The bell rang, indicating that some important figures like Young Zen Master and State Duke He had arrived at the Chess Board Mountain.
State Duke He walked to the side of the railing on the mountaintop, looking down at the lush forest, mulling over something.
As the host of the Plum Meeting, he had nowhere to seek help no matter how helpless he was. His issue was that the Young Zen Master wasn't with him at the moment.
The Young Zen Master was currently resting in the Temple of Three Purities, located in the middle of the mountain.
Though it was odd that an important Buddhist monk stayed in a Daoist Temple to rest, State Duke He was fully aware that the Young Zen Master wasn't concerned about this at all, so he kept his mouth shut.
Taking a brief look at the Imperial palace in the distance, State Duke He said to the officials by his side, "Let the game begin then."
The bell rang again; the chess tournament of the Plum Meeting had officially begun.
Numerous Cultivation practitioners from Green Mountain started moving toward the pavilions they had chosen beforehand.
From the mountaintop where State Duke He was standing, the movements of those practitioners looked like pieces moving around on a chessboard, giving any observer on the mountaintop the sense that armies were marching on the battlefield.
All the practitioners were paying close attention to the movements in a few places, regardless of whether they were standing on the same spot or walking.
Tong Yan was of course the person they were most interested in, as they were anxious to find out whom he would choose as his first opponent.
Or, would he, like at the previous plum meetings, randomly pick an empty pavilion and wait there for others to challenge him?
The movements of those high-level Go players, such as He Zhan, Queniang, Gu Yuanyuan, and Shang Jiulou, were also worth noticing to these practitioners, and many gazes fell on Jing Jiu, who sitting by the bank of the brook.
Tong Yan hadn't made any move as he stood by the cliff's edge, looking at the disappearing clouds in front of the mountain.
He Zhan was still upstream of the brook, barbecuing fish and drinking wine with that young girl.
Queniang, Shang Jiulou and Gu Yuanyuan had made their move, walking expectedly into the pavilions they had chosen.
Having seen their movements, some practitioners grew worried.
If they ultimately couldn't choose a chess pavilion, they would be assigned one of the pavilions without a challenger by the tournament organizers.
It was expected that the pavilions occupied by Queniang, Shang Jiulou any Gu Yuanyuan would definitely be empty, without any challenger, by the time that happened
Nobody wished to encounter such strong opponents in the first round of the Plum Meeting chess tournament
Since chess playing was considered an elegant thing, it would be inappropriate to run and chase each other on the mountain, but the walking speed of these Cultivation practitioners had obviously accelerated.
They were walking quickly to the pavilions located somewhere else.
Not long afterward, the majority of the Cultivation practitioners participating in the chess tournament had found a pavilion to sit in.
Someone had noticed Jing Jiu was still sitting on the grass by the brook.
"Is he imitating the young master Tong Yan?"
"Ridiculous," one practitioner snickered.
Someone protested, "He Zhan hasn't chosen his pavilion either."
The former speaker sneered, "How could he compare to He Zhan?"
The chess games had already begun in some of the pavilions.
There was a person outside each pavilion responsible for recording the proceeding of the game. This was meant to be a record of the games played, but everybody knew that these Go playing records would be sent out from the mountain one after another, as a great number of kings and nobles were waiting for them in Zhaoge City that day, and they were willing to pay a steep price for these records. Since the imperial court couldn't prevent such business, they might as well make some money from it.
Many pavilions still had only one practitioner sitting in them.
Some of them were expressionless; and some were muttering to themselves, hoping Tong Yan would not come to their pavilion.
He Zhan came back, and he stood by Jing Jiu, holding the jar of alcohol in his hand. "Do you want to?" he asked Jing Jiu.
Jing Jiu answered, "I don't want to drink the wine."
"But you want to play Go," said He Zhan.
Jing Jiu shot him a glance.
He Zhan added, "You have to get through me if you want to beat Tong Yan."
Now Jing Jiu understood what he meant.
