Inner Residence arc ー Chapter 13 (Part 1): Spring Banquet (Second Half)
As the resonant sound of the bugle horn reverberated overhead the whole field, Xiao Li raised the polo stick high up in his hand. A small polo ball flew in the line of an arc and landed in the field.
Xie Zhaoying took the lead by rushing into the field. With just a flash of a vermilion red figure, a cloud of dust stirred up; he was already hitting the ball towards the opponent’s goal. The team members swiftly urged on their horses to follow.
I saw the spectators on the stage burst into ardent cries. Even the constantly reserved girls were also cheering excitedly.
Although Dong Qi values literature, polo has always been a sports activity the aristocrats were fond of. Whenever there was a major festival or occasion, there would always be a large-scale polo match. The young men would shed sweat as they galloped on the field while the young ladies would cheer and shout loudly beside the field with surge of amorous feelings as they waved their handkerchiefs with hormones raging. This was a common sight in the past, present, in China and everywhere else.
I was one of the extreme minority who silently stood beside the field.
The fight on the field was already immensely intense. Within the clouds of yellow sand, excited shouts and the repeated thundering of horses’ hooves sounded together. As humans and horses collided and pursued, the polo sticks lashed each other to produce crisp sounds.
Among the blur of numerous figures, my line of sight closely followed Xie Zhaoying’s figure. At the moment, he looked like he could still hold on, but the red team he was leading already had an obvious disadvantage. Xiao Li with the yellow team had already closed in on the red team’s goal. Men and horses of the two teams collided into each other like two streams of rapid currents until spindrift surged.
Xie Zhaoying’s figure appeared and disappeared in the crowd every now and then. I couldn’t refrain myself from clinging onto the railing to stretch my body forward and exert all my strength look around. Suddenly, I saw a player dressed in red falling off his horse after being collided into. I was so frightened that I suck in a gasp of cold air. I only saw properly after a while that it was another person. Only then did my heart settle back down.
“Who are you looking at?” Xie Zhaoke had, unbeknownst to me, walked to my side.
“I’m looking at Second Elder Brother!”
Xie Zhaoke still had that unfathomable celestial expression as she indifferently said, “Anyway, they will lose.”
I had been unhappy inside my heart for quite a few days already. Now, I finally couldn’t bear it anymore. “Maybe they will. However, I think that extremely few people the victory and honor given up to them by others for a lifetime.”
Xie Zhaoke’s smile stiffened. “I never knew that you had such a witty mouth.”
I also gave a dissatisfied smile. “I have many sides which people are unaware of.”
Xie Zhaoke’s pair of cold eyes gazed fixedly at me. “After you recovered from your illness, your transformation is really tremendous.”
I smiled brilliantly. “Elder Sister, changing back from an idiot to a normal person itself is a transformation where heaven and earth are overturned.”
Xie Zhaoke smiled. “You have even changed from a child into a young girl.”
I smiled and told her the truth in a clear-cut manner. “Elder Sister, if you’re worried that I have some ideas towards Teacher Song, then it is totally unnecessary. For me, he is just a good mentor and a helpful friend.”
Xie Zhaoke looked at me doubtfully.
I shrugged my shoulders. “There is a saying. Foolish women deal with women. Intelligent women deal with men.”
Xie Zhaoke’s face finally had a tinge of red.
I lastly said, “Not all men like gentle and virtuous women who are docile and obedient in everything. Maybe you can change to another style.”
Xie Zhaoke’s fierce glance lingered on my face for a long time before she finally slightly relieved. She turned her head gracefully to look at the field.
The spectator stand erupted in cheers. I hastily looked over. While we were speaking just now, the ball had already been hit out of the chaotic battlefield by someone. Xie Zhaoying took the lead to stop fighting by reining in the horse, retreated from the tight encirclement and raised his hand to strike it. The small ball shot towards the opponent’s goal like an arrow.
The sound of horses’ hooves rumbled like like thunder and shook the ground.
A yellow team member beat him to it and intercepted the ball. Xie Zhaoying was strong and vigorous as he closely followed behind. I only saw horses’ hooves helter-skelter and dust flying upwards when suddenly, a small black dot flew out from beneath the horses’ hooves and shot into the goal.
I watched the stage erupt into deafening cheers and the gong resounded. Only then did I come around. Xie Zhaoying had just scored a goal.
