What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 73

Chapter 73

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Xie Xiu avoided the gaze uneasily, stammering his objection, “No… don’t bring them… to Big Brother’s mansion.”

Seeing his mild reaction, Xie Duo continued to repeat comforting words as Han Jiao had instructed, “They won’t bother Seventh Brother. They’re just here to watch me juggle.”

Inside the gazebo, Han Jiao slightly opened his mouth and discreetly reminded the two princes sitting beside him, “Don’t look at Xie Xiu, and don’t even pay attention to him out of the corner of your eye. Focus all your attention on the ball in Xie Duo’s hand.”

Hearing this, the two princes who had been unconsciously watching Xie Xiu quickly refocused their attention on the ball.

Meanwhile, Xie Xiu, at the other end, repeatedly observed the people in the gazebo from the corner of his eye. When he realized no one was paying him any mind, he gradually calmed down and spoke, “There’s one more person.”

“Yes, he’s my personal tutor, named Han Jiao, Han Xiaobai.”

“Big Brother knows.” Xie Xiu had seen him before. He was a bad grass with a leeky smell. “Don’t bring him to the mansion either.”

Xie Duo still didn’t agree, but he didn’t voice any objection either.

After waiting for a moment, Xie Xiu’s attention returned to Xie Duo.

“I’m starting to juggle now, Big Brother. Help me count.” Xie Duo began the game again.

“Alright.” Sensing that no one in the gazebo was paying attention to him, Xie Xiu gradually disregarded their presence.

Xie Duo lifted the ball to the height Han Jiao had mentioned, released it, and with moderate force, began juggling, always maintaining the ball’s bounce height before it fell.

Thud… thud… thud…” 

“One, two, three…” Xie Xiu’s gaze followed the ball’s up and down movement.

The regular sound and visuals quickly helped him relax, giving him an initial sense of control.

“Thirty-one, thirty-two…”

At this moment, the ball was “accidentally” kicked off course, rolling towards Xie Xiu.

Instinctively, Xie Xiu took a few steps forward, raised his foot to block the ball, bent down to pick it up, and headed towards his younger brother.

“Pass it to me,” Xie Duo opened his arms, signaling to Xie Xiu that he was ready to receive the ball, reassuring him, “Pass it to me, Big Brother.”

Xie Xiu skillfully stopped in his tracks, placed the ball on the ground, but hesitated to kick it. After a moment’s thought, he bent down, cupped the ball with both hands, and rolled it in Xie Duo’s direction to ensure it wouldn’t veer off course.

Xie Duo’s movements were casual yet precise. He stopped the ball with one foot as it came rolling towards him.

Xie Xiu noticed that the people in the gazebo remained unresponsive, their gazes fixed on the ball. There was no discussion about the accuracy of his throws or the direction.

This made Xie Xiu even more at ease.

Every thirty or so juggling cycles, the ball would be kicked askew, heading towards Xie Xiu.

Transitioning from initial clumsiness to gradual relaxation, after the fifth time, Xie Xiu began directly stopping the ball with his foot and kicking it back to Xie Duo.

Every time the ball was returned to Xie Duo’s feet, he would flash a happy smile at Xie Xiu. This gave Xie Xiu a subtle sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm to participate in the game. He began to anticipate his brother kicking the ball askew so he could accurately catch and kick it back.

“I’ve never seen Seventh Brother so close to a ball before!” Xie Jing in the pavilion couldn’t help but whisper in amazement. “In the past, it was as if we were asking for his life when we tried to get him to join cuju, but today…”

“Cuju is too difficult for him,” Han Jiao explained in a hushed voice. “It had a high level of complexity and required cooperation with others, which made him overly anxious, fearing mistakes, and naturally feeling tormented.”

Xie An, on the side, asked quietly, “Master, when can I join in?”

“Wait a bit longer,” Han Jiao observed Xie Xiu’s expressions and coordination of movements with caution.

On the other end, Xie Duo was even more surprised at this moment than his brothers in the gazebo.

The first time he kicked the ball, he saw Seventh Brother’s hopeful smile.

After dozens of rounds of passing the ball back and forth, Xie Duo began the second step, as mentioned by the little child prodigy — allowing for some minor mistakes.

The ball no longer flew precisely in Xie Xiu’s direction, but he would actively chase after it, intercept the ball, and then kick it back to Xie Duo.

Oddly, when his younger brother kicked the ball askew, it made Xie Xiu even more relaxed. He no longer restrained his direction and would sometimes deliberately kick it askew, smiling as he watched his brother chase after it.

Seamless coordination and the occasional mishap became easy and fun. Xie Xiu showed an unusual level of happiness, even letting out a hearty laugh.

His reaction left all princes extremely surprised.

Xie Xiu usually appeared as if he were an empty shell. Save for his botanical studies, he found it difficult to maintain his attention in the present moment for long. However, studying plants didn’t bring him any joy.

At this moment, Xie Xiu seemed like a completely different person.

Although reluctant to interrupt, Han Jiao was certain that the time was right. This game was most emotionally intense for the patient when safe interaction was initially achieved. Introducing new interpersonal relationships at this point would make them more stable.

Therefore, Han Jiao raised his hand and lightly tapped his knee.

Xie Duo, in the distance, was still absorbed in Seventh Brother’s transformation and took a while to notice the little child prodigy’s gesture for the next step.

“You’re ready, Your Highness,” Han Jiao reminded Xie An. “After you enter the game shortly, don’t pay attention to Prince Duan’s reaction. Just keep your eyes on the ball.”

Xie An felt a bit nervous. “Seventh Brother seems to be enjoying himself. How about letting him play with Ninth Brother alone today?”

“Old Tenth,” Xie Jing immediately warned his younger brother seriously. “Follow Master’s instructions.”