Zhao Layue and Sister Cui were startled.
Looking at the remaining barbecued fish in her hand, Se Se thought she should throw it away, and at the same time felt it would be a pity to do so.
It was because she had never tasted fish as delicious as the one in her hand.
If barbecuing fish was a talent, He Zhan seemed to be the "second one" in the world as well.
Many people had noticed the commotion by the bank of the brook, and they were all stunned to hear He Zhan's challenge.
At this point they realized that He Zhan had such an intention beforehand, which is why he hadn't chosen a chess pavilion until now.
Would Jing Jiu accept the challenge?
"I can't play with you because I have an appointment with someone else," said Jing Jiu.
He Zhan didn't think his challenge would be declined, asking with arched brows, "With whom?"
Jing Jiu didn't answer his question.
He left the brook and walked somewhere else instead.
There was an uproar.
It wasn't because Jing Jiu had declined He Zhan's challenge.
Tong Yan had moved.
Almost at the same time as Jing Jiu started moving his feet, Tong Yan, who had stood by the cliff's edge for a long time, spun around and walked toward some place.
Countless gazes followed Jing Jiu and Tong Yan.
Even those practitioners who were in the midst of playing Go stopped short instinctively, as they couldn't help but look in that direction.
People became more and more shocked; even He Zhan was stunned.
It seemed that Jing Jiu and Tong Yan were walking toward the same place.
Everyone would leave behind a line when they walked in this world, and two of these lines would eventually meet as long as they were not parallel to each other.
The place where they would meet each other wasn't by the cliff's edge or by the brook, but by the Plums.
It was an isolated place, where a small pavilion was shielded by dozens of wild plums. It was so obscured that one would easily miss it if they didn't pay close enough attention.
He Zhan had gotten it.
All the people in the mountain had gradually realized what was going on.
The most anticipated chess game in this year's chess tournament of the Plum Meeting was no doubt the match between Jing Jiu and Tong Yan.
In some sense this Go game represented the competition between the Green Mountain Sect and the Center Sect, another kind of fight between these two leaders of the orthodox Cultivation circle.
The Emperor had suddenly decided to observe the chess games, and he was most likely to come here for this particular game.
In many people's opinion, if Jing Jiu wanted to play with Tong Yan, he had to at least win a few games, and it would be several days before two of them eventually met.
And that was only if he had that much skill, or luck.
Nobody expected that they would meet up with each other that day at the beginning of the chess tournament.
Of course, this wasn't a coincidence.
It was plainly clear that they had never planned to go to any other chess pavilion from the very beginning.
What they had wanted to play was this very game.
Standing on the mountaintop, State Duke He was speechless when he saw what was happening below.
"Inform the imperial palace immediately." he motioned his subordinates with his hands.
He would be in big trouble if the Emperor had missed this Go game.
Nan Wang led the disciples of the Green Mountain, walking toward the outside of the West Mountain Residence.
Many disciples' faces still wore shocked expressions after having heard the news.
The Young Zen Master pulled back his gaze from the mud statue Guanying and looked at the Daoist monk who came over to report the news. "Who has moved the first piece?" he asked.
The Daoist monk replied, "They were deciding who would move first when I left the chess pavilion.
The gentle breeze passed through the patch of the wild plums before entering the chess pavilion. It didn't bring any fragrant scent, but rather add a chill feeling to the atmosphere
"It's not too bad that you could figure out my intention," said Tong Yan.
"This way is less troublesome," Jing Jiu commented.
Tong Yan picked up a few Go pieces and moved to the upper side of the Go board without opening his hand.
Jing Jiu was aware that this was the so-called "guessing the playing order".
Jing Jiu's gaze fell on Tong Yan's hand.
Countless gazes fell on Tong Yan's hand as well.
Yet Zhao Layue was looking at Jing Jiu.
She recalled his certain statement again.
The sun was right there; how could anybody fail to look at it?
But the real sun was shining so brightly that nobody could truly see it because its light could blind the onlookers.
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