Gu Yuanyuan had been deep in thought and was alarmed by the thunder. After wobbling a few times, he would have fallen down if he didn't held onto a big tree nearby, and he panted a few times from fear.
The crowd was startled by the sudden thunder, and looked up at the sky. They realized that drizzling rain was falling after noticing their cheeks had become slightly wet.
Zhao Layue stared at Jing Jiu in the pavilion, with a worried expression clear in her distinctive black and white eyes.
Jing Jiu was still deep in thought.
The square occupied by the white Go piece was located on seven and eleven (G11), and was a blocking piece - how would he deal with it?
The clouds in the sky were getting thicker, the mountain looking gloomier, the wind growing colder and swifter, and the raindrops falling more frequently.
For some reason, the formation on the Chess Board Mountain did not play its role as well as it should have.
The crowd abruptly resumed its former shape after brief dispersing.
They refocused their attention on the pavilion because the ongoing game was too exciting to be missed.
Jing Jiu was in deep thought, staring intently at the Go board.
Tong Yan stood up again and walked to the railing after having placed the last white Go piece.
His tender face shone in the remaining sunlight, displaying supreme confidence.
Time went by, and heaven and earth grew even gloomier.
Jing Jiu made his move.
He picked up a Go piece, and reached out toward the Go board.
His movement was almost perfect, in both the angle of his two holding fingers, and the angle of his bending arm.
He had learned all these details from the beginner's book in Haizhou City.
Sometimes perfection was boring, but nothing could go wrong by doing so.
The black Go piece was placed exactly on the square, smooth and true.
The black Go piece touched the Go board quietly.
It was on the square of three and nine (C9).
The clouds were somersaulting, and lightning appeared on the horizon.
The thunder was too far away to reach the mountain, though the lighting still got there.
It brightened the Chess Board Mountain, but the reflection of the light on the quiet black Go piece was dark and cold, like a flash of light from a sword.
He Zhan arched his eyebrows, his sleeves trembling slightly.
Looking at the black piece and clenching her chest, Queniang suddenly felt a wave of heartburn, like being stabbed by a sword.
Shang Jiulou was pale, and a trickle of blood came out from the corner of his mouth as he grunted.
Inside the Pure-Three Temple, the Young Zen Master looked at the latest two Go pieces. After a long moment of silence, he lifted his head gazing at the outside of the window.
Outside the window the dark clouds were dense and low, enveloping the entire Chess Board Mountain.
"It's too hazardous."
Young Zen Master vigorously shook his head. He stopped putting Go pieces on the Go board, motioning for the Daoist monk to do it instead.
On the mountaintop, after sensing the changes in heaven and earth and experiencing many changes of mood, State Duke He turned solemn again. He asked in a deep voice, "What's the news from the imperial palace?"
"We have contacted the imperial palace. The Emperor has just finished a temporary court meeting. He is on his way to come here," a subordinate replied with a lowered head.
State Duke He looked to the bottom of the mountain for a few moments. "I hope the chess game won't finish too soon," he said with furrowed eyebrows.
Regardless of whether it was expected or unwanted, the most anticipated chess game at the Plum Meeting had finally reached its climax, and the actual combat began.
Jing Jiu and Tong Yan were no longer engaged in long and intense thought. The black and white Go pieces landed steadily and strongly, making crisp thuds on the Go board.
However, the crisp sounds weren't always ear-pleasing. Sometimes they were heart-wrenching, like a sword hacking at a stone or a magic treasure bombarding an iron gate.
It was as though countless swords filled the air with lethal intent across heaven and earth. Those who had a good understanding of chess immediately found it hard to breathe after they perceived the intense battle going on.
Amongst the observers outside the pavilion, Gu Yuanyuan's Go prowess was renowned as slightly weaker than that of He Zhan, Shang Jiulou and Queniang, but his Go playing ability was still at a high level.
Moreover, he had over the years followed the Broadsword King fighting in the northern snow lands. He had witnessed real battles and bloodshed, so his understanding of strategy and tactics were so much stronger.
In his eyes the black and white Go pieces were twirling at high speed, turning into chariots and soldiers of Snowy Kingdom roaming the lands and mountains.
