I made it! 2nd sponsored chapter of the week. Thanks again to Anon0000518, amelianotbedelia and Karen S. for the chapter. Part of Karen’s donation and maguiling’s donation is counted towards the next sponsored chapter, which can be carried into next week if it’s not reached.
The eagerly awaited match finally arrived.
The location was naturally the palace’s polo field. The field was extremely spacious, with three sets of stands arranged in an oval around it. The center, northern stands were higher than the other two, and were covered by a bright yellow awning. This was for Emperor Xi, the empress and Senior Concubine Xu. The other two sets of stands were for the officials and nobility.
The field itself was rectangular, with two goalposts on the eastern and western end. They were a little over a zhang high. There were twenty-four flags on each goal with empty slots on the side. Scoring a goal gave a point, which was represented by the little red flags and a loud announcement by the keeper. Mounting a flag represented a point.
There were five drums arranged by each side’s goalposts, with drummers rallying and cheering mightily. One side wore red clothing and the other side wore blue. Both sides wore headbands with their respective team’s colors.
At this moment, the central stands were still empty. There were quite a few people in the other two stands. On the field, the people wearing light protective gear with red and blue headbands trotted their horses around as they warmed up.
The horses that could appear on the field were naturally good horses. Amongst them, one white horse and one black horse was especially spirited. Their legs were long, their well-fed bodies sturdy. They were clearly precious Ferghana horses.
As for their owners, they were naturally the crown prince and the Jin Prince.
The stands gradually filled up. After a while, Emperor Xi accompanied by the empress and the senior concubine arrived.
“Greetings to the emperor, long live the emperor. Greetings to the empress, long live the empress. Greetings to the senior concubine. Long live the senior concubine.”
The people on the other two stands kowtowed, and the people on the field warming up their horses also got off and saluted.
Emperor Xi laughed brightly and cried: “Everyone rise.”
Emperor Xi sat down on the throne. The empress sat on his right, and below her sat Senior Concubine Xu. The two teams on the field walked their horses in front of Emperor Xi’s stands after he bid them to rise.
“Royal father, your son is ready.” The crown prince cupped his hands.
“Alright.” Emperor Xi gestured with his finger and Zheng Hai Quan made a hand motion towards the edge of the stands. A court eunuch carried a decorated gold covered platter forward. The platter was covered by yellow silk, but based on the shape it appeared to be the Dragon Ascending Ornament.
“Since you wish to compete, there should naturally be a proper competition. The winning team’s leader will be bestowed this Dragon Ascending Ornament. The rest will be rewarded and conferred titles.”
Those below the stands cried in unison: “Yes.”
Then, they got on their horses. The two teams gathered on their respective sides, and faced their opponents, waiting for the match to start. The drummers on either side struck their drums, “dongdongdongdong” ringing out across the field.
This drumming, this grandeur, made the crowd’s blood begin to boil.
Following the “clang” of a gong, the crown prince who was serving first threw the red and blue polo ball towards the opposite goal. After a loud yell, he and the Jin Prince spurred their horses while holding the polo sticks and galloped towards the ball. The people behind them spread out in all directions. Some went to the back to provide support while others went to the sides to defend. Some also followed behind the crown prince and the Jin Prince.
A cloud of dust rose up from the field. The horses neighed and the people yelled, it was extremely lively.
“Aiya, on the left.”
“The right, the right.”
“Get out of the way!”
It was hard to tell who was who on the field. The crowd of people charged from side to side violently, breaking through here and there. They would suddenly charge forward, and then suddenly turn around and retreat. There were no gentlemen here. The gentlemen were already flung far away. Getting the ball was all that mattered.
Polo was loved by everyone. Which rich household’s descendants hadn’t played at least a couple of times before? At first, the people didn’t dare act too unbridled in front of Emperor Xi. However, a short while later, they looked left and then right and started cheering and stamping their feet.
“The red team gets a point.”
The first goal was scored by the crown prince’s side. Accompanied by the beating of drums, a flag was inserted in the eastern flag post.
