Sorry for the late post, was out for the day. Still working on the sponsored chapter, hopefully should have it out later tonight.
On his way out of the Fengqi Palace, the crown prince appeared calm but he was still restless in his heart.
As he walked by the imperial gardens, there were two low-ranked eunuchs talking in quiet voices.
“The Jin Prince asked his majesty to evaluate his martial skills at the martial training grounds.”
“It’s said the Jin Prince’s martial skills are extremely good. His majesty had personally taught him to ride and shoot back then.”
“I really want to go and see the Jin Prince’s splendor.”
“You should forget about it. Just look after the plants here honestly.”
The crown prince’s expression darkened on the spot. Chen Qi saw things weren’t looking good and immediately dispersed the two low-ranked eunuchs.
“Let’s go. Let’s go to the martial training grounds. This humble one shall see how impressive my royal brother’s martial skills are.”
The moment he entered the grounds, he heard a wave of cheers.
Emperor Xi sat in the stands, below which was a large field. The Jin Prince wore a sapphire blue training outfit embroidered with golden threads, looking dazzling under the sunlight. He rode a fine black steed that galloped and leaped on the field. The Jin Prince seemed as if he were on flat ground as he pulled his bow. In the blink of an eye, several arrows appeared on the target.
Emperor Xi stood up and exclaimed loudly in praise.
The imperial guards all agreed in succession, and the crowd cheered along.
“The crown prince came as well?”
The crown prince hurriedly walked up and saluted. Emperor Xi bid him to rise and said: “Crown prince, come look at your royal brother’s splendor.”
The crown prince walked to Emperor Xi’s side and looked to the field from the stands. He had a genteel smile on his face, but his hands were clenched under his sleeves.
The Jin Prince finished shooting the arrows in his quiver and urged his horse towards the stage.
“Royal father, your son’s horsemanship and archery skills haven’t declined, right?!”
Emperor Xi sighed with praise, “Haven’t declined at all, very good, very good.”
The Jin Prince looked heroic to begin with, and his current unrestrained smile made him look even more imposing.
In comparison, the crown prince on the stage looked to be less outstanding once again.
The crown prince’s martial skills weren’t bad, but he wasn’t good at archery. Emperor Xi had compared him to the Jin Prince when they were young countless times. His huge change in mood was also due to the two low ranked eunuchs’ discussion earlier. Seeing the Jin Prince stand out so much after he arrived, the crown prince couldn’t help but grit his teeth.
There weren’t many fools serving at the emperor’s side. Comparing the two, they naturally knew that the crown prince was at a disadvantage.
“Then your son can be at ease. Your son trained diligently in his vassal state, deeply afraid of disappointing royal father.” The Jin Prince finished speaking, and looked at the crown prince, “Does royal brother want to come try? Royal father’s mood is unusually good today. How about us two brothers put on a show for his enjoyment?”
These words essentially put the crown prince over a roasting fire. The crown prince was still aware of his own shortcomings if he were to go. But if he didn’t, how would his royal father view him?
This damn Jin Prince!
Emperor Xi returned to his seat and lifted his teacup, “Does crown prince wish to try?”
Seeing the crown prince’s hesitation, Emperor Xi’s face turned cold.
The crown prince gritted his teeth, “Your son is willing to try.”
After speaking these words, the crown prince actually relaxed. He turned his head and smiled at the Jin Prince: “Royal brother, this humble one wasn’t your match in archery since we were young. You should show some mercy later.”
These words were quite profound. Everyone knew the Jin Prince’s archery skills were excellent. Since he took the initiative to compete with the crown prince in this, wasn’t he doing it on purpose? Even if he won, people would say it was a lopsided match. At the same time, even if the crown prince lost, he had already given himself a safety net.
It had to be said that no one was simple within the royal family. Just a few sentences could contain so many pitfalls.
The crowd’s gaze fell upon the Jin Prince, who muttered to himself and revealed an apologetic expression, “Forgive your brother’s lack of consideration. To avoid an uneven match, how about competing in something else?”
The crown prince let out a breath in relief at the Jin Prince’s tact.
What could they compete in?
One of the imperial guards interrupted, “How about the two princes compete in polo?”
