A major event happened in the capital that drew everyone’s attention.
The crown prince and the Jin Prince each formed a team of riders to compete in a polo match. It was supposed to be a game born from some joking words. However, Emperor Xi suddenly released an edict proclaiming the following: 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 atmosphere reached a climax.
Polo was a ball sport played on horseback. It was the sport of preference for the Grand Xi’s nobility. In his youth, even Emperor Xi would join a match when he was in the mood.
Actually, this started due to an unrelated matter. Emperor Xi had been evaluating the Jin Prince’s martial skills at the training field. The crown prince arrived unexpectedly. The two didn’t see eye to eye in the first place. The crown prince wasn’t good at martial arts and had always been jealous of the Jin Prince. Seeing him showing off valiantly on the field, he was even more jealous.
The Jin Prince naturally wouldn’t let go of this great opportunity to step on him in front of the crowd and issued a challenge. Since it was hard for the crown prince to get out of it, he had been forced to accept. Unexpectedly, due to being afraid of something happening to the two princes, someone had suggested it was better to compete in polo. This would avoid their relationship from being damaged and also avoid any accidental injuries.
That subordinate had good intentions. He didn’t expect this simple matter to result in many disputes due to their animosity. The crown prince was mentally unstable and was naturally not the Jin Prince’s match. He had to suffer silently quite a few times, and those won’t be mentioned in detail.
On the day of the match, the crown prince had started off in the lead. However, the Jin Prince’s team caught up from behind and was ahead by four goals at the end of the first half. At the start of the second half, the Jin Prince’s team was leading once again. Perhaps out of impetuousness, or due to some other thoughts, or perhaps it was merely an accident, the crown prince actually rammed the Jin Prince’s horse with his own, causing the Jin Prince to be sent flying.
The crowd was in uproar.
The Jin Prince’s injuries weren’t light. Although his life wasn’t in danger, his leg had been broken.
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.”
The eastern palace was scarily silent. After his majesty gave the confinement order, it was even more silent, as though no one was present.
Within the study, no lamps were lit despite the darkness.
The crown prince had yet to snap out of his daze. At the time, he had muttered that he wasn’t planning on ramming the Jin Prince, yet he himself had no idea how he ended up running into him.
Once Emperor Xi’s investigation was concluded, the Jin Prince received the report as well. Actually both sides got the results at the same time since the empress had also sent people over to see.
There was truly nothing abnormal. There were no issues with the field or the horses, leaving the crown prince with no excuses. He could only shut himself in his study and think everything over. In the end, he had a splitting headache but there was still no conclusion. He could only assume he had lost himself in the moment.
“Highness, how about this servant light a lamp?” Chen Qi who had accompanied him this whole time suddenly spoke. He lit the lamp as he spoke. “This servant believes highness definitely wouldn’t do something like this. It was definitely the Jin Prince’s scheme.”
“You also think this humble one was wrongly accused?”
The room lit up. Chen Qi nodded his head, “Highness couldn’t possibly use such clumsy methods. Wouldn’t this be making problems for yourself? This servant is dimwitted but still understands the situation. Highness would rather be injured himself than let the Jin Prince get injured.”
The crown prince suddenly let out a breath, as though feeling at ease now that he heard these words.
“This servant was also there at the time. Highness’s horse clearly sped up and charged over. The others present seemed to have witnessed the same thing as well.”
Seeing the crown prince’s ugly expression, Chen Qi continued speaking: “Therefore, this servant felt something wasn’t right. The easiest way to deduce the truth is to figure out who would benefit from it. Without a doubt, it would be the Jin Prince. But this servant really can’t figure out how the Jin Prince’s horse was able to get itself rammed under everyone’s eyes.”
After speaking back and forth, they were back at the beginning. This was something no one could figure out.
“It actually wasn’t much. This humble prince just had his horse stop for a bit.”
Within the Jin Prince Estate, the Jin Prince’s pale face showed some poorly concealed satisfaction.
His advisor, Mister Chen Da was astonished, “Stop for a bit?”
“It was on impulse. Such a good opportunity landed in front of this humble prince, how could I bear to let it slip by?!”
It sounded easy, but had been difficult.
Under such a high speed gallop, to be able to have his horse stop briefly and continue forward once more required excellent horsemanship, perception and decisiveness.
Horsemanship was needed to control the horse and perception was needed to calculate the timing and distance between himself and the crown prince. A horse’s length was a fleeting distance to begin with, like the spark of a flint. The Jin Prince had actually been able to successfully grasp it. Furthermore, to be able to put his own safety to the back of his mind to seize this opportunity, this required decisiveness.
It had to be said that the Jin Prince was a rare talent. He was determined, courageous and wise.
Mister Chen Da had a face full of praise, “Highness is both a hero and a great strategist. You are bound to succeed in your endeavors.”
