What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 68

Chapter 68

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Prince Yan had instructed them to return to the capital before curfew. As there were no wild rabbits to be seen on the mountain, the three Imperial Princes lost interest in hunting. After cutting down some trees, they joined the first group of villagers in transporting the wood down the hill.

At the village entrance, the big boss had a hard time parting with Han Jiao. He even requested Sixth Brother to stay the night to supervise Han Jiao in completing the five policy essays he’d used as reference back in the palace. Unfortunately, his plea went unanswered, as Prince Yan forcibly dragged him onto the carriage.

Han Jiao stayed busy in the new county for two more days, ensuring proper resource distribution before preparing to return to the capital.

The townspeople in the new county were eager to escort him all the way to the capital. Every household sent chickens and ducks, urging the Righteous Master to take them home and regain his strength. Han Jiao politely declined for some time before finally mounting his donkey.

With the task of comforting the refugees coming to an end, the new county magistrate was scheduled to begin his new role in three days.

The new county was different from other provinces as its taxes went directly to the Imperial Treasury without passing through the Ministry of Revenue. Because of this, the new county magistrate couldn’t report his work according to his rank.

In response, the Emperor issued an order for the new county magistrate to report to Han Jiao each year. After Han Jiao reviewed the accounts, he would directly communicate with Respected Elder Liu from the Directorate of Ceremonial. This made Han Jiao effectively the steward of this large royal estate.

This news surprised the ministers at the imperial court since the supervision of the royal estate was typically handled by eunuchs trusted by the Emperor. Now, a civil official was given complete control, a level of trust that had never been seen before.

Han Jiao was content with this assignment. Even though it didn’t come with an official rank, as a civil official responsible for royal affairs, it represented the Emperor’s trust. It gave him prestige.

Additionally, this role came with an extra stipend, three to six silver coins every month. The work only required an annual review of the accounts. It was almost like a gift.


Upon returning to the capital, Han Jiao leaped from a junior scholar-official to an Expositor-in-waiting. He was to share an office with Elder Lin, which caught him off guard. He hadn’t prepared much, not even his lecture notes. However, the Hanlin Chancellor had already set up his schedule.

As soon as Han Jiao returned to work, it happened to be his turn to teach the young princes. The topic for this class was “The Doctrine of the Mean.”

Han Jiao, trembling, picked up his textbook, mentally preparing himself for the students’ critiques and corrections.

Fortunately, “Timely Rain” Elder Lin walked over and handed him a cheat sheet.

Upon opening it, Han Jiao found it to be an old lesson plan that Elder Lin had used before to teach the princes who had since left the palace. It was perfectly suited for teaching the three young princes now.

Han Jiao felt deeply grateful.

Elder Lin had a proud smile on his face. He had been silently proud of Han Jiao becoming a hero to the people over the past month. He didn’t say it aloud, just gave the young man a reassuring pat on the shoulder, signaling him to head to the study room.

And so, Han Jiao’s royal teaching career began.

The atmosphere in the classroom on the first day was far from serious. Even before the class started, the Eighth Prince invited him to skip class and play cuju. Han Jiao didn’t mind.

He followed the lesson plan meticulously and finished the class according to the book, allowing the young princes to engage in free discussion and ask questions afterward.

Han Jiao approached the big boss and inquired about how many of the five policy essays were completed.

Not that he was rushing this stinky little brother to progress, but he was worried about the Emperor’s random inspections.

Xie Duo handed over one of the policy essays he had hastily put together the previous night for Master Cotton to review.

Han Jiao brought a chair and sat in the familiar spot next to the big boss, scrutinizing the essay closely. He had to do this thoroughly, else he wouldn’t make heads or tails of Xie Duo’s cryptic handwriting.

After reading through the essay, Han Jiao was almost tempted to tear it apart.

“With all due respect, why does Your Highness use this particular argument in every single essay?” Han Jiao’s finger was like a warning baton, firmly pointing at the passage that the stinky little brother frequently reused to meet the word count. “I’ve practically memorized it. Doesn’t His Majesty notice?”

