Li Yuanying slept well until dawn. When he awoke Li Zhi was staring at him with subtle grudge written all over his face. After blinking he curiously asked: “Why did you wake up so early? We don’t have class today.”
“Young uncle, are you aware that you kick people in your sleep?”
“I don’t know. I don’t usually sleep with people; how would I know?” Li Yuanying has always been an individualistic child and prefers not to sleep with others. His mother being an agreeable person is used to giving in to his wishes so she naturally allowed him to do as he desires.
Hearing Li Yuangying’s justification, Li Zhi had no comment. After all, he was the one who wanted to stay over. How can he then blame Li Yuanying?
Li Zhi wasn’t able to fall back to sleep after being awoken from that kick and simply sat and watched how imperious Li Yuanying would be when he wakes up. Li Zhi was surprisingly amused when Li Yuanying rolled from one end to the other end of a bed that could accommodate several people within an hour. He really lives by the saying “How could I allow others to sleep well on my bed. Chinese Idiom which means one that would not allow things under one’s power/jurisdiction to be interfered with by others”
Li Yuanying realized that he might actually have kicked Li Zhi but felt no remorse.
“Then don’t stay over next time.”
“Even if you ask me to, I would never share a bed with you again” said Li Zhi after experiencing yesterday’s trauma.
Being in a friendly relationship, such trivial matters would not get in between them. They instead called in helpers to aid them with getting ready. Li Yuanying who was helped by a court looked over at Li Zhi. Upon seeing his thin and frail body he thought about Li Zhi’s older brother.
“Why didn’t I see fourth brother yesterday?”
Li Zhi’s fourth brother is Prince of Wei, Li Tai who shared the same biological mother as Li Zhi.
Among the sons and daughters of Empress Zhangsun, Li Chengqian, Li Tai, and Changle are of similar age. After a few years’ gap came Li Zhi and Sizi. Most of the older children don’t like playing with the younger ones. Hence on weekdays, there aren’t that many opportunities for them to meet.
However, Li Tai has been very popular in recent years because His Majesty favours him greatly.
Under normal circumstances, a prince would be granted a fief upon becoming an adult. However, exception was given to Li Tai who is currently nineteen. His Majesty is reluctant to see him leave and have instead specially built Wei Palace for him within the capital Chang’an. The Emperor even went a step further and allowed him to open a literature museum and to recruit talents just to satisfy the prince’s hobby for literary creation.
In short His Majesty wants to see Li Tai every day. If he doesn’t get to see him, he would send forth his white pheasant to deliver a note saying “Father misses you”. Naturally, such a favoured child would be brought along to escape the summer heat.
Unlike Li Zhi, Li Tai is chubby with a joyous figure and face. So when Li Yuanying saw Li Zhi’s thin and frail body, he immediately thought of Li Tai who was the other extreme from him.
Li Zhi who spent time with His Majesty yesterday was naturally more well informed on news in the palace. “Fourth brother found an ancient book and was reading it so diligently that he neglects sleep and food. He even refuses to leave the carriage upon reaching Jiucheng Palace so Lord father allowed him to finish reading the book before getting off.”
“Your fourth brother really cherishes books like his own life”
“Fourth brother has been like that ever since he was a child.”
After getting dressed, they split up. Li Zhi went to see Sizi and the other children while Li Yuanying strolled towards the polo field.
Li Er intended to relax for two days before resuming with government affairs. This morning’s itinerary is to watch noble children from the clan play polo. Because of the presence of the Emperor the noble children are all gearing up to perform their very best to impress him.
Li Yuanying wanted to take this opportunity to assess Du He. It’s normal to have a little friction during a game. He intended to handle all the dirty deeds while leaving the good virtuous ones to Li Zhi. With them both working together they will definitely understand Du He’s character thoroughly.
The Emperor after having an early breakfast instructed for his horse to be brought and led the officials to the polo field to observe the excitement. Not even halfway there, someone hurriedly rush over, knelt and reported: “Your Majesty, an incident occurred at the polo stadium.”
“What’s going on?”
Sweating profusely the informer reports while trembling: “It the sons of Du and Fang family, they started a fight”
The officials being worried about offending either side tried to look for external help. Originally, they intended to look for Fang Xuanling but since they ran into the Emperor here they are informing him about the situation on hand instead.
The Emperor glanced at Fang Xuanling, waved his hand to signal the man to retreat and rode his horse straight towards the polo field.
Fang Xuanling frowned when he heard “Son from the Fang Family”. His eldest son was away for official matters and hence not here at Jiucheng palace so that leaves his younger Fang Yiai. This child is not as mature as his elder brother and can be easily provoked. Worried that Yiai will cause a commotion in front of his Majesty, Fang Xuanling hurriedly clamped his horse to keep up with the Emperor’s pace.
Wei Zheng and a few more officials followed a little behind with no intention of hurrying over to see the commotion.
The Emperor got down right outside of the polo field and saw that both sides were engaged in a full brawl, all manners lost with not an ounce of their usual proper upright behaviour. With sharp eyes, Li Er saw a familiar figure sitting not too far away. His younger brother Li Yuanying.
That kid is actually sitting at a corner holding and sipping from a cup; observing the brawl with a surprised expression that said “how can they not even fight properly?”
The Emperor with blue veins visible on his forehead instructed for Yuanying to be brought over.
