What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 72

Chapter 72


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The wind was cold by the frigid waters, and Xiaobai had left… Xie Jing and Xie An were hiding a distance away.

These two who just promised to protect Han Jiao were truly chilling.

Wasn’t their respect for the teacher enough to help them overcome their fear of the big boss?

So, Han Jiao entered Nansan Hall alone and arrived at the Ninth Prince’s chamber, asking the eunuch to announce his visit.

However, the eunuch told Han Jiao that Prince Ling had not returned to Nansan Hall.

Han Jiao had no choice but to leave Nansan Hall and seek help from the two princes.

“Where did Ninth Brother go?” Xie An was also puzzled. “He wouldn’t have left the palace in anger, would he?”

Xie Jing hurriedly said, “We still have music theory class in the afternoon. If he’s missing, the teacher will complain!” Then he turned to the eunuch and instructed, “Prepare a horse! I’ll go fetch him back!”

“Your Highness, don’t be anxious,” Han Jiao stepped forward, “The Ninth Prince might not have left the palace. I have a hunch…”

After a while, the two princes accompanied Han Jiao to the cuju field. Indeed, they saw the Ninth Prince in the middle of the field, practicing cuju skills alone.

“Master truly has a knack for predicting things!” Xie An grew more and more admiring of Master Xiaobai each day.

“I’ll go fetch Ninth Brother,” Xie Jing volunteered.

“No need.” Han Jiao lifted his robes, tucked them into his waist, rolled up his sleeves to his elbows, and with a resolute expression, he looked at the big boss on the field. In a low voice, he said, “I’ll practice cuju with him.”

“Master!” The two princes hurriedly moved forward to intervene.

“Ninth Brother must be here to vent his frustration,” Xie An urged, “Master, please wait here. When he’s tired from playing, you can talk to him.”

Xie Jing also earnestly advised, “Indeed, Master, be patient and wait. Approaching now could be dangerous.”

Han Jiao’s gaze remained fixed on Xie Duo in the distance. “He’s in great distress, trying to clear his mind by playing cuju. If I just wait here, let him exhaust himself hiding his pain, then exploit his endurance to touch his sore spots…” Han Jiao shook his head. “That wouldn’t make me a worthy mentor to him.”

Nor would he deserve to enjoy Xie Duo’s kindness all this time.

Xie Jing wanted to dissuade further but was repelled by Han Jiao’s firm expression.

“Master, please be very careful. Don’t… don’t block Ninth Brother’s path… Keep some distance when you talk to him,” Xie An offered a final reminder.

Han Jiao thanked the two princes for their concern, but he didn’t heed Xie An’s advice. He strode onto the cuju field, went straight to Xie Duo, and attempted to defend and even steal the ball.

His cuju skills were already limited, especially against Xie Duo. Han Jiao struggled to keep up, repeatedly losing ground to Xie Duo, only to chase after him again and again.

Xie Duo didn’t attempt to score goals. He just kicked and juggled the ball, wasting his energy, and refused to practice with Han Jiao.

After a while, the little child prodigy’s relentless charges towards him slowed down. What used to be sprints turned into labored movements as he gasped for breath.

Sweat gathered on Han Jiao’s face, forming droplets that fell from his chin. Though he looked exhausted, he remained fixed on the ball at Xie Duo’s feet, using all his strength to contest and defend.

Half an hour later.

Han Jiao couldn’t endure any longer. He was nearing his limit.

He had always been confident in his stamina, but this stinky little brother was on a whole different level.

Han Jiao only wanted to participate in Xie Duo’s method of release, hoping to earn his trust, but this task was nearly impossible.

He could only find an alternative way to join in on this release, perhaps using his skill in sharp words.

Han Jiao halted his clumsy defensive moves, placed his hands on his hips, and gasped, “You’re really skilled, Xie Duo.”

“What did you call me?” Xie Duo was so shocked that he almost kicked the ball into orbit.

With hands on his hips and a fearless attitude, Han Jiao called out the big boss’ name, hoping to capture Xie Duo’s attention.

“I said you’re really skilled, Xie Duo,” Han Jiao panted heavily, allowing his oxygen-deprived brain to function again, “But it’s a shame, you’re only great on your own. If you faced my cuju team, you’d undoubtedly lose.”

Xie Duo was dumbfounded. His gaze shifted from “drag him out and behead him” to “is he exhausted?” and then to “how could I possibly lose?”

“I’m not crazy. I’m dead serious,” Han Jiao breathed heavily, a hint of rust in his throat, but still fiercely locked eyes with the big boss, “You… you haven’t lost a game because the cuju team hasn’t trained according to the rules I designed.”

Xie Duo lowered his eyes to the little child prodigy, “Are these your last words?”

“Not yet.” Han Jiao took a deep breath and finally regained some composure. “If you doubt it, we can have a match in two months. You can select your own cuju players, and I’ll train the rest. I’ll show you that cuju isn’t an individual battle. Each player has specific roles and must work in harmony. On a real field, without a skilled central midfielder controlling the game and teammates opening up passing lanes for you, you’re just a trapped animal!”

“You’re courting disaster.” Xie Duo’s expression turned cold as he stared at the frenzied child prodigy. “Han Jiao, who gave you the audacity to act recklessly in front of me? I can have you thrown into the North Garrison’s dungeon right now.”

“It was bestowed by Great Chu’s Ninth Prince, Xie Duo,” Han Jiao clenched his trembling fist and roared, “It was given by you!”

“I gave it to you? Fine, I admit I’m at fault too. Step back now, and I can spare you this time.”

“You made me think I was your friend,” Han Jiao continued, clenching his fist, “I believed friends have the right and strength to help alleviate your pain. If I misunderstood, and if you were just treating me as some kind of entertainment, as this lowly servant, then you can pass your judgment on me.”

