What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 74

Chapter 74

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Han Jiao was still immersed in the joy of the first game proceeding smoothly.

Xie Xiu could now calmly observe Xie An’s behavior. Han Jiao hoped this state would last longer, even until Xie Xiu’s energy waned. He signaled Xie Duo to end the game.

Han Jiao hoped that this first game would provide Xie Xiu with a complete and fulfilling interactive experience.

But time waits for no one, and Xie Jing was right. It they were late, it’d be difficult to explain to the Hanlin Chancellor.

Han Jiao was using his own class hours, having previously consulted with the Hanlin Chancellor, citing a desire to take the princes on a scenic tour and inspire their passion for spontaneous poetry.

If they delayed for a few more hours, the Hanlin Chancellor probably wouldn’t give them a hard time, right?

“No problem, let them play a bit more.” Han Jiao went all in, believing in his gift of gab to defuse the situation, determined to make Xie Xiu feel safer and happier as quickly as possible.

Seeing Xie Xiu accept Xie An’s participation, Xie Duo mischievously kicked a quick ball towards Xie An.

Xie An rushed to intercept the ball, but couldn’t reach it in time. After catching his breath, he retrieved the ball and attempted a counterattack while Xie Duo was distracted, only to have the ball easily caught by Xie Duo.

Xie An looked disappointed and stamped his foot in frustration.

“Hehehe! Hehehe!” Xie Xiu, who had witnessed the entire process, began to laugh at his two younger brothers’ antics.

It had been too long since Xie Xiu had experienced the joy of group activities. In Xie Xiu’s wide, joyful grin, there was an unexpected touch of nostalgia, as he watched his two younger brothers playfully teasing each other.

Xie Xiu’s happiness rubbed off on his two brothers, Xie Duo and Xie An. They contained their excitement and didn’t disturb Xie Xiu’s relaxed mood, continuing to pass the ball with finesse.

Everything was going perfectly, even Han Jiao in the gazebo couldn’t help but let his lips curl up in a smile.


Out of the blue, Xie Duo made a fake move, kicking the ball intended for Xie An in the opposite direction, right to Xie Xiu.

Han Jiao’s heart skipped a beat. This unexpected fake move wasn’t part of the plan. Would it startle Xie Xiu?

Xie An, who was getting ready to catch the ball, froze, looking bewildered at Ninth Brother. He dared not look at the ball rolling towards Seventh Brother, afraid of seeing Seventh Brother lose control.

Han Jiao grew tense and kept an eye on Xie Xiu’s reaction out of the corner of his eye.

The unexpected flying ball left Xie Xiu momentarily stunned. His attempt to catch it was clumsier than before, and the silly smile on his face vanished.

After catching the ball, Xie Xiu glanced at his Ninth Brother. He was about to kick the ball back but hesitated for a moment. Then, he turned to look at Xie An.

Xie An wore a puzzled expression, gazing blankly at his Ninth Brother.

Xie An seemed to be blaming Xie Duo for not following Master Xiaobai’s instructions in the game. He was worried that this fake move might startle Seventh Brother and mess things up.

Xie Xiu wasn’t good at understanding non-verbal cues. He misunderstood Xie An’s look of discontent as a sign of his own failure to get the ball.

The once harmonious atmosphere among the three suddenly turned awkward. Xie Duo seemed to regret his impulsive move and couldn’t bring himself to look at Xie Xiu. He kept his eyes fixed on the ball under Xie Xiu’s feet, hoping for a normal response.

However, Xie Xiu just stood there, seeming a bit lost.

Han Jiao clenched his fists, considering ending the game immediately to avoid worsening Xie Xiu’s nervousness.

“Old Tenth?”

This hesitant, nervous call left everyone in shock.

Xie An couldn’t believe it. Seventh Brother had actually called out to him. He didn’t know whether he should respond or not. In his panic, he glanced at Han Jiao and saw Master Xiaobai nodding vigorously in a manner reminiscent of a pecking chicken.

Xie An, with Han Jiao’s approval, immediately turned, and his gaze shyly met Xie Xiu’s. “Seventh Brother?”

Xie Xiu remained silent, lowering his head, and with trembling steps, he nervously and awkwardly kicked the ball towards Xie An.

With a light “thud,” Xie An caught the ball.

Astonishingly, Xie Xiu willingly passed the ball to someone other than Ninth Brother.

After this unexpected move, Xie Xiu tightly pressed his lips together, shoulders tensed, his gaze wandering elsewhere. He couldn’t face Xie An’s reaction and discreetly observed it from the corner of his eye.