Not noticing the Emperor’s presence, Li Yuanying was astonished that Du He and Fang Yiai could not stand even a little provocation. He quietly took out his slingshot and aimed for the back of Du He’s head fully intending to cause trouble as usual. At that very same moment, Fang Yiai so happen was walking past and from Du He’s point of view it looked like Fang Yiai’s doing.
So the fight started.
Li Yuanying somehow had zero awareness that he was the instigator of this gang fight. He simply felt that the two parties might have hated each other from the beginning. He poured himself a glass of Coke and sat in the Pavilion fanning himself while watching the commotion.
While Li Yuanying was watching with gusto, Li Er’s man came to inform him that the Emperor requested for an audience.
Li Yuanying turned to look and saw that the Emperor has not dismount from the horse but instead sat condescendingly watching the gang fight. Li Yuanying was shocked and immediately shouted loudly: “The Emperor is here.”
Hearing this, the crowd immediately disbursed quickly fearing the bad impression they would leave to the Emperor.
After startling and dispensing all possible witnesses, then passing his Coke to Dai Ting for safekeeping, Li Yuangying finally ran over to meet the Emperor while putting on an innocent well-behaved façade.
Li Er glanced at him on top of his horse coldly.
Li Yuanying has a wealth of experience in causing trouble so he was determined not to mess up and expose himself. “Lord Brother, why are you here so early? I wasn’t made aware that you have had breakfast. You need to eat well in the morning, eat till you’re stuffed at noon and just a little food in the evening. You can’t come without breakfast, it’s bad to starve your body.”
The Emperor seeing Li Yuanying with his calm demure attempting to chitchat finally got off his horse and asked in a direct manner: “Tell me. What happened?”
Li Yuanying giving his best innocent look said: “I arrived and saw people fighting. At first, it was just two people then more joined. So many I was not able to tell their identities. Look at me, so small in stature. I don’t want to get beaten at first sight. Of course, I wouldn’t dare try to stop the fight, I could only hide away and wait for them to finish.”
The Emperor intuitively felt that this has nothing to do with Li Yuanying. The group of fighting boys had already ran away and a nervous-looking minister Fang was standing next to them ready to drop to his knees and beg for mercy at a drop of a hat. He decided to divert the topic and asked Yuanying “Why isn’t Zhi Nu Zhi Nu refers to Li Zhi here with you?”
“I don’t know. Zhi Nu went to meet Sizi and the others. We were supposed to all meet at the polo stadium.”
The Emperor not wanting to give Li Yuanying any opportunities to cause any trouble decided to keep him close by.
“Okay, come watch the polo match with me.”
Since the two parties broke out into a fight before the start of the match, the match will be a lively affair.
On the other side, Li Zhi who was following the original plan went to meet Du He intending to have a conversation with him. He wasn’t expecting Li Yuanying to go and cause a fight between both groups thinking to himself that things are a little tricky right now.
Fortunately, Li Zhi had a publicly known reputation of being good-tempered and passionate. It wouldn’t be suspicious to others if he went to Du He and the other boys to tend to their injuries and talk to them.
Li Zhi failed to steer the conversation towards Du He and his home situation but instead learnt that Du He and Fang Yiai was not on good terms due to them supporting different parties in politics.
Neither of them is the eldest son of the family hence neither peerage nor land will be inherited by them. Therefore, they needed another alternative in life.
One was close to Prince Li Chengqian and the other to Prince Li Tai. In the past, they have had conflicts because of one thing or another. Both were trying to show their capabilities and regarded each other as rivals. Meeting on such circumstances they wouldn’t be able to hold back their temper and started fighting.
Du He isn’t someone who would easily disclose his real feelings to others but since the fight just happened and he was feeling horrible he complained briefly to Li Zhi.
Being very different from Li Yuanying, Li Zhi was a smart person who was also eager to learn. He has never slacked in his studies and thus knows a lot more than Li Yuanying.
Hearing Du He’s vaguely bringing up that Fang Yiai is loyal to Prince Li Tai and has secretly started to oppose Prince Li Chengqian, he was shocked and thought of all the tragedies that have befallen the royal brothers fighting for power in the past.
A very recent example would be the struggle for power between his father and then supposed hidden heir to the throne Prince Li Jiancheng in the blood-stained Xuanwu Gate incident.
Being in a daze from his shock, Li Zhi forgot all about his promise to meet up with Yuanying to find out about Du’s family affairs.
Du He after he had finished cursing realized that he overstepped his boundaries in front of Li Zhi and had immediately gone silent. After having his wound taken care of he separated from Li Zhi and went to compete on the polo field.
Li Zhi brought the other children and headed towards the polo field to meet Li Yuanying as agreed.
As soon as the three girls arrived, the Emperor cast Li Yuanying away.
Li Yuanying seeing Li Zhi being a little lost leaned forward and asked in a low voice, “What’s the matter? Did you get any information or did you screw up? I’ve just dealt with Lord Brother, do not drag me into trouble again”
Seeing how heartless Yuanying was, Li Zhi shook his head: “All is good.”
Li Yuanying didn’t inquire more but asked Dai Ting to pour a glass of good stuff for Li Zhi to drink.
There’s no meaning in holding onto good stuff alone, you have to share it with friends to be happy.
Li Zhi who was still a young boy immediately cast aside his worries and curiously accepted the drink from Dai Ting. Holding the curious drink, he immediately saw ice cubes floating in the jasper cup slightly concealing the brown liquid with small bubbles bubbling underneath. He felt a sense of coldness just looking at it.
He instantly felt that all the summer heat and his depression was gone.