What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 76

Chapter 76

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Han Jiao played a little trick. He was aware that bringing up the fact that Senior Minister Xu held the decision-making authority would deeply upset Prince Yan, so he intentionally chose to remind in this manner.

Providing education for the local people in the Sichuan-Guizhou region only required a few tens of thousands of silver, even with a well-qualified faculty, at most a little over a hundred thousand silver. This was much less than the annual military expenses for guarding the Sichuan-Guizhou region.

Although Senior Minister Xu couldn’t be considered a genuinely benevolent official, he wasn’t intentionally antagonistic towards the common people. Officials like him followed the principle of “balancing public and personal interests.” When it came to the proposal of establishing schools, which benefited both sides, he would likely accept it.

However, this old fellow spoke ill of Han Jiao behind his back and sowed discord.  Finally having a chance to meet with Prince Yan alone, Han Jiao was determined to seize the opportunity to further his own interests. Once Prince Yan came to power, he would be eager to push Senior Minister Xu aside.

But Han Jiao had to be cautious about the extent of his actions. After all, Prince Yan was a tough character now, and if he pushed Senior Minister Xu too hard, it could spell disaster.

Han Jiao casually consoled, “Senior Minister Xu has far more experience than I do. Whatever decision he makes, it’s all in consideration of Your Highness’ssafety.”

Prince Yan snorted, still looking dissatisfied. “Senior Minister Xu’s approach was to avoid unnecessary involvement and adhere strictly to ancestral traditions. He aimed to keep a low profile, ensuring that no one could blame him for any missteps, all while trying to bide time with Father Emperor, enabling me to ascend to the heir’s position without any blemishes.”

Han Jiao was momentarily at a loss for words. Although he didn’t agree with Senior Minister Xu’s compromising administrative approach, after hearing what Prince Yan said, he began to understand Senior Minister Xu’s difficulties.

Wasn’t it just about avoiding making mistakes?

The Crown Prince position couldn’t remain vacant indefinitely. In previous dynasties, Prince Yan would have become the Crown Prince as soon as he reached adulthood. However, the Great Chu dynasty had a unique requirement compared to other dynasties — the heir needed to have military achievements to be designated as the Crown Prince.

Great Chu’s founding Emperor had reclaimed the land from foreign rule. In contrast, the earlier dynasties that succumbed to external forces neglected military power despite their economic dominance. Hence, at the outset of the Great Chu dynasty, it was explicitly stated that a Crown Prince needed to achieve military accomplishments before receiving their title.

Regardless of the size of military achievements, the purpose was to remind the rulers of past generations to prioritize military strength.

By the time of Prince Yan’s generation, this ancestral tradition had become more of a superficial rule.

In theory, building military achievements wasn’t that difficult. While it might be challenging to fight against the northern invaders, the southern pirates were constantly defeated by the Chu army. If Prince Yan wanted to establish military achievements, he could simply observe a battle with an elite army in the southeast coastal region.

The problem was that the Emperor entrusted Senior Minister Li with matters of border defense, and the commanders who fought against the southern pirates and northern invaders were all under Senior Minister Li’s command. Who knew if he might sabotage the army in which Prince Yan would participate?

So, the issue of border defense authority had been Senior Minister Xu’s ongoing effort. He had to ensure that the appointed commanders were beyond suspicion to pave the way for Prince Yan.

However, the current Great Chu Emperor was a master of political maneuvering. He would not allow Prince Yan to smoothly pave the way.

Never mind that Han Jiao knew the old Emperor wanted to pass the throne to Xie Duo. Even if the Emperor really wanted to peacefully pass the throne to his legitimate eldest son, Prince Yan, he couldn’t just allow the heir’s power to grow unchecked at this point.

The relationship between the imperial family members had always been delicate. The Emperor had to balance different factions of civil officials and even had to involve the eunuch group to mediate between him and the civil officials. So, he wouldn’t permit the “backup Emperor” to expand without any constraints.

Lessons from the likes of Li Yuan, Wu Zetian, and Zhao Kuangyin were there to remind everyone. Even if the legitimate eldest son was the Emperor’s most beloved little treasure like Xie Duo, he would probably face regular challenges, let alone someone like Prince Yan who disagreed with the Emperor’s policies.

So, at this stage, Senior Minister Xu couldn’t rush things. He wanted to buy some time, waiting for the Emperor’s hostility toward Prince Yan to ease before planning for accomplishments. Otherwise, the Emperor would surely instruct Senior Minister Li to throw a wrench in the works.

But Han Jiao knew that Senior Minister Xu couldn’t wait for that day. He underestimated the Emperor’s lack of approval for Prince Yan. Only if both Prince Duan and Prince Ling completely gave up the throne could the Emperor be satisfied.

The distinction between legitimate and concubine-born sons was much stricter than that between elder and younger ones. The Empress only had these three sons, and if two relinquished their claims, the Crown Prince position would naturally go to Prince Yan.

Han Jiao’s current plan was to make Prince Duan give up his claim and thus avoid the big boss turning hostile – a double win.

