What was I Thinking when I Ditch the Second Male Protagonist Chapter 81

Chapter 81

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Han Jiao had initially intended to first bid a respectful farewell to the princes, exchange a few pleasantries with Senior Minister Li and then see off him off. Finally, he would mount his little donkey and ride back home.


“What are you waiting for? Let’s go.” Xie Duo, who was on his precious horse, raised his chin at Han Jiao, signaling him to join him.

So, Han Jiao had no choice but to bid farewell to Senior Minister Li. Amid Senior Minister Li’s bewildered and envious gaze, and follow His Royal Highness Prince Ling on the road.

The three Imperial Princes, to save time, all left the palace on horseback. At this moment, traveling with Han Jiao, their speed was seriously hindered by the little donkey.

Especially Xie Duo’s splendid horse.

Riding side by side with the donkey seemed to bring great shame to Xie Duo’s magnificent horse. It would snort loudly every few steps, scaring Han Jiao’s donkey into sticking close to the corner of the alley.

Han Jiao had to constantly adjust the reins to get back by Xie Duo’s side and continue inquiring about the condition of Prince Duan.

Xie Jing was quite enthusiastic and bragged to Master Xiaobai, “It went even smoother this time than the last. Seventh Brother didn’t treat me like a stranger at all and passed the ball to me several times!”

“That’s because Seventh Brother got used to me joining in,” Xie An argued. “Thanks to Master Xiaobai’s workable strategy, Seventh Brother isn’t afraid of people anymore. Next time, maybe we can let Third Brother have a try?”

“No,” Han Jiao quickly advised, “All of you are younger brothers of Prince Duan. Prince Duan is already less guarded against you. Third Prince is his older brother, so we need to take it step by step.”

In truth, it was mainly because the Third Prince had become close to Prince Yan, which could easily trigger Prince Duan’s illness.

Han Jiao’s next step was to personally approach Prince Duan and establish a foundation of familiarity and trust for EMDR therapy.

When they reached a fork in the road, Han Jiao had to turn south. He pulled the reins to say goodbye to the Princes.

Xie Jing and Xie An waved and rode away. Xie Duo said he wanted to buy something at the southern market, so he continued along with Han Jiao.

“Why are you hiding?” Not long after, Xie Duo noticed that the little child prodigy was walking so close to the wall it looked like he’d become part of the mural.

“I’m not hiding!” Han Jiao struggled to keep pulling the reins in Xie Duo’s direction. “Your Highness’ horse keeps scaring my donkey!”

Xie Duo lowered his head to look at his well-behaved white horse and retorted, “How could it scare your donkey?”

“It keeps snorting loudly!”

Xie Duo frowned. “Your donkey seems overly sensitive. My horse snorts just like your donkey breathes, no special intent.”

“Did you hear that, Ferrari?” Han Jiao leaned down to comfort his donkey. “The horse next to us won’t bully you. Let’s not walk so close to the wall. My robes are almost getting torn.”

Xie Duo laughed and looked ahead. “What do you call it? Ferrari? What does it mean?”

“It doesn’t mean anything, just a random name.” Han Jiao couldn’t explain this self-indulgent name. Instead, he reminded the Ninth Prince, “Your Highness, you need to turn east from here to reach the market, it’s closer.”

Xie Duo teased with a serious face, “Thanks for the reminder. In this capital, how could I be more familiar than Master Han?”

“I’m just offering a kind reminder, Your Highness!” Han Jiao was somewhat indignant. Wasn’t he just worried that this stinky little brother might take a longer route and be late returning to the palace?

Indeed, Xie Duo was the kind of war god who wouldn’t get lost even in a desert. How could he possibly get lost in these neat and tidy city streets?

Then why was he walking alongside him?

Could it be…

Han Jiao’s eyes lit up. “Your Highness, are you trying to escort me back home personally?”

“Dream on,” Xie Duo denied emphatically, with a straight face and unwavering gaze.

“Then why did you take a detour to walk with me?” 

“I have something to remind you.” 

“What is it?” 

“Don’t trust Senior Minister Li,” Xie Duo turned his head to look at Han Jiao with a piercing gaze. “You can’t outplay him.”

Han Jiao was taken aback. Lately, due to the grain distribution to the refugees, he had actually held a certain admiration for the old fox. Why was Xie Duo suddenly saying this?


Xie Duo’s expression remained serious. “Every member of Prince Duan’s faction seems bewitched, thinking Senior Minister Li is exceptional. But when it comes to a crisis, they all end up being ‘sacrificed for the greater good’ by Senior Minister Li. You wouldn’t want to become a pawn on his chessboard, would you?”

