What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 80

Chapter 80

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

“He… is immitating the songstress in a play.” Xie Xiu, who had been silently observing, gathered the courage to join the discussion because he finally figured out what Eighth Brother, who kept rolling and blinking his eyes, wanted to do.

The princes and Han Jiao all looked at Xie Xiu in surprise, turning their heads together.

Xie Xiu’s gaze stopped on Xie Jing.

“That’s right,” Xie Duo was the first to react and immediately encouraged Seventh Brother’s participation in the conversation, “Old Eighth is immitating the female singers in operas.”

Xie Jing was pleasantly surprised, being spoken to by Seventh Brother for the first time. He felt a bit shy and quickly replied modestly, “Is it terrible? Am I not good at it?”

Xie Xiu thought for a moment with an expressionless face and answered seriously, “Yes.”

“Thank you.” Xie Jing accepted Seventh Brother’s approval with a hint of pain and continued to get closer to Seventh Brother, “Seventh Brother, I also want to play cuju with all of you.”

This request came suddenly. The obedient Xie An anxiously looked at Master Han, unsure if he could make such a direct request to Seventh Brother.

Han Jiao was also observing Xie Xiu’s reaction.

Xie Xiu didn’t show signs of panic or resistance, just gazed ahead, seemingly deep in thought.

Everyone held their breath, waiting for his response.

Xie Xiu finally spoke, “Today is a banquet. We can’t play cuju.”

Xie Jing’s eyes lit up, “Can we do it next time? I want to play cuju with Seventh Brother!”

Xie Xiu fell silent and turned his head to Old Eighth, giving him an appraising look.

Not sure if it was an illusion, but even though Xie Xiu still had his usual expressionless face, Han Jiao felt that his gaze at the Eighth Prince seemed somewhat disapproving.

Xie Xiu fixed his gaze on Old Eighth and spoke solemnly, “If you promise not to imitate female singers twisting and turning, then you can play cuju with us. A’Duo doesn’t like your imitations.”

“Hahaha!” Young Xie An was the first to burst into laughter, stomping his feet. “Eighth Brother’s imitation is so ugly! Seventh Brother even stepped in to stop it!”

“Alright, alright! I won’t imitate anymore! I won’t!” Xie Jing was overjoyed and immediately suggested, “Today, instead of playing cuju, we can throw dice and bet on big or small, just like they do at Eldest Brother’s mansion. If you lose a round, you have to take off a piece of clothing!”

This was a game Old Eighth had seen his older brothers play with the female performers at the Eldest Prince’s residence.

To pique his brothers’ interest, Old Eighth hugged his shoulders, imitating the flirtatious women at the Eldest Prince’s residence. In a sultry voice, he teased Xie Duo, “Would you like to see what color my bellyband is?”

“Come here,” Xie Duo ordered, “Tie up Old Eighth’s hands, but don’t let him take off his clothes.”

Xie An couldn’t endure it any longer. “Eighth Brother, have some self-respect! I’m still young. Sixth Brother said I shouldn’t see these things!”

Old Eighth, encouraged by the situation, was about to open his robe to show his “fragrant shoulders” and disgust his younger brothers even more. But Senior Minister Li returned, frightening the “mischievous youth,” who quickly fastened his robe.

Because there weren’t many guests, Senior Minister Li arranged a banquet right in the main hall. With him personally presiding, the Eighth Prince and Ninth Prince dared not misbehave further and had their meals in an orderly manner.

Considering the notable age gap, and both being loyal servants, Senior Minister Li couldn’t establish the same rapport with the princes as Han Jiao did. So, they discussed political matters related to “land reform” during the meal.

Senior Minister Li mentioned that the drafts from the court had been submitted to the Emperor, and Senior Minister Xu’s policies for education in Sichuan received the Emperor’s approval.

This policy was originally suggested by Han Jiao to Prince Yan. When Senior Minister Li brought it up suddenly, Han Jiao had to pretend not to know about it to avoid revealing his private dealings with Prince Yan.