The blue team cried out in disappointment. The Jin Prince reined his horse in and lifted his polo stick: “Everyone, don’t be discouraged. It’s only one point.”
The ball was served once again, and before long, the blue team had also gotten a point.
The two teams were closely tied, and the struggle grew fiercer and fiercer. Polo was a group battle to begin with, and occasional collisions were inevitable. Although it was thrilling, conflicts often arose as well.
Either your stick hit me, or my horse bumped yours. As the match progressed, all notions of status were thrown out the window. Even if they came into contact with the crown prince or the Jin Prince, the group of people dared to pull their sleeves. They jostled their opponents into making mistakes while also hissing provocations one after the other.
The crown prince’s team was mostly chosen based on their background, and their polo skills weren’t too good. Although the Jin Prince also chose influential people, he still paid attention to their skills. After some time, the difference became clear.
The Jin Prince’s team was ahead by four points.
The red team inevitably grew anxious. The crown prince reassured them for a long time before the ball was served.
After he scored in the last round, it was the Jin Prince’s turn to serve this round. He still urged his horse after the ball as before.
Someone on the red team reached the ball and hit it back, calling for everyone to move towards the blue team’s goalposts. After all sorts of defense and blocks, the ball was stolen and sent back once more. The Jin Prince received the ball and headed towards the red team’s goal. Because his angle of approach was tricky, many people weren’t able to react. Only the crown prince took the lead in chasing after him.
The red team followed after them. The blue team left a few people on defense while the rest followed behind as well. The crown prince was still one horse’s distance away from the Jin Prince, and saw that he was about to score at the swing of his stick. The crown prince’s horse suddenly increased in speed and rammed the Jin Prince’s horse.
Did the crown prince go insane?
The people in the stands all stood up. Even Emperor Xi found it hard to conceal his shock. Senior Concubine Xu covered her mouth in fright and the empress was stunned.
The sound of a horse’s whinny rang out. The Jin Prince flew out with his horse. The dark handsome horse tumbled to the floor while the Jin Prince was flung far away. The crown prince’s horse only stumbled a few steps and came to a halt.
Everyone on the field froze.
“Hurry and call a physician!” Senior Concubine Xu cried mournfully.
Everything was in chaos. Everyone watched the scene below as they whispered to each other.
The crown prince froze for a long time before getting off his horse and rushing to the Jin Prince’s side.
The Jin Prince lay there, his eyes closed and his face covered in dirt. He didn’t make a sound.
A group of imperial guards appeared on the field and hurried over. They carefully carried the Jin Prince to the shade under the stands. Senior Concubine Xu also lifted her skirt and pounced over. Emperor Xi and Empress Xiao followed behind.
“Jin’er, don’t scare your mother! Where’s the imperial physician, hurry and take a look.”
From the crowd, an old imperial physician squeezed through with his hat askew. He first examined the Jin Prince before taking out an acupuncture needle and inserting it into his body.
Immediately, the Jin Prince woke up. After he awoke, he seemed to be a little muddle-headed. Only after hearing Senior Concubine Xu’s crying did his eyes clear up.
“Mother concubine, I’m fine….”
“How are you fine? You were unconscious and you think you’re fine? You were thrown so far away. Imperial physician, check him for injuries.”
“This humble prince’s leg….”
After the physician’s examination, it turned out that the Jin Prince had a large abrasion on his face and his leg was also broken. Apart from this, there were no major injuries. As for his leg, it still remained to be seen. If it wasn’t serious, the leg could be mended in a hundred days. If it was serious, it could leave behind problems in the future.
Everyone was in an uproar. Emperor Xi’s expression was ashen and Senior Concubine Xu cried her eyes out. The crown prince stood with a pale face on the side, muttering in helpless explanation: “This humble one wasn’t trying to ram him, I really wasn’t….”
No one expected a polo match to end up this way.
It was inevitable for light injuries to occur during polo, but these people were all skilled horsemen, and knew to control themselves. Who would have expected the crown prince to go crazy and ram the Jin Prince?