“At this point, they won’t be able to hope for this humble prince to return to his vassal state. Before my leg is healed, they wouldn’t dare bring it up.”
“Highness is wise.”
At this time, someone came to report that the Chengen Count’s heir had arrived.
The Jin Prince hurriedly invited him in.
Xu Xiang Rong wore a set of deep azure robes with dark patterns. A black belt inlaid with jade was wrapped around his waist. Seeing him come in, Mister Chen Da hurriedly stepped forward and paid his respects. Xu Xiang Rong nodded at him slightly and walked to the bed. He examined the Jin Prince seriously, and only relaxed after seeing him look in good spirits despite being pale.
The Jin Prince naturally saw the criticism in his uncle’s eyes. His expression was a little unsettled but also held a hint of expectation and smugness.
When the Jin Prince was very, very young, his uncle Xu Xiang Rong was someone who was extraordinarily wise in his eyes. This sort of impression had never been erased even after the Jin Prince matured. He never forgot that everything his mother concubine and the Xu household possessed involved this man’s efforts. When his mother concubine was still weak, it was always this man who helped them come up with plans and ideas. Only then could they resist the empress and the crown prince for so many years, until now the west wind gradually suppressed the east wind.
“You did very well. However, you must remember that there will always be opportunities. Your safety is what’s most important. Pyrrhic victories are for fools.”
The Jin Prince nodded.
Xu Xiang Rong looked at his leg and said: “What do you plan on doing next?”
“Uncle, please give some pointers.”
Xu Xiang Rong nodded and sat in fron of the bed. “Since you were able to seize this opportunity, you probably have some thoughts already. The crown prince’s side has been trying to find ways to make you return to your vassal state. This matter happens to shut them up. Although I can make plans for you in the capital, you must ultimately settle things personally. You know those people aren’t doing it for my sake, but for yours.”
“His majesty is old. Those people underneath naturally all have their own plans. We’ve endured for so many years and yielded for so many years. Back then, it was truly necessary to endure and yield. However, times have changed. In the future, you must still maintain appearances, but must also have the proper bearing beneath the surface. The so-called winner is king. If you wish others to pay allegiance, you must have qualities that convince them to do so.” Xu Xiang Rong tapped his knee and muttered to himself before saying: “Your injury can still be used. The enemy won’t move unless we do. The Xiao clan’s old man has always been very composed. However, if they won’t make a move, we can force them to do so this time. The crown prince’s side has been frequently suppressed by us. They are an arrow at the end of its flight. Since this is the case, might as well force them to hop the fence. Only then will we have an opening.”
The Jin Prince was startled and asked urgently: “Uncle, you mean?”
He wasn’t a fool to begin with and already understood some things upon hearing Xu Xiang Rong’s words. His face revealed a trace of joy.
“Since you’re injured, might as well let it worsen. Leave this matter to me.”
When this news reached the Yun Prince and the Jing Prince, they were both incessantly startled.
The Jing Prince was especially so. He had ordered for the waters to be muddied as much as possible. His spy had told him that they had merely lured the crown prince over. No one expected the string of events that followed.
The Jing Prince naturally doubted the Jin Prince’s injury. However, he was truly injured and nothing seemed to be fishy. How the Jin Prince got injured became a mystery.
However, it wasn’t important whether or not it was a mystery. Ultimately, the more chaos there was the more opportunities they had. He was naturally glad to see it happen.
Luo Huai Yuan also understood this reasoning, but due to being restless he sent a letter discussing this matter to the Jing Prince Estate. Recently, he had been sending letters to the Jing Province once every few days. Part of it was to discuss important matters but it was also to develop their relationship.
Soon, the weather turned cold and winter was about to arrive.
After her sixth birthday, Niu Niu seemed to have grown a little taller again.
As she matured, Niu Niu looked more and more like Yan Yan when she was younger. Apart from her large and round eyes which resembled Luo Huai Yuan’s, she seemed to be carved from the same mold. She was cute, charming and pretty. Her skin was fair and tender and her eyes were bright. She seemed taller than girls her age, and would clearly become a tall and slender beauty in the future.
Compared to the little beauty, Jian’er seemed to be lacking just that little bit in appearance. He looked like a small meatball and looked essentially the same as his dad when he was young. Of course, a child was rather cute even if he was a little chubby. His appearance made people want to pinch his little cheeks.
Jian’er felt extremely aggrieved towards this but the other three in the family were older so he could only allow them to toy with him.
What could he do? Within the estate, his mom had the highest status. Then came his sister and his dad was third. He could only be fourth. His dad taught him that men shouldn’t bicker with women. His mom and sister were both women, so as a man, he should go along with them.
Actually, Luo Huai Yuan had deeply felt he wasn’t imposing in the eyes of his children, and came up with this excuse for himself. Everyone else had caring mothers and stern fathers, but in their household, the father was caring and the mother stern. Although Luo Huai Yuan was quite amused by this, as the father he still had to establish his own dignity in front of his children.