“Senior Minister Xu has his reasons for doing so.” Han Jiao decided to start his own strategy, testing Prince Yan’s stance on the Second Prince. “He has been opposing Senior Minister Li all along. In the end, he’s helping you resist Prince Duan’s ambitions.”

Prince Yan sighed at the words. “Prince Duan’s ambitions… what ambitions does he have? Those are Senior Minister Li’s ambitions.”

Han Jiao’s eyes lit up, and he continued to lead, “Does Prince Duan have any ambitions for the Crown Prince position?”

“No, even if he has ambitions, it’s the kind of ambition to become an imperial gardener. When he was young, he wanted to work with his hands, and as he grew up, he wanted to cultivate plants and flowers.” Prince Yan finished with a mixture of amusement and resignation. “I feel ashamed. My Seventh Brother is obsessed with flowers and plants, my Ninth Brother is all about cuju, and I’m the only one wholeheartedly trying to benefit the people. But Father Emperor just doesn’t appreciate me.”

Han Jiao: “……”

Prince Yan had a pretty clear understanding of his situation.

“Since Prince Duan is into gardening and not interested in the throne,” Han Jiao probed further, “can we find a way to help him break free from Prince Duan’s faction?”

Prince Yan shook his head. “Senior Minister Li is the one holding him back. Senior Minister Li is his mentor, and he listens to everything he says.”

“You’re his elder brother, you grew up together. Can’t the bond between brothers mean more than the influence of Senior Minister Li, who’s been with him for less than a decade?”

The smile faded from Prince Yan’s face. He looked down at his tea bowl and spoke in a deep tone, “In royal families, there are plenty of brothers who become bitter enemies. With whom should I discuss brotherly bonds?”

Han Jiao sensed his displeasure but continued with this topic, coaxing Prince Yan to reminisce about their childhood friendship, “Did you and the Seventh Prince not interact in the palace back in the day?”

In Prince Yan’s distant gaze, a glimmer suddenly appeared. In his mind, he recalled the times from his childhood when he secretly gathered materials with Old Seventh at the Imperial Crafts Bureau.

Once, Old Seventh wanted to create a contraption that required various intricate gears and precisely fitted components, totaling more than seven hundred scattered parts.

Prince Yan begged and pleaded with his parents, asking the palace craftsmen to set aside their official duties and help Old Seventh in polishing the parts. It took a full eight days to gather all the components. The assembly that followed was even more challenging and had to be done by Old Seventh alone.

Until Old Seventh had created the final product, he wouldn’t tell anyone what he was trying to make. After obtaining the parts, he started assembling them and continuously modified and calibrated them.

“Your fingers have calluses now.” At that time, the young Prince Yan sat cross-legged beside Old Seventh, watching him work on the project. His eyes grew tired, but Old Seventh showed no signs of fatigue. As usual, he paid no attention to anyone while working.

Prince Yan had no choice but to stay with him.

One evening, half a month later, as Prince Yan was reading in his bedroom, a figure resembling a small monkey suddenly burst through the pearl curtains, rushing into his private chamber. The figure was full of excitement as it placed a pair of wooden contraptions and a sliding rack in a corner of the bedroom, on top of the jade zither.

“Old Seventh?” Prince Yan put down his book and approached, curious, to inspect the wooden contraptions. They appeared to be a pair of finely crafted hands. “Is this the new contraption you’ve been working on?”

Xie Xiu made a hushing gesture, his hands trembling with excitement. He quickly manipulated the mechanism on the edge of the mechanical hands and then eagerly watched for his sixth brother’s reaction.

He released the mechanism, and the gears within the mechanical hands began to spin rapidly. With the sliding rack moving back and forth, the finger joints skillfully plucked the zither strings, astonishingly playing Prince Yan’s favorite tune.

Although the music lacked the graceful and agile touch of a human player, it had a striking resemblance to Xie Xiu’s own somewhat awkward and wooden manner. Prince Yan felt as if his seventh brother had personally played the tune for him.

“You spent half a month’s worth of effort just to make these wooden hands?” The young Prince Yan, not one for subtlety, criticized his silly younger brother bluntly. “You’re not even as good as the musicians at the music hall. Look at you, your eyes are all red. How long have you been at it without sleep? Aren’t you tired?”

Xie Xiu looked at the wooden hands playing the jade zither and nodded with joy, then shook his head.

Prince Yan laughed. “What’s the meaning of this? Are you tired or not?”

Xie Xiu answered foolishly, “Tired, but when I lie down, I think about how it’s playing the zither for my Sixth Brother, and I’m not tired anymore. I keep adjusting and can’t stop.”

Hearing this, Prince Yan felt sorry for him and pinched his little brother’s ear while scolding, “You silly goose, don’t make things for me anymore in the future.”

In response, Xie Xiu looked down at the wooden hands he had made and murmured nervously, “Six Brother doesn’t like it! Six Brother doesn’t like it! Six Brother doesn’t like it!”