Xie Duo explained, his face unaffected, “This part serves as a bridge between different sections. Give it a read. It flows quite naturally.”

Han Jiao: “……”

Oh, come on! You deliberately steered the conversation in this direction. Can you not be cooperative?

The section in question that big boss often used to meet the word count had a general meaning. It said that for the country to be prosperous, the people needed to be content, and for the people to be content, it was necessary to punish wrongdoers and eliminate evil. To achieve this, there must be clear and effective government policies… and then it circled around, discussing various administrative guidelines from local magistrates to provincial officials, concluding with a sentimental expression, encouraging officials to work diligently and care for the people, conveniently filling a thousand words.

In reality, Xie Duo had simply recited the “Code of Conduct for National Civil Servants” verbatim.

The established word count for these policy essays was over two thousand words, and Xie Duo’s segment on the “Universal Work Guidelines” took up half of it!

Using it once might be tolerable, but he used it every time he wrote an essay.

If this were in a school setting, it would be enough for the big boss to read a self-critique under the national flag. It was an extremely sneaky way to slack off!

Han Jiao’s blood pressure was skyrocketing right now, much like a homeroom teacher seeing a low-performing student’s final exam paper. His fists clenched slowly.

But what could he do? He couldn’t win in a fight, and he dared not scold him. Master Han had to be kind and patient, starting to explain simple and practical strategic essay techniques to the big boss.

However, the big boss didn’t appreciate it and deliberately pointed out the overlooked conditions in the historical anecdotes Han Jiao used, using them to argue that the outcome was determined by various factors and couldn’t be used to support the essay’s point.

After a heated debate, Han Jiao gradually realized the issue.

Xie Duo didn’t like mechanically using historical anecdotes to prove the correctness of certain sages’ thoughts.

Xie Duo believed in tailoring solutions to specific issues, emphasizing the importance of thoroughly assessing all uncertain factors within the broader context of an event and providing comprehensive solutions. This approach focused on understanding all aspects of the situation rather than selectively extracting elements from a single event to prove a particular assertion.

In reality, the factors contributing to an event’s outcome were often intricate. Reducing the entire event to a single, simple experiential conclusion would lead to narrow thinking and common mistakes when dealing with new problems.

Han Jiao actually understood Xie Duo’s perfectionist approach. However, in Hanlin Academy, policy essays followed a fixed pattern: referencing established wisdom to demonstrate the correctness of a particular sage’s philosophy.

It was similar to answering a comprehension question. What the author personally thought wasn’t crucial. What mattered was adhering to the test’s answer framework.

The discussion had lasted for nearly two hours. The Eighth Prince and Tenth Prince had already gone to play cuju after class, leaving Han Jiao alone facing the problematic Ninth Prince.

It wasn’t fair to simply label Xie Duo as an underachiever. Han Jiao discovered that Xie Duo was skilled at handling real-life problems.

For instance, when Han Jiao tried discussing crisis event records stored in the document room, Xie Duo could swiftly provide detailed and practical solutions with minimal necessary information.

His problem-solving approach was surprisingly ingenious and pinpointed the crucial issues.

It wasn’t surprising that the Emperor called on Xie Duo for help when reviewing documents. This young man’s efficiency was nothing short of remarkable.

However, this comprehensive and meticulous analytical ability led Xie Duo to struggle with the formulaic nature of policy essays.

It wasn’t that he couldn’t write precise policy essays, but his attention to detail made it difficult for him to casually reference established wisdom and philosophize about a sage’s thoughts. In fact, he often found the arguments of the sages themselves not rigorous enough to withstand scrutiny.

Xie Duo considered writing policy essays a tiresome and pointless task, so he always avoided it.

Han Jiao issued an ultimatum, “Your Highness, avoiding the issue won’t solve it. If you don’t try to adapt to the traditional style of writing policy essays, the Emperor will only pressure you to write more.”

