Chapter 2 Book 1: 2: Gu Hai
Book 1: Chapter 2: Gu Hai
On the fourteenth day of the sixth month, Ancient Wind Town, Hulao Pass, Chen Nation:
In this town was a mansion known as the Gu Residence. Restaurants and inns lined the streets within the Gu Residence, which bustled with many guests wandering the place.
However, a group of people wearing mourning clothes arrived, bringing the bustle to a halt. Many soldiers guarded the surroundings, immediately injecting a somber and desolate air into the festive atmosphere.
“Isn’t today Old Mister Gu’s seventieth birthday celebration? They should have already put the surrounding military camps in order long ago. Why are there so many soldiers?”
“That’s not right. Something is off. Although Old Mister Gu does not interfere with politics, the officials would not dare to offend Old Mister Gu, either!”
“That was the crown prince earlier. He was wearing mourning clothes, and all the civil and military officials were following behind him!”
“How can that be?”
“It’s true. It really is the crown prince. Why is the crown prince wearing mourning clothes? Could it be…”
The guests on the streets immediately revealed horrified expressions.
The crown prince would wear mourning clothes only on one occasion: the death of the current emperor.
Wasn’t the current emperor at the frontlines personally leading the troops? Furthermore, most people had heard that he had gained a series of victories.
Everyone showed shocked expressions. Clearly, their news was outdated.
While the guests wandered the streets and front yard in a festive mood, the Gu Residence’s backyard was peaceful and serene. There was a seven-story pagoda in the backyard, the tallest building in the Gu Residence, even in the town. One could see the entire town from the top of the pagoda.
This tower was known as the Soaring Pagoda.
Many of the Gu Residence’s people stood at the foot of the Soaring Pagoda, looking solemn as they looked at Crown Prince Chen and the many officials in mourning clothes kneeling there. The crown prince and the officials all looked very sorrowful.
Only one person in the group did not kneel—Chen Taiji’s Third Granduncle, the white-clad man from the sect.
“This nephew, Chen Liangyi, seeks an audience with Uncle Gu. I beg Uncle Gu to take revenge for my imperial father!” Crown Prince Chen Liangyi said with an extremely pained and sorrowful expression.
The Chen Nation would be destroyed soon. How long could Chen Liangyi remain the crown prince? The immortal sect backing the Chen Nation probably would take its anger out on him when the nation fell. Who knew whether he would survive or not? However, his father had said that this person could turn around this desperate situation. Furthermore, this person was his father’s sworn brother.
Not to mention kneeling now, as long as Gu Hai could save the Chen Nation, Chen Liangyi would not frown at kneeling for three days and three nights.
Many of the servants among the Gu Residence’s people stared with their eyes wide open.
This was the crown prince! Furthermore, all the civil and military officials were here as well. How could this be? All for the sake of meeting their master?
“Gu Hai, I am the Clear River Sect’s Chen Tianshan. Do you still remember me? Crown Prince Chen has already led all of the civil and military officials to kneel before you. What more do you want?” the standing white-clad man called out.
The Gu Residence’s people watched with narrowed eyes. The leader of the Gu Residence’s group appeared to be a thirty-something man wearing an azure, long-sleeved shirt. He possessed a broad face with an ordinary appearance. However, as he stood outside the Soaring Pagoda, all of the Gu Residence’s people looked to him for instructions.
“First Young Master, should we…?” One of the servants wanted to suggest something. However, when the azure-shirt-clad man looked over coldly, he immediately scared that servant into silence with his gaze.
The Gu Residence’s prestige could not be challenged.
The azure-shirt-clad First Young Master ignored the opinion of the group. Instead, he waited patiently outside the Soaring Pagoda.
“Uncle Gu, before my imperial father passed away, he told this nephew to come and beg Uncle Gu. Furthermore, he wanted me to apologize to you on his behalf. It was he who let you down back then.”
A drawn-out sigh came from within the Soaring Pagoda.
Everyone’s expression changed.
Then, an aged voice came from within the Soaring Pagoda. “This old man has been slow in reacting to Immortal Venerate Chen. Gu Qin, please invite Immortal Venerate Chen up. Bring Chen Liangyi up too!”