“I don’t dislike it at all!” the young Prince Yan argued. “I just don’t want to see you with red eyes and calluses all over your hands.”

Xie Xiu was a determined child who wouldn’t give up until he reached his goal. “Does Six Brother like it? It can help you fall asleep.”

Only then did Prince Yan lower his head and scrutinize the wooden hands playing the zither. Suddenly, he burst into laughter. “This thing hanging over the zither is a little spooky. It would scare me and keep me awake.”

Xie Duo asked in confusion, “Why?”

Prince Yan found his brother’s clueless expression amusing and laughed heartily, “If I imagine it’s you playing the music, then it’s not scary at all, hahaha!”

Xie Xiu joined in the hearty laughter.

“Why are you laughing, you little goof? I’m laughing at you, hahaha!”

“Because Six Brother is laughing, hahaha!”


To dispel the bittersweet memories, Prince Yan, his voice hoarse, responded, “I never had any interaction with him. Old Seventh and I aren’t close.”

Han Jiao was taken aback, not sure why Prince Yan was lying.

Xie Jing said that Prince Yan used to be very protective and understanding of Xie Xiu when they were children. He acted like a big brother and even defended Xie Xiu when they had arguments.

So why was he now deliberately claiming they had never interacted?

Was he afraid that Han Jiao would find out about his past conflicts with Xie Xiu?

To mend the rift between the two brothers, it was essential to convince Prince Yan to cooperate fully, but his current expression suggested he was resistant to Xie Xiu.

“How can close brothers living in the palace have no interaction? Occasional squabbles and temper tantrums are common among siblings. Even I occasionally have disagreements with my little brother at home.”

Prince Yan nodded, clearly not wanting to discuss the matter further.

Han Jiao hadn’t had many recent opportunities to meet with Prince Yan, so he plucked up his courage and continued, “In fact, I’ve already heard from the Eighth Prince that you used to strongly favor Prince Duan as a child, even to the point of getting into physical altercations with your other brothers over him, for which you were punished by the Emperor.”

Prince Yan still had no expression on his face, but his mind began to recall that one noon from his childhood…

The siblings were dining together, and Old Fourth teased Old Seventh for eating with his nose buried in his food. He even playfully tried to stuff a piece of meat into Old Seventh’s nose.

It was during that incident that Prince Yan had, for the first time, resorted to violence against his siblings, abruptly covering Old Fourth’s face with a rice bowl.

“Don’t listen to the nonsense Old Eighth is spouting,” Prince Yan denied in a deep voice. “Why bring up such matters? It’s a downer.”

“Why would the Eighth Prince make light of such a thing?” Han Jiao urged, “Your Highness, I know that you used to have a close relationship with Prince Duan. Why do you two seem like strangers now?”

Suddenly, Prince Yan’s face contorted with anger. “How could I have had a close relationship with Old Seventh? It’s absurd! If there’s no other important matter to discuss today, please take your leave, Master. This Prince needs to return to my residence.”

“Your Highness…” Han Jiao suddenly stood up, circumvented the Eight Immortals’ table, and offered a deep bow to Prince Yan. “You must understand the intention behind my mentioning this. Instead of relying on Senior Minister Xu and Senior Minister Li to balance things, why not get to the root of the issue and restore your friendship with Prince Duan?”

Prince Yan, momentarily drained of his spirit, stared blankly at Han Jiao.

After a while, he slowly began to speak, “Why not restore… my friendship with him? That’s a question you should ask Prince Duan. Why would it matter to me?” He chuckled dryly and then suddenly roared, “I’m not like that ungrateful Old Seventh! How should I know why? Why?!”

Han Jiao was shocked to see tears shimmering in Prince Yan’s eyes.

“You don’t understand my Seventh Brother…” Prince Yan suppressed his bitterness. “That brat… that brat is no good at all. He can turn on you in an instant. I… I offended Second Brother, Fourth Brother, and Fifth Brother for him. But now, he’s joined forces with Second Brother and the others against me, all because…” Prince Yan was filled with despair. “All because I wouldn’t let him strip Mother Empress’ clothes off. 

“I really didn’t hurt him… They all say I made him go insane, but all I did was pin him to the ground… Father Emperor even said I don’t deserve to be an elder brother… They accused me of bullying my younger brother… Both Old Second and  Old Fourth pointed their fingers at me and called me worthless… Old Seventh… is just an ungrateful wretch!”

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1 thought on “What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 76”

  1. Princes’ Numbers and what they’re like:
    1: Snake in the Grass
    2: Dipshit
    3: Gangster, likes 9 the best, friendly with 6
    4: A Dick
    5: Also a Dick
    6: Harem Protagonist, kind of a dumbass, wants to see the best in people
    7: Autism creature, traumatized
    8: Nerd
    9: Jerd (jock + nerd), Han Jiao’s poorest little meow meow
    10: The Baby, constantly trolls/gets trolled, also a dumbass
    Wish we could know who else besides 6, 7, and 9 share a mom tho…
    Thanks for the chapter!


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