The Jin Prince was carried to the Chunluan Palace to be treated. Emperor Xi didn’t spare the crown prince a glance before storming off.
Everyone on the field knew that the crown prince’s situation was dire.
It was fine if the Jin Prince’s leg could be healed. If an issue occurred, it would leave behind a thorn in the emperor’s heart that couldn’t be removed. The fact that the crown prince was so intolerant that he would disregard his brother’s life over a mere polo match would constantly be on the emperor’s mind.
Over half the imperial physicians in the imperial hospital had been summoned to the Chunluan Palace. From their examination, they concluded that the Jin Prince’s leg would depend on how it healed. If it healed well, there would naturally not be any problems. If it didn’t, it would remain a problem to some extent.
Emperor Xi declined to comment and invited Imperial Physician Zhou to take another look. The outcome was more or less the same.
“Royal father, don’t blame the crown prince. He, he also didn’t do it on purpose.” The Jin Prince’s face was pale as he spoke with a weak voice.
“You’re still worrying about others? Are you trying to anger your mother to death? My Jin’er, who did you end up provoking? What should we do if your leg doesn’t heal properly…..” Senior Concubine Xu wiped her tears on the side.
“Don’t talk nonsense. With so many imperial physicians, how can there be any issues!” Emperor Xi then spoke to the Jin Prince: “You recuperate properly. Your royal father will take care of things on the crown prince’s side. Zheng Hai Quan—-“
“This servant is here.”
“Clear out the Jin Prince’s former room within the palace, and have him move over.”
“Royal father, it’s better if your son returns to the Jin Prince Estate. I can recuperate in the estate, it’s not too good to live in the palace.”
“What’s bad about it?”
“Regardless, your son wants to recuperate in the estate….”
A stubborn expression flashed across the Jin Prince’s pale face. He closed his eyes and no longer spoke. His actions wouldn’t make Emperor Xi feel disrespected, but rather made him think that his son was too sensible.
Emperor Xi showed some weariness on his face as he said: “Since you wish to return, then go properly recuperate in the estate.”
After Emperor Xi left, the hall fell into silence. Senior Concubine Xu was about to speak when a palace maid reported, “Concubine, the empress is here to visit the Jin Prince, his highness.”
“We won’t see her.” Senior Concubine Xu’s expression looked stern, “Tell her the Jin Prince is tired and has gone to sleep.”
“Your majesty, the empress went to the Chunluan Palace but was prevented from entering by the senior concubine. The crown prince intended on coming to the Violet Imperial Hall to beg for forgiveness but was ordered to return by the empress.”
Emperor Xi raised his hand. The kneeling eunuch took his leave.
“Zheng Hai Quan. Tell me, is this a performance put on by the Jin Prince for Us?”
Zheng Hai Quan wished he could bury himself so Emperor Xi couldn’t see him. However, such thoughts were merely pipe dreams, and he could only respond: “This servant, this servant feels it doesn’t seem to be the case. This Jin Prince was in front and the crown prince was behind. How could he guard against someone bumping into him from behind?”
These words made Zheng Hai Quan’s heart tremble, but since the emperor had asked him, he could only speak his thoughts out loud.
Emperor Xi let out an “en”, “But the crown prince wouldn’t be so brazen either…..”
Zheng Hai Quan didn’t dare to speak further. He bent his waist and lowered his head.
Emperor Xi also felt it didn’t seem intentional. Everyone on the field had seen the crown prince’s horse suddenly accelerate and run into the Jin Prince’s horse.
“What were the results after investigating the horses and the field?”
“After repeated examination, there doesn’t seem to be any problems.”
Emperor Xi no longer spoke, his face scarily dark.
Only after a long while did he say: ‘The crown prince is too impatient and insolent. He will be confined for a month.” After a pause, he spoke again: “Give the Ascending Dragon Ornament to the Jin Prince, and choose some good medicine from Our personal storage while you’re at it. Let him properly recuperate.”