“I can’t write them.” Xie Duo remained stubborn as a donkey.

Han Jiao narrowed his eyes dangerously and warned, “Write one less policy essay, as per the rules, and you’ll receive ten strokes of the paddle. Your Highness still has four essays to write, so that would be forty strokes of the paddle.”

“Do you want to personally administer the punishment?” Xie Duo suddenly smiled, propping his arm on the desk, supporting his cheek with one hand, casually staring at the little child prodigy. “Summon your strength from chopping tree bark and apply the punishment yourself.”

Han Jiao’s pupils shrank. “……”

It was all clear now. He understood it all!

This stinky little brother had already figured out the best strategy: if he didn’t want to do his homework in the future, he would let Han Jiao administer the paddle.

Ten paddle strokes in exchange for one policy essay, a genius strategy for the underachiever, because Master Cotton’s paddling didn’t hurt much.

“Your Highness, don’t think you can get away with this,” Han Jiao said sternly. “If I really get my hands on you, you might regret it!”

Xie Duo remained utterly calm. “Scary.”

“Would Your Highness really like to try?” Han Jiao tried to display a fierce and threatening aura as much as possible!

He managed to amuse the big boss.

Han Jiao: “……”

This whole situation had been a mistake from the very beginning.

How could the Emperor have thought of having him tutor Xie Duo?

Feeling like a little lamb baring its teeth in front of a demon, Han Jiao, in an attempt to uphold the teacher’s dignity, stood up and hurried to the lectern, grabbing a ruler to bolster his courage!

When he held the ruler in front of the big boss, Han Jiao went from being a little lamb baring its teeth to a little lamb using the ruler for self-defense.

Xie Duo abruptly stood up, startling the little child prodigy into hiding the ruler behind him.

Xie Duo smiled, lifting a leg to push the chair aside and taking a couple of steps closer to Han Jiao. “If you really can’t bring yourself to administer punishment, you can draft four policy essays for me.”

“No chance!” Han Jiao took a deep breath. “Your Highness, please extend your hand!”

“Are you really going to hit me?” Xie Duo remained confident, extending his right hand in front of the little child prodigy.

Han Jiao took a few deep breaths. “Switch to your left hand.”

Xie Duo was momentarily taken aback, caught off guard by the rare display of determination from the little child prodigy. He hesitated for a moment before slowly extending his left hand, head hanging low, and dangerously raising an eyebrow while staring at Han Jiao.

Han Jiao locked his gaze onto Xie Duo’s palm, raising the ruler.

He had to uphold his dignity as a tutor, otherwise, what was to stop this stinky little brother from skipping class to play soccer every day during his lectures?

No backing down!

With gritted teeth, Han Jiao lifted the ruler and brought it down sharply!

“Han Xiaobai.”


Xie Duo suddenly spoke, interrupting Han Jiao’s attack.

Han Jiao raised his head, meeting Xie Duo’s gaze.

Oh no.

Xie Duo’s inherent sharpness, mostly emanating from those piercing eyes of his, meant that as soon as their gazes locked, Han Jiao’s resolve weakened by half.

“Do you really dare to hit me?” Xie Duo looked at the little cotton arrogantly.

“Your Highness, you can still reconsider. Finish the remaining policy essays properly, and don’t reuse that section. I can guide you along the way.” Han Jiao raised an eyebrow, issuing a threat. “If you intend to be lazy, I won’t hesitate to act, really.”

Xie Duo’s arrogant expression turned nervous and slightly helpless. He gazed at Han Jiao and whispered, “I’m scared…”

“Knowing you’re scared, focus on writing the policy essays properly.”

“I’m scared that you might really use force with the paddle.”

“I will.”

Suddenly, Xie Duo’s pitiful expression changed. He smiled, revealing a pair of little tiger teeth. “So, Master Han, won’t you end up crying after hitting me forty times?”

Han Jiao glared, straightened his posture, and solemnly declared, “Even if my hands bleed from the beating, I won’t shed a single tear!”

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