The First Young Master, Gu Qin, who was guarding the pagoda entrance, immediately showed a respectful expression as he answered, “Yes, Adoptive Father!”
Gu Qin pushed open the pagoda doors and said to Chen Tianshan, “Immortal Venerate Chen, sorry for the delay. My father has not met with guests in a long time already. Kindly pardon today’s offense. Please come in.”
Chen Tianshan nodded.
“Crown Prince Chen, this way, please!” Gu Qin said respectfully.
Chen Liangyi stood up excitedly. Then, Gu Qin led Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi into the Soaring Pagoda.
The pagoda doors closed once more.
The civil and military officials outside looked curiously at this pagoda.
The pagoda had seven floors. Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi discovered that bookshelves stuffed with countless books filled every floor.
This continued until the sixth floor, where the two finally saw Gu Hai.
There was a large Go board placed by the window. However, this Go board was different. Typically, Go boards had nineteen vertical lines and nineteen horizontal lines. However, this Go board had twenty-nine of each.
Go stones covered the Go board, but the two could not make out the game’s situation.
A black-clad old man, about seventy years old or so, stood by the side of the Go board. He had a head of white hair and a stern expression. Although he had many wrinkles, his eyes appeared very clear, as if they could see through one’s heart. This made Chen Liangyi’s heart pound heavily.
This was the richest man of the six nations, Gu Hai?
“You are Gu Hai? No, you are not Gu Hai! Your eyebrows…?” Chen Tianshan opened his eyes wide.
The old man merely smiled faintly and said, “Immortal Venerate Chen, do you still recall my sincere request under the waterfall? This old man is indeed Gu Hai. However, I wore a fake beard and drew on eyebrows back then to avoid unnecessary trouble.”
Chen Tianshan looked carefully. Indeed, this person was Gu Hai. However, the features that left the deepest impression on him back then were actually all fake. It was still the same person, but the appearance changed significantly. Had Gu Hai not explained, he would not have thought this Gu Hai to be the same person he had met in the past.
“Uncle Gu, my father already died. He said that you were his sworn brother, and he asked that Uncle Gu help him take revenge on account of this sworn brotherhood.” Chen Liangyi knelt again.
Gu Hai narrowed his eyes as he looked at Chen Liangyi. After some silence, he said, “I did swear brotherhood with him back then. However, he also tried to kill me. Henceforth, our brotherhood no longer counted.”
“Ah?” Chen Liangyi’s expression froze.
Chen Tianshan frowned slightly.
Gu Hai looked at Chen Tianshan and said, “I know why you are here. Three passes have fallen, and Gao Xianzhi trapped and killed six hundred thousand soldiers at those three passes. The Song Nation has resolved to destroy the Chen Nation. At this moment, all you are left with are one hundred thousand scattered and inexperienced soldiers. Do you think that it is possible to block the eight hundred thousand ferocious soldiers of the Song Nation?”
“What?! Gao Xianzhi killed six hundred thousand soldiers? Those are prisoners-of-war!” Chen Liangyi exclaimed.
“It happened at noon four days ago,” Gu Hai rebutted indifferently.
“You…how did you know?!” Chen Liangyi exclaimed.
However, Gu Hai did not answer.
The First Young Master Gu Qin remained at the side, attending to the group. He respectfully poured tea for Gu Hai and then Chen Tianshan.
Gu Hai gestured for Chen Tianshan to take a seat.
Chen Tianshan looked at Gu Hai, finding this behavior strange. Ordinary people would all treat the immortal sects’ people like deities. How was Gu Hai so calm and indifferent?
Chen Tianshan sat down and said sullenly, “Chen Taiji said that you could do it.”
Gu Hai picked up his tea and took a sip. “Under Gao Xianzhi’s leadership, it would take the Song Nation’s army only half a month to smash the nation to pieces and reach Hulao Pass. You are even clearer than I am about the quality of the one hundred thousand soldiers at Hulao Pass. You want this group of people to resist Gao Xianzhi’s ferocious army of eight hundred thousand people? Ha! Not to mention resisting, some of your people would surrender first. Perhaps Gao Xianzhi does not even have to do anything for Hulao Pass to fall.”