In the field, Xie Zhaoying manoeuvred his horse to turn in this direction. His line of sight found me at once. The corner of his mouth hooked up into a smile as he waved his hand at me. I saw the young ladies on the stage exclaimed with infatuation continuously.
“He really dotes on you.” Xie Zhaoke spoke in a faint voice. “His personality doesn’t get along quite well with me and Eldest Brother and has always been the most peculiar one in the house. It was still alright when he was small but after he had grown up, he became rather estranged from us. I never expected that the two of you would get along so well.”
I didn’t make a sound.
Xie Zhao Ying appeared at ease as he sat on the horseback and grasped the reins tightly. The men’s whole body had already perspired and their wet clothes were glued to their body. My stared intently at his waist and slightly rejoiced that I didn’t see a wet mark in that area.
An annoyed expression flitted by Xiao Li’s face before he reformed his team attack once again. This time, it was changed to Han Wangsun taking the frontline while Xie Zhaoying was to defending at the back. I was slightly relieved. With this, Xie Zhaoying would be able to relax much more.
That fox man little marquis looked like an outwardly attractive but worthless person like a pillow with an embroidered case but I didn’t expect that when playing, he was actually a little powerful and valiant. The horse between his legs was totally unrestrained without rhyme or reason, making the opponent befuddled while he had already taken advantage that it was disorderly to hit the ball out of the tight encirclement. His team member who came to his aid supplemented it a little and the ball fly straight into the goal.
I started to cheer, “Second Elder Brother, hit until they meet their Mak….” The word ‘Maker’ was covered by Xie Zhaoke into my mouth.
*T/n: Also known as returning to their old home or hometown. It’s a more humorous expression.
Only now did I see Empress Zhao looking at our directions while beaming. Madam Xie’s face had an expression of ‘if I have a daughter like this, might as well die’. The group of middle-aged aunts like them all sat under an arbour while there were only young girls like us who were roaring and shouting beside the stage with the sun over our heads. Seriously, it’s not her first day knowing about this awful conduct of mine.
Suddenly, I heard a girl shout loudly, “Second Prince has snatched the ball!”
Xiao Li’s refined aura had completely vanished. His team members were guarded Xie Zhaoying and the others respectively,giving him ample time to bring the ball, break through the defence and finally score a goal.
Xie Zhaoying’s face always had a smile. Duan Zhengxun beside him told him something and he nodded his head.
The remainder of the game progressed towards a climax. Xiao Li led the yellow team to rapidly overtake the other team and scored three balls in succession, widening the gap between their scores further. Xie Zhaoying retreated to defend the back while Duan Zhengxun spearheaded the attack and they swiftly chased back two goals at lightning speed. Whereas Xiao Li seemed to be resolved to compete with Xie Zhaoying to see who was better, drew near with the ball and confronted Xie Zhaoying.
Empress Zhao had already stood up and looked over excitedly. Under the not so scorching sun in April, Xie Zhaoying and Xiao Li had already perspired profusely like rain falling. The scene seemed to be in a deadlock. The team members from both parties had also sensed the delicate atmosphere and surrounded those two but didn’t meddle. They only saw Xie Zhaoying and Xiao Li entangled in a fight with two men and two horses. One would hit the ball and another would stopped it with his stick. The two equally matched fine horses were panting heavily and neighing restlessly.
Xie Zhaoying had was already displaying signs of lacking physical strength. Based on my estimation, he should had already reached his limit twenty minutes ago. The fact that he could persevere until now was really testing my fragile heart.
Xiao Li suddenly outflanked from the side. Xie Zhaoying with reacted with alertness and blocked it instantly. His body swayed on the horseback before he sat upright again in the blink of an eye.
My heart immediately rose up to my throat.
It was that gap in time that I saw his slightly wan face and that meaningful glance in his eyes.
I instantly turned to Xie Zhaoke and spoke in a feeble voice, “Third Elder Sister……My head is so dizzy……”
As I finished speaking, I collapsed onto the floor with a thud.
“Xiao Hua!” Xie Zhaoke was frightened until she shouted loudly.
The people on the stage were alarmed as they surrounded us one after another.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong?”
“It seems like she had suffered a heat stroke.”
Translated and Edited by: HaruOngy and LalaKurouds