His words were like a sudden awakening, jolting Han Jiao into reality.

It was true. With only three encounters with Senior Minister Li, Han Jiao had already started to disavow Senior Minister Xu and align himself with Senior Minister Li.

He even subconsciously entertained the idea of teaming up with the old fox to overthrow Senior Minister Xu.

Were these his own thoughts, or had Senior Minister Li influenced him to think this way?

This thought sent shivers down Han Jiao’s spine.

Senior Minister Li was well aware of Han Jiao’s secret dealings with Prince Yan. Instead of showing any hostility, Senior Minister Li displayed utmost respect and never criticized Prince Yan. He just repeatedly warned Han Jiao that Senior Minister Xu would eventually target him.

Could it be that the old fox’s intention was to use Prince Yan’s trust in Han Jiao to make Han Jiao influence Prince Yan and cause a rift between Prince Yan and Senior Minister Xu?

All of these subtle insinuations happened smoothly even when Han Jiao was cautious about the old fox.

Han Jiao was getting goosebumps.

No wonder Senior Minister Li, with no background in psychology, managed to make Prince Duan speak during his most traumatic times, and then made Senior Minister Li the only trustworthy teacher.

Seeing the little child prodigy looking terrified and more tightly shrinking his own neck, Xie Duo suddenly lowered his head, suppressing an inexplicable protective instinct.

“Why are people in the political arena so devious?”

Xie Duo broke into laughter. “If you’re scared, you shouldn’t become an official. Once I leave the palace, I’ll invite you to my mansion, and you can help me train a cuju team.”

“My aim is to serve my country with utmost loyalty.” Han Jiao raised an eyebrow seriously. “Training a cuju team will be a task I can accomplish incidentally. Training within the palace is sufficient.”

“Why?” Xie Duo looked cautious. “Don’t you want to live in a grand estate? Father Emperor had a palace constructed for me in Danchi Garden, and it’s as large as three of Sixth Brother’s mansions.”

Han Jiao laughed. “Even if it’s grand, it’s your mansion. It’s not typical for an advisor to live with his lord.”

“Why not?” Xie Duo sounded displeased. “So many courtyards are empty. I permit you to move in.”

Han Jiao smiled at Xie Duo. “With so many courtyards, there will naturally be lovely ladies moving in. Your Highness is full of vitality, and in the future, your descendants will fill the place. You might even find it crowded. I won’t occupy the space.”

Strangely, these words, blending good wishes with flattery, seemed to irritate Xie Duo.

The sudden surge of hostility frightened Han Jiao’s donkey, making its hooves slip.

It was definitely not his donkey being overly sensitive. Han Jiao caught a glimpse of Xie Duo’s cold expression, and he noticed the consecutive lip-licking action, a reflexive gesture the big boss made right before unleashing violence.

Han Jiao was almost ready to abandon the donkey and flee. He trembled in silence alongside Ferrari, awaiting Prince Ling’s inquiry.

The big boss, his face radiating a “I’m about to come after you” vibe, silently accompanied Han Jiao to his doorstep and then silently rode back to the palace without giving Han Jiao a chance to bid farewell.

The bewildered Master Xiaobai led the small donkey home.

The next day, the Ninth Prince was still quite angry.

The young eunuch, responsible for helping him change and fasten his buttons, was trembling with fear.

Early in the morning, adhering to the routine, Xie Duo arrived at the Kunning Palace with a stern face, queuing to pay his respects to Mother Empress.

In the side chamber, the Eighth Prince and the Tenth Prince were still curled up in their armchairs, dozing off.

Normally, at this hour, Xie Duo would also be napping, propping his chin with one hand. However, today, he was wide awake and brooding over the little child prodigy’s refusal, which had angered him.

The little child prodigy had lived in Sixth Brother’s residence until he was expelled. He had enjoyed it thoroughly and treasured the memories. But in the Ninth Prince’s residence, it suddenly became “not typical for an advisor to live with his lord.”

Why hadn’t he thought of this reasoning when he lived with Sixth Brother?

A loud “thud” from the courtyard abruptly pulled Xie Duo out of his tangled thoughts.

He looked toward the courtyard and saw the Aunt Liu, beside Mother Empress, with two young palace maids surrounding a copper incense burner, about half the size of a water barrel.

It seemed that one of the palace maids had tripped while she was trying to move the heavy copper burner. She was now cradling her injured arm while receiving a scolding from Aunt Liu.

Due to the distance, Xie Duo couldn’t make out what Aunt Liu was scolding about. He withdrew his eyes, but his anger persisted.