A moment of silence followed.

Xie Duo lowered his head and gazed at the ground, then asked in a low voice, “What do you want to do?”

“I want to tell you,” Han Jiao’s voice softened, “Even the strongest can get stuck in a tough spot. Many things are impossible to accomplish alone, but a united group can. Your Seventh Brother is trapped at the goal, and you can’t see clearly what’s blocking you from saving him. Charging in recklessly will only break the rules, get you sent off the field, and both of you will lose. But if, if you’re willing to trust me as the ‘central midfielder,’ let me guide you on which path to break through, which teammates to rely on, and how to overcome the obstacles you can’t see, we can overcome them one by one.”

Xie Duo closed his eyes. “How do you know what’s blocking me? You don’t even know my Seventh Brother.”

“I’ve met Prince Duan and even had a conversation with him,” Han Jiao stated solemnly.

Xie Duo chuckled. “A conversation? Then you must know him quite well. Have you seen him scream in agony? Have you seen him desperately pull at his own hair? Have you seen him clench onto others and not let go? How do you plan to cure these abnormal behaviors? Cut off his hands or pull out his teeth?”

Han Jiao remained composed. “I haven’t thought about using external force to stop your Seventh Brother’s abnormal behaviors. These actions can’t be eliminated by force or reprimands. In fact, they worsen with pressure.”

Xie Duo’s gaze narrowed, puzzled as he looked at Han Jiao.

“Your Seventh Brother is injured. He’s hurt.” Han Jiao gazed deeply at Xie Duo. “The day I met him, when I mentioned that I’ve been used to plain water, it suddenly hit a sensitive spot for Prince Duan, nearly causing him to lose control. If I’m not mistaken, when his wetnurse was alive, she probably disliked tea and claimed to have been raised on plain water too.”

Xie Duo remained silent.

Han Jiao: “His injuries have become so severe that even these trivial memories can trigger pain. Are we just going to let him suffer to death?”

“His wet nurse is dead,” Xie Duo spoke expressionlessly, “What can you do to heal him? That woman is gone, and it’s as if my Seventh Brother has lost an arm. No matter how you treat it, he remains incomplete.”

Han Jiao took a step closer, gazing firmly at Xie Duo. “If his wetnurse could be his support, then others can be too. Perhaps no one person can replace what his wetnurse provided, but as long as he accepts or seeks support from more people, the void in his heart can find suitable filling.”

“The problem is,” Xie Duo said in despair, closing his eyes, “He’s afraid to let anyone else get close to him.”

“I have a solution!” Han Jiao took out the healing game from his pocket and handed it to Xie Duo. “As long as you’re willing to try, and if Prince Duan shows no improvement, I’ll willingly go to the dungeon to face punishment!”

Xie Duo stared at the crooked drawings on the first page that lacked persuasiveness.

“These are just rough sketches!” Master Han, the soulful sketch artist, was aware of his shortcomings. He demonstrated the movements and explained the rules of the game in person.

Xie Duo reluctantly took the drawings, scrutinizing their meaning while observing the little child prodigy’s somewhat silly movements.

“The first game is just this simple,” Han Jiao exclaimed with joy after explaining, looking up at the big boss. “Did you understand it? Xie…”

Xie Duo shot him a sharp glance!

“Xie… [xiexie = thanks] Your Highness Prince Ling for patiently listening to my explanation.” Han Jiao, who had just saved his own life, immediately became obedient and cautious, refraining from addressing the big boss directly by his name.

Three days later, in the morning, Master Han Xiaobai led a small truant team consisting of three princes to visit Prince Duan’s mansion.

The exterior and grandeur of this mansion paled in comparison to Prince Yan’s residence, and even the guards appeared dispirited.

Perhaps very few people would dare to enter the Prince’s mansion to seek an audience with Prince Duan, so having a handful of guards was already considered decent.

The four of them didn’t bother to announce their arrival. Xie Duo led the way, heading straight into Prince Duan’s mansion and reaching the courtyard.

“It’s up to you now, Your Highness!” Han Jiao encouraged the big boss with a look.

Xie Duo nodded and, with courage, carried the leather ball into the main hall.

Xie Jing, accompanied by Han Jiao and Xie An, went through a side entrance to the garden’s pavilion and sat down.

The wait turned out to be longer than they had imagined.

“Does Prince Duan not enjoy playing games with the Ninth Prince?” Han Jiao asked in a low voice.

“It depends on the type of game,” Xie Jing replied quietly. “Old Seventh gets a headache when he sees a ball. When he was young, he was constantly forced by Old Ninth to play cuju. Leaving the palace was his escape from that. Today, when he saw Old Ninth coming with a ball, he might…”

Before he could finish his sentence, they saw two familiar figures entering from the courtyard gate.

“Here they come.” Han Jiao perked up.

Xie Xiu followed his younger brother into the back garden, looking dispirited.

“I’m going to juggle, Seventh Brother, watch me,” Xie Duo said loudly, as per Han Jiao’s instructions.

“Alright.”

Xie Duo hesitated briefly but continued following the instructions. He turned to the pavilion and shouted, “I’m going to juggle, Old Eighth, Old Tenth, watch me.”

Han Jiao had suggested this to involve the other two princes in the game from a distance, so Xie Xiu wouldn’t feel threatened.

However, Xie Xiu’s calm expression suddenly turned into panic. Following Xie Duo’s gaze towards the pavilion, he immediately turned back and looked at his brother in distress, “You… you… you brought people… brought people to witness my…”

“It’s alright. They’re just watching me juggle,” Xie Duo reassured as he held Xie Xiu’s wrist to prevent him from pulling his hair or any similar actions.


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