Xie An beamed with excitement and then triumphantly showed off to Ninth Brother, boasting that Seventh Brother had passed the ball to him.

Such a response transformed Xie Xiu’s nervous expression into a joyful smile.

Feeling the emotions he stirred in Xie An, Xie Xiu had an indescribable sense of excitement, making him nod enthusiastically.

Nearby, Xie Duo was in awe.

It had been many years since he had seen Xie Xiu make such a gesture.

When Xie Xiu was a child, he loved tinkering with clever devices. Every time he made a satisfying contraption, he would show it to his wetnurse.

After receiving the wetnurse’s delighted praise, Xie Xiu would nod and smile like this, sometimes swaying his entire upper body back and forth.

“Master Xiaobai,” Xie Jing exclaimed in astonishment, speaking in a hushed tone, “You’re truly amazing.”

Han Jiao didn’t quite understand the meaning behind Xie Xiu’s actions and felt a bit nervous. He turned to Xie Jing and asked, “What’s going on?”

Xie Jing suppressed a smile, and after a while, he turned to Han Jiao. “You know, when you mentioned the possibility of Old Seventh reverting to his personality before he was eleven, only Old Tenth had some belief in it. But now…” He turned to look at Xie Xiu, who was swaying his head and body. “Old Seventh has actually started acting like a roly-poly.”

Han Jiao didn’t fully comprehend, but Xie Xiu didn’t seem out of control. “Why is he swaying back and forth like that?”

Xie Jing shrugged. “No one can explain it, but one thing I know is that the last time I saw him swaying like this was before his wetnurse passed away.”

Han Jiao was momentarily stunned. He took a sharp breath, understanding the significance of Xie Xiu’s behavior.

His mind buzzing with excitement, Han Jiao’s eyes even teared up. After taking a few deep breaths, he managed to look at Xie Xiu, feeling the long-lost joy and ease in this moment.

The first game had taken an unexpected turn due to Xie Duo’s spontaneous fake move. As the games continued, Xie Xiu even willingly passed the ball to Xie An, seemingly fully accepting the trio’s game.

Sensing that Xie Xiu was a bit out of breath, Han Jiao signaled Xie Duo and Xie An to end the game.

Following the instructions, Xie An was the first to express fatigue, and Xie Duo promptly suggested that they play again another day. Afterward, he called for a eunuch to bring three bowls of cold tea.

As planned, the two princes gathered around Xie Xiu, who didn’t step back. He grinned and looked at Xie Duo, then at Xie An. “Tired, huh?”

Xie Duo flashed two little sharp tiger teeth in a smile, while Xie An just nodded. Han Jiao had instructed that during this step of therapy, they should minimize verbal communication and rely on natural closeness to make Xie Xiu let his guard down.

After the tea was brought in, Xie Duo picked up a cup and began to drink. After a short pause, Xie An also picked up a cup.

Due to Xie Xiu’s dissociation from his trauma, he had grown somewhat numb to physical discomfort. Only upon hearing the sound of his two brothers sipping water did he sluggishly realize his own thirst. He finally picked up a cup from the tray and took a few sips.

Xie Duo and Xie An kept a close watch on Xie Xiu, and the moment he placed his teacup back on the tray, the two brothers simultaneously did the same with their cups, resulting in a synchronized “thud” as all three empty cups were placed together on the tray.

The three of them spontaneously burst into laughter.

It was Han Jiao who had instructed them to maintain this sense of synchrony. The two brothers didn’t fully understand why they needed to do this, but they could sense that Xie Xiu’s expression towards Xie An became increasingly affectionate and relaxed.

The first stage of action led by Master Han exceeded expectations.

On their way back to the palace, the princes inside the carriage were so excited that they almost lifted the carriage roof. Xie An’s rainbow fart jokes completely overshadowed Han Jiao.

However, this victorious happiness came to a sudden halt after entering the palace.

The princes cheerfully hopped out of the carriage, only to be greeted by the Hanlin Chancellor of the palace, standing at the bridge like a stern executioner.

Who would have thought the Hanlin Chancellor would specially wait here like an ambush?

“I have been waiting for the Princes for some time,” the Hanlin Chancellor nodded in greeting to the Princes, then wasted no time in addressing their delay, “And where is Master Han?”

“I am here.” Han Jiao stepped out from behind the princes and smiled, nodding at the Hanlin Chancellor. “Today, I took the Princes out of the palace for a morning stroll. We traveled quite a distance, and it delayed us for a while. I hope Master can forgive us.”

