On the mountaintop, State Duke He leaned over the railing as far as possible, as though trying to see the scene in the pavilion as clearly as possible.
Seeing what State Duke He was doing, the officials were worried about his safety and hurriedly came over to help him, but once close to him, they noticed a shocked and puzzled expression on his face.
It seemed that the final result of the chess game had already been decided - but who was the winner?
Inside the Pure-Three Temple, Young Zen Master stood in front of the gate and gave a relieved smile, while gazing at the mountain which looked refreshed after the rainfall.
Behind him, the Daoist monk had already finished re-placing all the Go pieces, so he hadn't been able to clearly seen the final move.
The atmosphere was tense in the imperial palace. The eunuchs were busy completing the final checks on the Royal sedan.
It would not take too long to fly from the imperial palace to the Chess Board Mountain, but the necessary preparations for the emperor's expedition were quite troublesome.
Worst of all, last night the entrance of the Muddy River to the sea had suddenly collapsed. The Emperor had called a temporary court meeting, so his trip had been delayed.
The door of the grand hall opened and an object of bright yellow color passed through. At this time the Prime Minister and the Minister of Construction who came to the palace on short notice had not had time to get out of the grand hall yet.
The Royal sedan hovering half foot above the ground sank slightly. The eunuchs knew that the Emperor had settled into it, and felt relieved, knowing that they were ready to take the Royal sedan off the ground.
In their minds, the Go game between two highly skilled players would usually take a long time to finish, so they thought they would have enough time to get to the Chess Board Mountain before the game was over.
A sudden commotion occurred outside the front gate of the palace. A young eunuch ran over in a hurry. He knelt down in front of the royal sedan and said something in a low voice.
A skirl of laughter came from the royal sedan, and then a clean and powerful voice rang out.
"Since the outcome has been determined, let us now go to the royal concubine palace."
There had been four royal concubines in the imperial palace in total. Two of them had passed away and were buried in the eastern tomb, and another royal concubine was quite old so that she was seldom present in public.
When the royal concubine was mentioned at the moment, she had to be Royal Concubine Hu, who was favored by the Emperor.
Royal Concubine Hu had already finished her make-up, and was prepared to leave upon the royal decree.
The Emperor had not forgotten his promise. As he had decided to go to the Chess Board Mountain to observe the Go game, the Emperor had sent someone to inform her.
This kind of favor from the Emperor was rare in the imperial palace; but the expression on her face was not one of happiness; only anxiety could be detected.
It was she who had persuaded the Emperor going to the Plum Meeting to observe the chess tournament, because she wanted to witness Jing Jiu being humiliated by Tong Yan and the other high-level Go players.
Jing Jiu would encounter Tong Yan at the beginning of the tournament. This was even better than she had imagined.
Yet what had happened next was beyond her imagination.
Royal Concubine Hu paced nonstop in front of the window, in no mood to enjoy the beautiful begonias outside the window. She murmured, "What's going on? How come he hasn't lost yet?"
Somehow, she was suddenly reluctant to go to the Chess Board Mountain.
A palace maid hurriedly came in, announcing, "The Emperor is coming."
Royal Concubine Hu was taken aback, asking, "Are we supposed to go to the Chess Board Mountain?"
The palace maid glanced at her hesitantly. "The chess game has already finished..." she told Royal Concubine Hu.
Royal Concubine Hu was famous for being straightforward to the point of naïveté, but she was highly intelligent. Having seen the expression on the palace maid's face, she had already guessed the outcome. "How could such a result be possible?" she yelled.
Tong Yan didn't put down the last white Go piece in his hand on the Go board, but gently returned it in the jar for Go pieces instead.
The winner, and the loser, of the game had been determined.
It was quiet everywhere.
Even the sound of rainwater falling from the edges of the pavilion roof became heart-wrenching.
A buzzing sound passed around in the crowd.
It wasn't the sound of conversation, because they didn't know what to say, and they didn't know how to evaluate the game.
The sounds were mostly cheers and applause.