Polo was a sport enjoyed by the nobility of the Grand Xi Dynasty. Even Emperor Xi participated when he was younger. Now that he was old, he no longer played but the palace still had its own polo field.
The main point was that there wasn’t much else the princes could compete in if archery wasn’t an option. Competing with fists or swords would easily result in injury, and it wouldn’t be a minor issue no matter who got hurt. Also, the loser in an individual competition would lose a lot of face. Polo was different since it was a team sport. The losing side could easily blame his team for not cooperating well.
To avoid any potential awkwardness from arising, the subordinates had put in quite a lot of thought. Otherwise, if something really happened, those present at the scene wouldn’t be able to avoid becoming scapegoats.
Only after seeing Emperor Xi’s approval did the person who made the suggestion relax.
Since Emperor Xi had agreed, the two princes weren’t able to say anything else.
It’s just that it definitely wouldn’t happen today, and there wasn’t enough time for it either. They scheduled it for the day after tomorrow, giving both sides some time to prepare.
The crown prince was still a little dazed after leaving the training grounds. He had clearly gone to see “just how impressive his royal brother’s martial arts were”. How did the two of them end up scheduling a polo match?
However, seeing Emperor Xi’s interested expression, the crown prince also felt some enthusiasm. He had to win against the Jin Prince to regain his prestige as the crown prince.
Empress Xiao and Senior Concubine Xu both received the news. Before they could summon their sons to ask about the situation, Emperor Xi released an imperial edict. The younger generation of all the officials and nobility could participate in this polo match. The winner would be bestowed the Dragon Ascending Ornament, and all the participants would be rewarded and conferred titles as well.
The timing had once again been moved back, and the match would now be held ten days later. Emperor Xi said this was to allow both sides to properly prepare, but his intentions were unclear.
The entire palace and even half the capital started boiling over. This Dragon Ascending Ornament was bestowed by the previous emperor to the current one when he was still the crown prince. Emperor Xi viewed it as a treasure. The crown prince had asked for it several times but the emperor had never agreed. Now he had actually taken it out as a reward. Many of the younger generation were also participating. This was a great opportunity to perform in front of the emperor, and they naturally wouldn’t pass it up.
A simple polo match had become something else due to Emperor Xi’s words.
The initially calm pool of water started boiling under the surface.
Polo was a ball sport played on horseback. To be good at polo, one must be a good horseman.
There were few young masters in the capital who didn’t know how to play, but there was still quite a difference between those who were good at it and those who weren’t.
Each team would have ten people. This was to say the crown prince and the Jin Prince each had to gather nine others for their team. Deciding who to pick was one question, and the other was whether their choices were skilled.
But how could this be a problem for the crown prince and the Jin Prince? That very evening, a list of names and their detailed information had already been obtained. All that was left to do was to decide.
The Jin Prince didn’t know how the crown prince felt about it, but he knew this was a great opportunity for himself. Vassal princes weren’t allowed to befriend court councilors, but didn’t prevent them from befriending their descendants.
Senior Concubine Xu and the Jin Prince had this in mind to begin with, but the crown prince’s side had been keeping a close eye on them. They hadn’t been able to find the right opportunity, but now it was delivered to them by the heavens.
What Senior Concubine Xu’s side thought of, the crown prince’s side naturally thought of as well.
But since it was an imperial edict, no one could go against it. A single no would mean going against the emperor. They could only withdraw their gazes temporarily, focus on the match ahead and try to obtain the Ascending Dragon Ornament.
The crown prince’s side was able to quickly confirm the participants and bring the people together for training. The Jin Prince’s movements were rather slow in comparison.
He researched which household’s younger generation was rumored to be good at polo, and also frequently visited them in person or held tryouts at the field to test their skills. It seemed he was extremely committed to finding skilled players instead of considering which household was more influential or useful.
There were many gazes focused on the waves caused by this match. Emperor Xi was rather satisfied with the Jin Prince’s actions. Even some experienced people couldn’t help but admit the Jin Prince’s actions were appropriate.
On the other hand, the crown prince’s side had only invited a bunch of youngsters from households that stood behind the Jing Duke or the crown prince. Although these families were influential, there would unfortunately be some snakes mixed in with the dragons. Some of the ones on the list were people that everyone knew were awful at polo.
