serious!” Han Jiao protested. He had just lightly grazed it with his toe!

“How do you know it’s not serious? Did you step on it?” Xie Duo dangerously leaned in to scrutinize the little child prodigy’s profile.

“I don’t know anything,” Han Jiao stubbornly denied any guilt, but reluctantly conceded, “Your Highness, why don’t you sit down? I’ll comfort the little donkey.”

As soon as he said that, Xie Duo saw the child prodigy bend down and lean against the donkey’s back, holding the donkey’s ears and murmuring softly.

“You have to be good, Ferrari. Just a few more steps, and I’ll make you peanut cookies tonight, okay?”

The donkey lifted its head and let out a call, then slowly moved its slender legs.

“So obedient!” Han Jiao patted his little donkey’s head with satisfaction. Suddenly, he felt the person behind him getting closer, with arms encircling his waist!

“Your Highness?” He felt a tingling sensation all over his back. “My donkey walks very slowly and steadily. You don’t need to hold me!”

Xie Duo remained unfazed, still tightly embracing the little cotton. “With the speed of your donkey, it will take at least half an hour to get up the mountain. I’ll take a short nap.”

Han Jiao was uncontrollably angry. “I’m not a pillow or a cushion! You can’t just hold me to sleep!”

“What’s the difference?” Xie Duo pinched the waist of the little cotton. “It feels pretty similar.”

“It’s not the same!” Han Jiao felt his blood rushing to his head. He grabbed the stinky little brother’s sinful hand and said urgently, “Your Highness, you can’t embrace like this!”

“Why not?”

“It’s inappropriate!”

“How is it inappropriate to hold you?” Xie Duo smiled. “Are you a young lady? Can’t I touch you?”

“Men shouldn’t casually touch each other either!” Han Jiao used to hang out with his buddies and put their arms around each other, but for some reason, when this stinky little brother tightly embraced him from behind, he felt weird… He couldn’t quite explain it!

His upper body was practically paralyzed! His face felt like it could catch fire!

“You smell like burnt cotton.” The stinky little brother sniffed at Han Jiao’s neck with his nose.

“Aaagh!” Han Jiao struggled to turn around, pressing his palm against Xie Duo’s chest, giving his chest muscles a hard pinch. “I’ll pinch you too! I’ll pinch you too!”

Xie Duo lowered his head to look at the hand on his chest, then slowly raised his gaze to the little child prodigy.

Han Jiao’s anger dissipated in an instant, but the fingers on big boss’ chest remained stiff.

The mountain ridges fell into a dangerous silence, with only the small donkey’s swaying hooves rubbing against the grass.

Han Jiao gulped and forced a smile at the big boss. He obediently withdrew his fingers from the stinky little brother’s chest muscles and sincerely complimented, “Your Highness truly lives up to your reputation. You are quite sturdy…”

Xie Duo’s face, filled with unknown emotions, slowly broke into a smile. He squinted his phoenix-like eyes and stared at the little child prodigy. “Why is your face turning red again?”

Han Jiao swiftly turned around, not letting Xie Duo see his face!

He needed to come up with a reason to explain his tendency to blush!

Issue with liver heat? High blood pressure?

He noticed that Xie Duo’s arm, which had been embracing his waist, was slowly loosening and hanging by his side.

Xie Duo was actually letting him go like this?

It felt rather awkward.

Han Jiao felt something was off. Riding the donkey together, the person behind had neither reins to hold nor stirrups to use, so naturally, they’d cling to the person in front.

He wouldn’t let Xie Duo embrace him, so now Xie Duo was just maintaining balance sitting behind him.

He was in the wrong! He reflected on it!

Ever since Han Jiao noticed that this stinky little brother, despite appearing irritable, had a certain charm, he stopped treating him as the ultimate big boss.

With a guilty conscience, Han Jiao took a deep breath and was about to remind the Ninth Prince to place his hands on his shoulders when he suddenly felt someone grasp the crown of his head.

A certain big boss behind him revealed a wicked little tiger tooth and tugged on Master Han’s hairdo while issuing a commanding “Go! Go!”

Han Jiao: “……”

He would never feel guilty about this stinky little brother again! Xie Duo was using his hairdo as a handle on top of his head!