The three Princes, lined up by age from eldest to youngest, stood in a row, with Xie Duo in the middle.

The Hanlin Chancellor of the palace asked with a stern tone, “After spending the morning outside the palace, may I have the privilege of reading the great works created by the Princes?”

The three princes were silent.

The Hanlin Chancellor immediately fixed Han Jiao with a probing gaze.

Han Jiao had been prepared and took out the poems that he had had the princes transcribe in advance from his sleeve. He handed them over to the Hanlin Chancellor for inspection.

These were three poems written personally by the literary genius. With slight adjustments to match the princes’ level and style, they should appear genuine.

After examining each one, the Hanlin Chancellor couldn’t find any faults and had to return them to Han Jiao. His gaze then landed on Xie An, who was standing on the far right, and he asked in a stern tone, “Your Highness, why are you standing with your hands behind your back?”

Xie An gave an awkward smile. He knew his posture was a bit impolite, but when he had dismounted from the carriage, he was holding a ball. If he didn’t keep his hands behind his back now, there would be no place to hide the ball.

The Hanlin Chancellor sternly reminded, “Your Highness, stand at attention.”

Obediently, Xie An straightened his posture, but he didn’t lower his hands.

“Your Highness?” The Hanlin Chancellor’s gaze sharpened.

Beside Xie An, Xie Duo discreetly scratched the back of his head and subtly moved closer to Xie An. When he pretended to lower his arms, he allowed one to hang behind Xie An and cleverly pressed the ball against Xie An’s lower back, freeing his hands.

As a result, Xie An’s hands safely hung down without a trace of wrongdoing.

The Hanlin Chancellor couldn’t contain his frustration any longer. “Hand it over, Your Highness. When you got off the carriage, I had already spotted that ball!”

The three princes looked bewildered, as if they hadn’t expected the situation to escalate this far.

The Hanlin Chancellor turned to Han Jiao. “Master Han, can you please explain why, during an outing, a ball had to be brought along?”

Han Jiao opened his mouth but couldn’t come up with a suitable reason.

“I brought it secretly,” Xie An stepped forward, holding up the ball from behind him, taking the blame. “It’s not Master Han’s fault!”

His two older brothers immediately cast admiring looks at him.

Since the youngest prince was willing to take the punishment on behalf of Han Jiao, the Hanlin Chancellor didn’t hold back and directly ordered Xie An to transcribe Confucius’ Analects three times as a penalty.

Xie Jing couldn’t bear it any longer and took the initiative to share the blame. “It’s not fair to blame it all on Old Tenth. I’m also responsible. It was me who secretly hid the ball in the carriage with him!”

The Hanlin Chancellor recognized the prince’s handwriting. To share the punishment, they first had to share the responsibility.

The Hanlin Chancellor was moved by Xie Jing’s willingness to take responsibility. After some consideration, he believed his words. “In that case, both Princes shall transcribe the Analects three times each.”

Xie Jing: “……”

Xie Duo, who hadn’t yet made a statement, immediately withdrew his urge to act and lowered his head, choosing to admit his fault.

Since they couldn’t share the punishment, there was no need to shoulder the blame together.

Facing the prospect of transcribing the Analects three times, Xie Jing’s hands were already beginning to numb. In desperation, he struggled, “We brought the ball with us just to keep Ninth Brother entertained on the way. During the outing, I didn’t even touch the ball once!”

Upon hearing this, the Hanlin Chancellor turned his gaze towards Xie Duo, as if he had suddenly recognized the culprit!

Xie Duo raised his eyes, slowly turned his head to look at Xie Jing, his expression clearly saying, “You’re trying to get us killed.”

Seeing the big boss’ anger rapidly spreading, Han Jiao clenched his teeth and stepped forward. “I failed to notice it. I’m willing to take the punishment on behalf of the princes!”

“It’s not Master Han’s fault.” Xie Duo, who had been ready to throw Old Eighth under the bus, suddenly surrendered and redirected his intense gaze away from Old Eighth. He fixed his eyes on the Hanlin Chancellor and said, “It was me. I asked both of them to help me hide the ball in the carriage. How many times would you like me to transcribe the Analects, Master?”

The Hanlin Chancellor suddenly felt a chill down his spine.

It was strange. Having served in the Hanlin Academy for over a decade, the Hanlin Chancellor had never been overpowered in terms of authority by the young princes. Ninth Prince, however, was the exception.

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