The crown prince and the Jing Duke naturally understood this, but unfortunately as the representatives of their faction, they had to consider things from all aspects. The emperor had said there would be various rewards and titles conferred. If it were just rewards, no one would struggle over it. But if there were titles to be had, each household had countless obscure descendants that needed to perform in front of the emperor for some merit. Therefore, compromise was sometimes necessary and unavoidable.
The Jin Prince spent five days to gather his team, and started training their cooperation and what not.
At this moment, a problem arose. The Jin Prince Estate didn’t have a polo field since the Jin Prince was always in his vassal state. The imperial palace had one, but it was unfortunately occupied every day by the crown prince. The Jin Prince had brought his people over for practice at staggered times once, and the next day the field had been reserved ahead of time by the crown prince. The Jin Prince could only ask others for help. In the end, it was the heir of the Chengyang household on his team who offered his house’s polo field on the outskirts for use.
“Crown prince, how should this subordinate criticize you? Aren’t you supposed to show some generosity towards your royal brother at this time?”
“Grandpa, Zhou’er didn’t do this. This humble one was schemed against!” The crown prince said with gritted teeth.
Schemed against? The Jing Duke was stunned.
“This humble one investigated after the fact. When the Jin Prince went to practice, the one in charge of the field merely said that “the crown prince will be practicing later”, and had merely wanted to organize the timing. But before he could finish, the Jin Prince that scum actually said that since the crown prince was going to be practicing, he would find another location and left with his people. Before long, this had spread all over the place.”
After listening, the Jing Duke also pretty much understood.
But no matter how they put it now, rumors of the crown prince’s obstruction had already spread, having forced the Jin Prince to practice in a small field on the outskirts.
“Great, what a great move by this Jin Prince!”
Based on appearances, others would definitely not say how embarrassing it was for the Jin Prince. They would only say how the crown prince took advantage of his younger brother. There was even less need to mention what his majesty’s side would think: We haven’t died yet and you’re already treating our beloved son this way. What about when We are dead?
There were many things they couldn’t afford to guess at. Overthinking them would only frighten the people around, and would increase one’s worries.
“Then this humble one will go clarify things to royal father?”
“Will his majesty listen? He would think that you only understood reason after the fact, and you would look even worse,” the Jing Duke sighed. This was why he praised the Jin Prince’s move. He was able to embellish such a small matter into a scandal!
“It’s better to prepare properly for the polo match a few days later. The Jin Prince hasn’t been able to train for long, and there would inevitably be some gaps in their cooperation which can be exploited. We can turn the situation around by obtaining the Ascending Dragon Ornament.”
The crown prince gritted his teeth. Him going back and training with his life on the line didn’t need to be mentioned.
On the other side, the Jin Prince’s team was also full of righteous indignation.
“This crown prince is too domineering. He clearly wasn’t using it, and still occupied the place so we couldn’t use it.”
The people chosen by the Jin Prince naturally weren’t all without power and influence. It’s just that he had given others the initial impression of choosing people over households. His team may not be as influential as the crown prince’s, but none of them could be disregarded.
If it wasn’t some count’s young master, then it was some marquis’s son. Of course, their background was just one aspect. Their individual abilities also weren’t lacking, as a bunch of outstanding young officials. There was no need to discuss their abilities, each of them could proclaim themselves as a rich young master of the capital.
They naturally appeared respectful of the crown prince on the surface, but would criticize him at the turn of their head. The crown prince also didn’t dare do anything to these families in the open. The crown prince was still the crown prince, and not yet the emperor.
“Everyone shouldn’t quibble over these little things. Didn’t Heir Qiao allow us to use his family’s field to practice? We should be focused on the upcoming match instead.”
The Jin Prince’s handsome face showed a cultured and refined smile. These normally incompatible bearings actually appeared on his person. On the surface he appeared handsome and overbearing, yet his smile gave others the feeling of a noble scholar.
“What highness said makes sense.”
“Highness sure has a lot of poise. No wonder his majesty praises him so.”
“You’re overpraising, overpraising.”
Yep, this isn’t just a simple competition.