The two of them sat on the small donkey in this weird “linked” manner for a while. Han Jiao felt like his hairdo was constantly being twisted to the right by Xie Duo, causing his head to turn right as well.

Unable to bear it any longer, he exclaimed, “Your Highness, are you done playing?”

The big boss behind him was clearly having a great time, his voice tinged with suppressed laughter. “Aren’t we supposed to go to the southern mountain to cut wood?”

Han Jiao was furious. “So what?”

“Your donkey is being lazy. It’s been circling the base of the mountain, refusing to climb up,” Xie Duo pinched the little child prodigy’s hairdo and twisted it to the right, “We should be going in this direction.”

Master Han, who was being used as a human steering wheel, grumbled, “Can’t you just speak? What’s the use of twisting my head?”

Before long, Han Jiao, who had been used as a human steering wheel all the way, arrived at the woodcutting site with the stinky little brother, his face ashen.

“Finally, you’ve arrived!” Eighth Prince was astonished. “You’re riding a donkey up the mountain. It’s almost dark!”

Third Prince also chimed in, “I thought the donkey was carrying you two up the mountain.”

Han Jiao explained with a wry smile, “My donkey has never carried two people before. Today is the first time, so it was a bit slow.”

Xie Duo leaped down from the donkey and raised his chin. “It’s thanks to me that you can see Master Han again. Otherwise, he and his lazy donkey would have circled the mountain and arrived next spring.”

Han Jiao immediately defended his little donkey, “I just wanted to show Your Highness the scenery on the mountain.”

“The scenery below the mountain, right?”

“That’s enough!” Third Prince promptly interrupted their banter, scolding them sternly, “Old Ninth! Master Han is your advisor now. You’re not allowed to play tricks on him in the future!”

Han Jiao immediately straightened his posture, reinforcing Third Prince’s warning with a glance.

“It’s the Ninth Prince?”

The men working on cutting wood in the vicinity stopped their work and quickly approached.

“Is this the Ninth Prince?”

“That’s right, Third Prince calls him Old Ninth.”

“Really? He looks quite young.”

“The Ninth Prince is not even seventeen yet.”

“Aiyoyo, it’s true that heroes emerge at a young age…”

“No need to say. His Majesty’s sons are all quite clever!”

After a brief discussion, the villagers took a few steps forward and collectively bowed to the Ninth Prince. “These lowly commoners thank Ninth Prince for saving their lives!”

The Ninth Prince looked a bit bewildered and turned to his third brother.

Third Prince promptly stepped forward to request the people to rise.

Han Jiao keenly observed that the stinky little brother usually liked to display his authority in front of those younger than him. However, when he encountered people older than him, the Ninth Prince instinctively avoided interaction.

It was probably because the elders in the palace and outside would do nothing but advise the Ninth Prince to play less cuju. Over time, the Ninth Prince became reluctant to engage with older individuals and didn’t want to assert himself in their presence.

The elders were not amazed by the Ninth Prince’s strong cuju skills. They tended to view it as a waste of time. The Ninth Prince’s glory mainly came from peers of the same age. Hence, he didn’t pay much attention to the gratitude of these older villagers.

The villagers didn’t notice the Ninth Prince’s avoidance. After rising, they urged their leader to unwrap the bundles they carried. They carefully presented the Lingzhi mushrooms from inside the packages to the Ninth Prince. “A few days ago, we saw this large Lingzhi on the mountain and wanted to offer it to Your Highness as a token of our gratitude.”

Han Jiao immediately narrowed his eyes. “Great! You’ve prepared a token for the Ninth Prince, but this Righteous Master doesn’t need one, is that it?”

Xie Duo initially didn’t want it, but upon seeing the envy in the little child prodigy’s eyes, he immediately became interested and held out his hand to accept the Lingzhi, waving it in front of the little child prodigy. “Help me write five policy papers, and I’ll give them to you.”

Han Jiao suppressed his jealousy, held his head high, and steadfastly refused to look at the Lingzhi.

“What does Your Highness want to write about?” The villagers detected that their benefactor needed help, and they eagerly chimed in, “In our village, there’s an educated man from the Qiu family!”

Seeing the respect in the eyes of these elders, Xie Duo’s initial reluctance gradually dissipated. He asked the leader, “Are you the leader of the refugees?”