Therefore, he explained his “weakness” in front of Yan Yan to Niu Niu by saying a man had to empathize, protect and cherish his wife to be a true man. To his son, he explained that as men, they shouldn’t stoop to a woman’s level.
Towards this, Jian’er didn’t raise any objections. He was just puzzled about one thing: why wasn’t he ranked third? Shouldn’t adults cherish the young?
Luo Huai Yuan gave him another explanation. When his mom and sister weren’t included, men were ranked by their ability. He wasn’t as strong as his dad nor as tall. Therefore, it made sense for him to be ranked last.
Jian’er was unable to respond to this and could only silently accept his pitiful ranking.
Seeing her husband trick their young son, Yan Yan didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It wasn’t appropriate for her to object either. Firstly he was just messing around and secondly, she never interfered when her husband was teaching their son. Men oversaw external affairs and women took care of internal affairs. Mothers instructed daughters and fathers instructed sons. This was the proper way of things, in case sons ended up being raised into mommy’s boys by their mom. Although Yan Yan didn’t have much of a womanly air, she still left their son to Luo Huai Yuan.
Niu Niu watched her mom practice martial arts daily, rain or shine, and had long since wanted to learn. However, she was young and her bones were soft, so Yan Yan never agreed to teach her.
Since she was now older by a year, she started bothering Yan Yan again. Yan Yan recalled that she herself started around this age and thus began building up her daughter’s foundation.
Building foundations meant warming up, jogging and sitting in horse stance.
Niu Niu seemed very interested in this and hearing her mom agree to teach her, she ordered her palace maids to make her an exercise outfit like her mom’s. She started wearing it bright and early before going to find Yan Yan.
Her actions couldn’t be kept from Jian’er who lived in a side hall in the same building. He watched enviously for a day before making a fuss about wanting to learn as well.
“Why are you envious of everything I do?! Go play with dad, don’t disturb our training.”
“Training martial arts strengthens the body. Jian’er wants an awesome body in the future!”
Hearing this, Yan Yan muttered to herself that her son was quite reasonable.
Niu Niu refuted: “You should forget about it. You’re so lazy, sleeping all the time and refusing to wake up like a little pig. You don’t like martial arts at all. You’re just being envious.”
Jian’er’s bun-like face drooped and he said quietly: “I won’t sleep in from now on. I’ll get up early every day.”
“Look how unconfident you sound. You definitely won’t be able to do it.”
Jian’er glanced at his sister’s domineering expression and then snuck a glance at his mom. He then raised his chubby hands, covered his eyes and started crying: “Want to learn, want to learn, you can’t base everything on something that happened in the past….wuwu….big sis is a meanie, bullying Jian’er every day…..Jian’er also wants to become strong in the future….”
Luo Huai Yuan who had been watching the entire time while eating porridge almost spat a mouthful out in laughter. Others weren’t able to tell but that didn’t mean he wasn’t able to. This brat has also learned to fake tears, and bawl like thunder without any rain. Based on past experience, Niu Niu would soon suffer defeat. Would it be the same this time?
“What are you crying for, you crybaby!?”
Niu Niu looked moody and she gave him a tug: “Then what if you don’t keep your word? What if you give up half way?”
Seeing his sister taking a different tone, Jian’er rubbed his eyes and stammered: “Definitely won’t.”
Niu Niu fished out a handkerchief from her robes and gave it to him to wipe his tears. Jian’er was afraid he would be exposed and snatched it over, rubbing it all over his face. Once he was done, his little face and eyes were truly red. Niu Niu didn’t suspect anything.
“I will supervise you! If you dare give up halfway I’ll give you a beating!” Niu Niu’s expression was very stern.
Jian’er’s expression was also very solemn, though his face was a little rigid.
Would his sister really beat him up if he couldn’t persevere? What a profound question!
“Mom, I will supervise my lazy brother properly!” Niu Niu looked at Yan Yan and said, acting the older sister.
Yan Yan nodded calmly. Seeing her man giving her a wink, she shot him a glare.
She knew her own children well. Jian’er had completely inherited her man’s laziness. Yan Yan was very doubtful whether he could persevere.
Ultimately, Niu Niu and Jian’er started the challenging process of learning martial arts.
The start was always tiring and tedious. Just sitting in horse stance endlessly was sufficient to force many to retreat. Niu Niu was a very tenacious child. She gritted her teeth and persevered. Jian’er was merely excited initially as Yan Yan expected. Soon a string of things happened like being unable to get up early, not having any energy, his limbs and stomach hurt and so on.
But with his devil of a sister supervising, Jian’ers plans to slack off failed one by one. He was forced out of bed every day by Niu Niu. He suffered unspeakable misery and regretted his initial desire to get in on the action. However, this was something for the future.
The little sesame-filled bun. Fatty this fellow is a terrible influence.