They crushed the accumulated thick ice and ignored the violent snowy wind. The neighing of horses, the shouting of soldiers, and the whistling sound of wind could be heard everywhere, and lethal intent and deaths were everywhere.
Gu Yuanyuan couldn't withstand it anymore and passed out with a loud scream when he had a vision of a hideous monster of the Snowy Kingdom throwing itself onto him.
Queniang and Shang Jiulou were also in a bad condition. Their faces were pale, the corners of their mouths had traces of blood, and their bodies trembled unstoppably. It seemed like they could pass out at anytime.
He Zhan walked over and stopped in front of Queniang and Shang Jiulou, blocking their sight lines.
If they were like the majority of the crowd outside the pavilion who couldn't quite follow the Go game, it wouldn't be so painful.
The problem was that Queniang and the other two played Go at a high enough level to understand most of the game. But they had to keep up with Jing Jiu and Tong Yan's speed of thinking, and the mental exertion was simply too great.
He Zhan had given up on the game earlier when Jing Jiu and Tong Yan took a rest.
He was feeling worried, and wearing a solemn expression, as he watched Jing Jiu and Tong Yan in the pavilion.
If those who could understand the Go game were paying such a high price, then how much pressure must these two actual players be under?
The game continued. Jing Jiu and Tong Yan put down their Go pieces as quickly as before, but those watching felt the game was speeding up.
The wind in the mountain was getting colder and swifter, and the clouds in the sky grew thicker and darker.
These were omens of the forthcoming rainstorm.
The crushed wild plums on the ground were blown around in tiny pieces, filling the air through the pavilion.
The clouds were tumbling restlessly, like a black dragon flying here and there and roaring. More thunder and lightning occurred in the far end of the dark clouds, to show heaven and earth their power.
The rainfall suddenly became dense, pouring down the mountain.
The formation of the Chess Board Mountain had finally perceived something. An invisible force was released from the deep end of the cliff rocks, which had kept almost all the wind and rain from coming in.
The raindrops landed on the invisible rooftop and flew down along the invisible walls, making the objects on the outside look blurred. This was an astonishing scene, but nobody paid any heed to it.
The crowd were all looking at that low pavilion.
The downpour on the Chess Board Mountain had eased up. The raindrops looked like countless crystal clear dewdrops after having landed on the chess board, between the black and white Go pieces.
The game had already entered the final stage—capturing squares.
These squares had the secrets of the heaven and earth, and also many hidden dangers.
Jing Jiu and Tong Yan focused their entire attention on the Go board, and didn't seem to notice their clothes getting wet.
The crisp snapping sound rang out and the thunder boomed as the Go pieces landed on the Go board. The mountains were even moved by the relentless battle.
The frequent lightning lit their faces.
The skin on Tong Yan's face was extremely smooth, and it had become even more delicate when slightly wet, like an infant's, but his keen eyes displayed the desire for victory and his strong will.
Jing Jiu looked peaceful as usual. His expression did not change, not even with the smallest quiver, resembling a perfect jade statue.
Most people watching couldn't perceive any difference, but Zhao Layue could sense Jing Jiu's mental state, noticing signs such as his slightly shivering sleeves, from them having been together for a long time.
Jing Jiu was always calm and carefree regardless of whether it was during the Inherited Sword Competition, climbing Shengmo Peak, or facing Gu Han and Guo Nanshan during last year's Sword Trial of Green Mountain.
It had been quite different that day. Jing Jiu had displayed the kind of seriousness and focus that Zhao Layue had never seen during the game against Tong Yan.
The clashing sounds of the Go pieces hitting the Go board and the booming sounds of the thunder were so clear.
However, the Chess Board Mountain was feeling an incomparable peacefulness, because the raindrops were soundless and nobody dared make a noise.
After a long while, the rainstorm finally stopped, the dark clouds dispersed, and the booming thunder sounded no more.
The sunlight shone again. On the mountains that had been washed by the rain, both air and sceneries were extremely clean.
A rainbow appeared on the horizon.
It was Tong Yan's turn.
He silently held a white Go piece in his hand while looking at the Go board.
Those who were failing to follow the Go game nonetheless also sensed a strong emotion.
This white Go piece would be the last move of the game.
The entire outcome depended on this single Go piece.
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