“I dare not! My father used to be the village chief in Daoyu Village. Everyone shows respect and calls me Brother Heizi. Your Highness, just give an order, and we’ll go through fire and water without hesitation!”

Xie Duo scrutinized him. “Did you order the construction of those mounds on the south side of the mountain where you were hiding?”

The man paused for a moment, thought carefully, and then realized. “No, no! Those mounds were built under the orders of Huang family’s Old Third!”

Xie Duo looked at the crowd with curiosity. “Who is Huang family’s Old Third?”

The crowd hurriedly searched for someone, and not long after, a tall, lean man was brought before the Ninth Prince by a group of men.

This man, known as Huang family’s Old Third, appeared to be in his mid-thirties, but the hardships faced by the refugees made him seem no older than twenty-five. His skin was fairer than the surrounding villagers, he had single eyelids, thin lips, and a generally ordinary appearance.

“This humble one pays his respects to Your Highness.” Huang family’s Old Third was much calmer than the others and respectfully bowed before the Ninth Prince.

“Raise your head,” Xie Duo said, clearly curious.

Huang family’s Old Third lifted his head in silence, surprisingly devoid of fear.

“You were the one who commanded the refugees during the breakout and food raid, right?”

Huang family’s Old Third’s face showed surprise. He thought the authorities had already ceased investigating this matter, but here the prince was, suddenly exposing it. He had no idea who had informed on him.

The villagers around them hadn’t anticipated the prince’s interest in this matter. Frightened, they dropped to their knees, pleading for mercy.

The Third Prince quickly reassured the people before turning to his younger brother. “Why bring up this matter?”

Han Jiao guessed that Xie Duo might simply be intrigued by the case. He approached, smiling to ease the tension among the people, and asked Xie Duo, “Your Highness, how did you find out that the person who directed the villagers to build those mounds is the same as the one who led the food raid?”

Xie Duo smirked and looked at the man called Third Huang. “Using the same tactics three times, you set a fire to the south of the mountain to create a diversion, hoping to escape by digging a tunnel, right?”

Third Huang’s face turned pale upon hearing this. He looked in disbelief at the youthful and handsome boy before him.

Xie Duo squinted his eyes. “If our trench had been dug three days later, your tunnel would probably have already connected.”

Third Huang shuddered and suddenly knelt on the ground, his voice trembling as he replied, “This humble one never intended to oppose Your Highness. It was only for the sake of survival.”

Xie Duo lowered his gaze to look at him and asked, “Why didn’t you join the army?”

Third Huang looked up at the Ninth Prince in confusion, noticing that the youth’s smile held no malice. He replied in a subdued voice, “This humble one’s two elder brothers are already in the army.”

Xie Duo issued a command, “Have them return, and you will go in their place. There are plenty of opportunities for merit at the northeastern border. With your abilities, do you intend to become a landowner by farming?”

Third Huang stood stunned for a moment, then suddenly felt his blood boil. He kowtowed and exclaimed, “Many thanks Your Highness, for recognizing me!”

The Third Prince observed his younger brother and, with a puzzled expression, helped the man up from the ground. He patted Huang Third’s slender frame and asked gently, “You’re quite tall, but a bit thin. What’s your name?”

Third Huang bowed and replied, “This humble one is surnamed Huang, given name Liqing.”

Han Jiao, who was standing nearby, was startled by this response!

Huang Liqing? Wasn’t he the scoundrel in the original work who aided the Tatar invasion in Liaodong?

This man was the foremost Tatar General in the novel, but he was actually of Great Chu descent. His assistance greatly bolstered the Tatar forces.

This man was ultimately defeated and surrounded by Xie Duo, while the border commanders scolded him as a traitorous scoundrel. Huang Liqing, however, argued that Great Chu had never truly considered him a subject, as his parents and siblings had all been burned alive by government troops in the capital.

It was only now that Han Jiao realized that in the novel, this Tatar general, who was a formidable opponent, had managed to escape during the refugee rebellion.

It was a truly astonishing realization. What was initially seen as preventing a tragedy among the refugees indirectly saved a military talent for Great Chu.

Han Jiao looked at Xie Duo in surprise.

It was no wonder that Xie Duo showed such interest in this man surnamed Huang. The two of them were formidable rivals in the novel.

Perhaps, top predators could sense the threat of their opponents, recognizing distinctive features in the chilling aura they emitted after their first encounter.

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