Hearing the maid’s sobbing, Xie Duo’s irritation grew. He stood up and walked into the courtyard.

“You still have the face to cry?”

As he approached, Xie Duo finally discerned Aunt Liu’s rapid speech.

“You’ve stumbled three times on these few steps! The palace doesn’t lack such a delicate servant girl like you! Stumble once more, and you’ll be sent to the Laundry Department to toughen up for a few years…”

“I’m sorry! Aunt, please spare me!” The sobbing palace maid immediately knelt before Aunt Liu upon hearing her words.

“Why make such a fuss so early in the morning?”

The two palace maids turned around and hastily paid their respects upon hearing the Ninth Prince’s voice.

Aunt Liu was a confidant of the Empress and often managed the playful young princes for her. She could report to the Empress at any time, so she wasn’t afraid of the Ninth Prince. She simply nodded in acknowledgment and quickly explained why she was admonishing the servant girl.

“Why use so many words, Aunt?” Xie Duo didn’t want to provoke the “spy” in his mother’s presence, nor did he wish to witness her continuing to scold the palace maid. So he directly proposed a solution, “Instead of scolding her, why not have two eunuchs come in to move the incense burner?”

“Your Highness, you might not know,” Aunt Liu responded with annoyance, “In Kunning Palace, there are strict rules and clear division of labor. Early in the morning, we’ve already planned out everyone’s tasks for the day. The work assigned to her should be handled by her alone.”

Xie Duo glanced down at the large incense burner and said, “With such a massive incense burner, is it appropriate to have just two palace maids handle it?”

Aunt Liu’s expression turned stern, conveying a clear message: Don’t think that just because you’re favored, I won’t report your wrongdoings to the Empress.

Xie Duo turned to instruct the uninjured palace maid, “You assist Aunt Liu in moving it a few steps to see if the two of you are handling it properly.”

“Your Highness, please don’t tease me,” Aunt Liu, filled with anger, gave a stern look to the palace maid with the injured arm and scolded, “Hurry up and move it! Must you disturb His Highness’ peace?”

“Yes!” The palace maid with the functional arm hastily hooked onto one of the incense burner’s handles, and another palace maid approached, grasping the other handle. They softly counted, “One, two, three—lift!”

Naturally, the palace maid with only one working arm couldn’t “lift.” Her legs gave way, and she knelt beside the incense burner.

Xie Duo couldn’t bear to look and furrowed his brow as he asked the palace maid, “Where do you need to move it to?”

The palace maid replied shakily, “To the… eastern hall.”

Xie Duo looked over to the eastern hall of the Kunning Palace a few steps away, inclined his head, and instructed the other palace maid, “Help her to the Imperial Institute of Medicine to have her arm examined. Tell them it was my order.”

“Your Highness is compassionate, but…” Aunt Liu was about to argue when the Ninth Prince took a step forward. With one hand, he lifted the entire incense burner by the handle, and with brisk steps, he walked towards the eastern hall.

Aunt Liu turned pale with fright and hurried after him. “Your Highness, you mustn’t! Please don’t strain your muscles and bones!”

In the blink of an eye, the incense burner had been placed in the center of the eastern hall, where the princesses were waiting for their morning audience. A loud “thud” startled them, causing them to cease their conversation and turn to see who had arrived.

“Why has Ninth Brother come?” The princesses welcomed him warmly and pulled the prince into the hall to sit.

It would be impolite to refuse such hospitality, so Xie Duo remained in the eastern hall, awaiting the customary greetings.

Conversations among the princesses usually left Xie Duo daydreaming, but today was an exception.

That was because the princesses were discussing some famous young masters in the capital, like the eldest sons from certain Duke’s households. They compared their looks and manners, debating which one was superior.

Xie Duo felt intrigued.

He was quite curious about the criteria these young ladies used to judge a man’s worth.

He tried to find hints about how he might measure up against Sixth Brother.

Why was the little child prodigy so loyal to Sixth Brother?

Perhaps the answers lay in their discussions.

After listening for quite a while, Xie Duo suddenly summarized, “So, you appreciate the kind of eldest sons who inherit titles, are respected and feared by everyone, stand over eight feet tall, and come from a mysterious lineage?”

The princesses blushed and covered their faces, as they had been discussing things quite subtly, but his summary somehow made it feel inappropriate.

Seeing their silence, Xie Duo raised an eyebrow and asked in puzzlement, “How can a Duke’s legitimate eldest son achieve an aura of awe and yet maintain an air of mystery? You even know how tall they are down to the last foot. Is that considered mysterious?”

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