Xie An replied in a hushed tone, “Understood.”

Not long after, as planned, Xie Duo pretended to make a mistake and kicked the ball forcefully in the direction of the gazebo. Without waiting for Xie Xiu’s reaction, Xie Duo started running towards the ball.

Xie Xiu, who was engrossed in the game, didn’t notice anything amiss and ran with Xie Duo toward the gazebo.

Seizing the opportunity, Xie An stood up, briskly walked out of the gazebo, and intercepted the rolling ball a few steps away. He stopped it with his foot and, as Xie Duo approached, passed it to him with a kick.

As expected, the addition of a third person made Xie Xiu appear nervous.

Xie An didn’t attempt any eye contact with Xie Xiu. He simply focused on the ball, which prevented Xie Xiu from displaying too much resistance.

However, Xie Xiu’s smile disappeared, and he instinctively started moving backward, as if he intended to give the gaming space to his two younger brothers.

This reaction was expected by Han Jiao. This was a critical moment.

Xie Duo and Xie An both noticed Xie Xiu’s slow retreat. Quietly following Han Jiao’s plan, they initiated the interaction they had with Xie Xiu earlier.

Xie Duo juggled the ball, then kicked it askew. Xie An chased the ball and passed it back to Xie Duo.

Xie Xiu observed his two younger brothers’ actions from a distance, slightly shrugging his shoulders, a response to feeling isolated and helpless.

But not long after, Xie An’s behavior, similar to Xie Xiu’s, brought familiarity and a sense of security. Xie Xiu gradually relaxed his raised shoulders.

Seeing this, Han Jiao immediately tapped his knee, signaling the next step.

Xie Duo understood immediately and kicked the ball askew, rolling it toward Xie Xiu.

To avoid appearing too deliberate, the ball’s trajectory was slightly off. Xie Xiu had to move quickly to intercept the ball.

However, he remained passive, with his hands tightly clenched, watching the ball approach without any intention to block it.

Xie Xiu refused to participate in the game.

Xie Duo looked disappointed, wanting to encourage Seventh Brother to catch the ball but refrained.

Prior to starting the plan, the little child prodigy had emphasized repeatedly that there should be no interference with Xie Xiu’s reactions during the game. If this game failed, they could try another, but never force Xie Xiu’s cooperation.

The ball was about to pass by Xie Xiu soon.

Han Jiao clenched his fists, but he couldn’t remain unaffected to failure after all.

Falling short at the last moment.

Choosing this game, which included a structured rhythm and a sense of safety and control, for the first therapy session was due to its higher success rate. Han Jiao had high hopes, so disappointment was inevitable.

At this moment, Xie An looked as if he had made a mistake, glancing at Han Jiao, silently asking if he should go fetch the ball himself.

The ball had already rolled past Xie Xiu, who remained impassive, gazing straight ahead.

Han Jiao took a deep breath, facing failure with composure. He nodded slightly at Xie An, signaling him to retrieve the ball.

Beside him, Xie Jing couldn’t help but let out a long sigh, greatly disappointed.

Not far away, the smile had completely vanished from Xie Duo’s face. The contrast between Seventh Brother’s earlier reaction and his current disappointment was stark. He crossed his arms and turned his head, not wanting others to notice his emotions.

Xie An, with Master Han’s permission, headed towards the ball sluggishly. Before he took a few steps, he suddenly saw the right-hand gesture Master Han made on his knee.

Xie An immediately halted.

The princes all looked at Han Jiao with puzzled expressions, questioning him with their sidelong glances.

However, before Han Jiao could explain, everyone noticed what was happening—

Xie Xiu, with a stoic expression, slowly shifted southward, step by step, approaching the ball that had rolled not far away.

Everyone held their breath, momentarily forgetting Han Jiao’s instructions, all their gazes intently fixed on Xie Xiu with anticipation.

The burning scrutiny of the group immediately made Xie Xiu, who was attempting to get closer to the ball, stand nervously frozen.

It wasn’t until they noticed Han Jiao’s right hand frantically rubbing his knee that the three princes redirected their focus back to the ball, no longer paying attention to Xie Xiu.

Only then did Xie Xiu once again take slow, measured steps toward the ball. His demeanor suggested that he wouldn’t engage in a game with outsiders, yet he couldn’t resist the urge to kick the ball to his younger brother, seeking to regain the sense of accomplishment and control he had just experienced.

Covering the seven steps felt like crossing vast mountains and rivers for Xie Xiu, but he finally reached the side of the ball.

He hesitated anxiously, looking around, and then he saw Ninth Brother eagerly extending his arms toward him, just like when they first played catch, waiting for him to kick the ball over.

Xie Xiu stopped, his gaze shifting uneasily, and then he looked down at the ball at his feet.

Everyone held their breath, waiting.

As if a miracle had occurred, Xie Xiu kicked the ball with a swift motion, sending it towards Xie Duo!

Xie Jing suddenly clenched his fist and excitedly let out a low roar, “He did it!”

“Shh,” Han Jiao urged him to lower his voice.

Xie Duo and Xie An, containing their excitement, caught the ball and continued the juggling count, then kicked it askew.

After a few rounds, Xie Xiu no longer pretended to be aloof and gradually adapted to Xie An’s involvement, much like their earlier game.

“Master, when will it be my turn to join?” Xie Jing was becoming impatient.

“Today, Your Highness, you might not have a chance to join the game,” Han Jiao replied with a smile. “Progress hasn’t been too smooth, but it hasn’t completely failed either. This is already a good situation. We can’t rush it.”

Xie Jing was also pleased but couldn’t help but remind, “Master, it’s already past the third quarter-hour. If we don’t return to the palace soon, it might raise concerns with the Hanlin Chancellor.”

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