After the meal, Xie Jing saw that Senior Minister Li was still discussing political matters with Han Jiao in hushed tones. He patted his brothers and suggested sneaking off to the garden for a bit of cuju.

So, the princes sneaked away quietly, leaving Master Xiaobai alone to keep Senior Minister Li engaged.

Senior Minister Li, being aware of their intentions, waited until all the princes had left before sighing. “I’m getting old. Everywhere I go, I become a burden to the Princes. In the past, when I was Prince Kang’s tutor, I used to accompany the Prince in cuju and hunting. Now, the Emperor is busy with state affairs and has no time for leisure.”

Han Jiao quietly pondered: Prince Kang was the current Emperor. Senior Minister Li used to be Prince Kang’s tutor. No wonder he rose through the ranks so quickly, from being an Expositor-in-waiting to the Crown Prince’s tutor, then to Hanlin Chancellor to the Minister of Rites then finally to the Deputy Prime Minister. It turned out that it was all because he used to be the Emperor’s teacher.

“The Princes all hold you in high regard,” Han Jiao spoke honestly. “They aren’t as disciplined in front of other teachers.”

“Especially when it comes to Master Han,” Senior Minister Li chuckled. “Even at your age, I can’t quite bond with the Prince Kang as you do. I wonder what’s your secret, not only in befriending Prince Ling but also in helping Prince Duan connect with his brothers.”

Han Jiao lowered his head and replied, “Prince Ling brought his brothers to visit Prince Duan’s residence. They are naturally close because they are siblings. It’s thanks to Prince Ling’s introduction. I can’t take much credit.”

Senior Minister Li’s smile faded. “It took me seven years, and I still couldn’t make Prince Duan feel at ease with outsiders. Is it possible that merely a few visits from Prince Ling and his brothers could bring about such a change in his attitude?”

Han Jiao nodded in silence.

He was hesitant to reveal too much about the healing process, fearing that if he disclosed too much, the old fox might see through his plan to influence Prince Duan.

“Are you worried that I might hinder your interaction with Xie Xiu?” Senior Minister Li fixed his gaze on Han Jiao. “Do you think I want to keep Prince Duan tightly controlled, preventing him from forming bonds with others?”

“I wouldn’t dare to think that!”

“You’re just not saying it out loud,” Senior Minister Li sighed with a bitter smile. “Everyone thinks the same way. They all believe that I initially sought Prince Duan’s favor to wield power through his position.”

Han Jiao looked up at Senior Minister Li and confessed, “I never had such intentions. Seven years ago, Prince Duan lost his wetnurse and nearly went mad. Not only did the court officials show indifference to him, but even his brothers and even the Empress were at a loss, with no hope left. No matter how visionary one could be, no one would have imagined that Prince Duan could regain the Emperor’s favor. I believe that your initial care for Prince Duan was out of compassion.”

Senior Minister Li pursed his lips and shook his head. “I don’t possess your compassionate nature.”

Han Jiao was taken aback, looking at Senior Minister Li with confusion.

If it wasn’t out of sympathy for Prince Duan, what was the real reason this old fox patiently tutored him in the past?

Senior Minister Li gazed at the setting sun outside, his thoughts returning to seven years ago. His eyes sparkled with surprise once again. “Back then, when Prince Duan used to come to the study, he never brought any books. He always seemed absent-minded, ignoring everyone around him. His tutors’ repeated guidance didn’t help, so they left him be. Days turned into weeks, and I often heard the tutors complain about him. But then, I discovered something amazing. He could answer every question in the monthly exams right on the spot, and his essays weren’t ghostwritten. I tested him several times, and he wrote his responses with a pen… Can you imagine it? This child memorized everything from the books, all in his head! He didn’t do it deliberately. If you gave him a new book, he could read it once and remember it all.”

In Senior Minister Li’s bright, eagle-like eyes, there was a restrained sense of admiration. “This was a heaven-sent talent, and as his tutor, how could I let such a precious gem gather dust? I used to be His Majesty’s tutor and Hanlin Chancellor. It was my duty to guide Prince Duan, but sadly, I didn’t do a good job.”