Tong Yan had been considered by the public as the best Go player in the world, and many people, including Grand Scholar Guo, had regarded him as the greatest since the ancient times.
Yet he had lost to Jing Jiu that day.
Who wouldn't be shocked?
Looking at the two players in the pavilion, He Zhan felt a complicated series of emotions. Soon he came to his senses and bowed in courtesy.
Queniang and Shang Jiulou followed suit.
Almost half the crowd did likewise, bowing towards that seemingly ordinary pavilion.
They were expressing their respect and appreciation.
They thanked Jing Jiu and Tong Yan for such a wonderful Go game.
Gu Yuanyuan had finally woken up. Looking at his surroundings, he asked mildly, "Do we have the final outcome yet? Who won?"
Before anybody could answer him, Gu Yuanyuan shook his head and murmured, "Who on earth could beat them..."
His mind was in an unsteady state, but his heart was quite certain.
Nobody could defeat the likes of Jing Jiu and Tong Yan on the Go board.
Tong Yan's tender face looked numb, showing no expression at all, so nobody could tell what kind of mood he was in.
Jing Jiu was calm, as always, as if he didn't think it had been an important matter.
Bai Zao's eyes looked different after noticing these details. Then she was surprised to discover that Guo Dong had already left.
The disciples of the Center Sect, standing by Bai Zao, were all very disappointed, since they had never believed that their leader Tong Yan would lose the game.
The outcome on the Go board was so obvious that Tong Yan had already given up putting down the last Go piece.
Tong Yan had indeed lost. He didn't attempt to look for an excuse or any other reason for his defeat.
Xiang Wanshu suffered the most as a result.
In name he was Tong Yan's young brother, but in truth he had been trained by Tong Yan in terms of Cultivation as well as Go playing.
It was almost impossible for Xiang Wanshu to accept the fact that his big brother had lost the Go match.
He recalled what had happened in Haizhou City a year ago.
He had made a few remarks at the Four-Seas Banquet back then, which garnered a strong response from a young woman wearing a conical hat.
How could this Go game have taken place? It all started from that point.
Having thought of this, he felt a pang of regret and became even sadder. Then he instinctively looked up, at a place just in front of him.
Zhao Layue was standing there.
Her gaze was fixed on the inside of the pavilion.
Xiang Wanshu was certain that she was looking at Jing Jiu.
She was wearing a faint smile, the hair by her ears a little wet.
She looked like a wet and lovely pear flower, and her faint smile showed two shallow dimples.
Who wouldn't like a creature such as this?
Xiang Wanshu noticed both the admiration and affection on Zhao Layue's face.
He grew even sadder.
Besides Zhao Layue, many more people were gazing admiringly at Jing Jiu.
He sat there quietly, with a peaceful expression. His black hair was a little wet and out of place, but such an appearance added another layer of beauty, making him look like an immortal master.
The crowd generated a special, unique feeling.
Though he was sitting there, his mind was elsewhere, somewhere out of this world.
Tong Yan got up and walked over to the railing.
He silently looked at the scenery outside the mountain for a while.
Then, he slowly closed his eyes while lifting his head up.
Closing eyes didn't mean that he was arrogant.
His eyebrows were sparse.
The rainwater trickled down slowly across the corners of his eyes and his pale-looking tender cheeks.
The crowd remained silent as they kept their gaze away from Jing Jiu and towards Tong Yan's back.
Tong Yan had lost, but he had played a game that had affected heaven and earth. So he deserved the highest respect from everyone.
They had been waiting for Tong Yan's final words.
The Go game played that day was destined to be the most famous and legendary game in history.
At this moment, Tong Yan and Jing Jiu's every word and movement would be recorded.
Finally, after a long time, Tong Yan spoke.
He neither turned around nor opened his eyes. His toneless words, uttered through his lips, sounded pained and awkward.
"I've played such a game today that I have nothing to regret in my life. What more could one want?"
Upon hearing this, the crowd felt, if it was possible, even more respect for him.
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