He turned to look at Han Jiao. “Now, everything is in Master Han’s hands. If you can make Prince Duan behave like a regular person, it will ease the Emperor’s worries. Why would I obstruct that?”

Han Jiao suddenly understood.

Indeed, making Xie Xiu behave more normally wouldn’t affect Xie Xiu’s trust in Senior Minister Li. Instead, it would reassure the Emperor and secure Xie Xiu as the heir.

After all, Senior Minister Li didn’t need a complete puppet. He only needed the new monarch to believe in his loyalty and abilities, allowing him to fulfill his ambitions.

Instead, Xie Xiu’s current isolation and withdrawal made the Emperor hesitate to appoint him as the heir. He was only being used to balance Prince Yan.

“I understand the Senior Minister’s intentions. I will do my utmost.”

Senior Minister Li nodded approvingly and asked in a hushed tone, “Can you make Prince Duan engage in casual conversations with people other than his brothers? Other ministers, even His Majesty and the Empress?”

Han Jiao thought that the ministers would be fine. He couldn’t be sure about the Emperor, but involving the Empress would be troublesome.

Seven years ago, Xie Xiu had a sudden episode where he tried to undress the Empress, clearly triggered by something. Right after that, Prince Yan beat him. The Empress, just like Prince Yan, would undoubtedly be a significant traumatic memory for him.

Now, even getting Prince Yan to cooperate with the treatment had failed, let alone the Empress. Han Jiao had no chance to meet the Empress, so he had no confidence in repairing their mother-son relationship.

“That’s fine. Being able to converse fluently with the ministers is enough,” Senior Minister Li looked at Han Jiao thoughtfully. “Master Han, you are truly an extraordinary talent.”

“Elder is too kind.”

“This is not flattery. Your strategy for integrating the local people through education in Sichuan has opened my eyes.”

Han Jiao was taken aback by these words. He tried to deny it but Senior Minister Li raised his hand to stop him and went on, “Master Han, there’s no need to hide. The long-term strategy of funding education to assimilate the local people is not in line with the policies of Senior Minister Xu’s faction. I thought about it carefully, and only you would propose this strategy to Prince Yan.”

Han Jiao tried to stay calm, but his heart was pounding like a drum. The old fox had managed to guess even this!

“Master Han, there’s no need to be nervous. Everyone has their own aspirations, and I won’t force you,” Senior Minister Li said with seriousness. “But out of respect for your talents, there’s a piece of advice I’d like to offer.”

Han Jiao bowed and said, “Please, Elder, enlighten me.”

Senior Minister Li said in a cold tone, “If, in the future, I am fortunate enough to assist in governing the country, I will never overlook dedicated talents like Master Han. However, if it’s the Prime Minister who comes to power, it’s best for Master Han to consider retiring in advance to save your life. The Prime Minister only values loyalty and disregards talent. Master Han’s natural inclination is hard to constrain, which might make it difficult to work alongside him.”

The old fox’s words were indeed quite accurate.

Senior Minister Xu was certainly a major problem, but Prince Yan also disliked him and would undoubtedly try to regain power and remove Senior Minister Xu once he ascended.

Han Jiao believed he could manage to survive. He even thought about trying to persuade Senior Minister Li to work together to get rid of Senior Minister Xu and assist Prince Yan. However, the time for such actions had not yet come.

The two of them hadn’t been talking for long when the sky darkened, and they heard Xie An’s voice from outside.

“Senior Minister Li, Master Han, it’s time for us to return to the palace!”

Han Jiao was just getting into the conversation when he turned and shouted, “Understood!”

“……” Senior Minister Li hesitated and gently reminded, “May I suggest that Master Han accompany me to see off the Princes as part of the courtesy between ruler and subject?”

“Oh, yes.” Han Jiao suddenly remembered the formalities between ruler and subject. He quickly got up and followed Senior Minister Li out the door.

If you enjoy this novel, support the Translator ginevre on her ko-fi account :))

<Previous Chapter<Table of Contents>Next Chapter>

2 thoughts on “What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 80”

Leave a comment