The expressions of Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi changed. Gu Hai did not exaggerate. Indeed, this was something extremely possible.
“Uncle Gu, I beg you, please help us save the Chen Nation. As long as you can do that, we can do anything you want!” Chen Liangyi immediately cried out.
Chen Tianshan chimed in with certainty, “That’s right. Do you have a way?”
Gu Hai’s eyes suddenly lit up as he narrowed them. “Oh? Since the immortal sect cares so much about the Chen Nation, why did Immortal Venerate Chen not personally make a move? I would imagine that taking the head of the army’s leader would not be difficult with your strength. Furthermore, your immortal sect controls more mundane nations than just the Chen Nation. Why did you not ask the other nations for help but came to me, this money-grubbing old man, instead?”
Chen Tianshan frowned slightly. After some silence, he replied, “This time, only these two nations are permitted to fight; the other nations cannot assist. The people of the sect are not permitted to interfere, either!”
“Not permitted?” Gu Hai’s expression immediately changed, his eyes glinting.
Although the words “not permitted” sounded simple, Gu Hai instantly inferred plenty of information from that. It seemed like he saw a huge opportunity, one that sent a ripple through his calm heart.
Gu Hai suppressed that ripple and took a sip of tea.
“There is already no hope for the Chen Nation. I am just here to give it a try. If you cannot, then never mind,” Chen Tianshan said sullenly.
Gu Hai did not speak, just looking at Chen Tianshan and Chen Liangyi.
After a while, Gu Hai said gravely, “I can save the Chen Nation. However…”
“You can save the Chen Nation? How?!” Chen Tianshan revealed a shocked expression.
“I have a condition,” Gu Hai said gravely, not explaining further.
“Oh?” Chen Tianshan looked straight at Gu Hai.
“Uncle Gu, what do you want? As long as I have it, I can give it to you!” Chen Liangyi said with pleasant surprise as he got back to his feet.
Gu Hai ignored Chen Liangyu. Instead, he stared at Chen Tianshan and said, “I would like for the Clear River Sect’s sect master to infuse energy into me to assist me in breaking through the barrier of the Acquired Realm and reaching the Innate Realm with everything he has. I also want to learn the Innate Realm cultivation technique of the Clear River Sect!”
“What? You’ve reached consummation of the Acquired Realm?” Chen Tianshan stood up in surprise.
Gu Hai nodded seriously.
“That’s impossible. I checked on your cultivation talent back then. There is no way you can cultivate internal energy. You only started cultivating after the age of thirty, and with such poor cultivation talent, you can only rely on physical training. Even so, it would be impossible for you to surpass the Acquired Realm’s fifth layer. Now, you are saying that you have reached the peak of the Acquired Realm’s tenth layer? This is absolutely impossible!” Chen Tianshan protested.
“Physical training? Others cannot, but that does not mean this old man can’t. While in the Acquired Realm, one possesses a lifespan of only one hundred years. However, when one reaches the Innate Realm, one’s lifespan would reach two hundred years. This old man has already passed my prime. If I do not break through to the Innate Realm, my physical training will deteriorate. Fortunately, I have reached the consummation of the Acquired Realm. You are only in the Golden Core Realm; that is not enough. Only your sect master can do it. Tell your sect master about this. As long as he agrees to my condition, I will save the Chen Nation,” Gu Hai said.
Chen Tianshan stared at Gu Hai, his eyes flickering with bewilderment.
Physical training? How ridiculous. Can one reach the consummation of the Acquired Realm through physical training? Such a coarse method of cultivation requires one to torture oneself. Even if one exhausts one’s potential, one cannot possibly surpass the Acquired Realm’s fifth layer. No one has ever done it, yet Gu Hai actually managed to reach the consummation of the Acquired Realm?
“I have only this one request. What do you think?” Gu Hai stared at Chen Tianshan, a trace of anticipation in his eyes.
“Save the Chen Nation first, and I will tell the sect master about it,” Chen Tianshan said sullenly.
However, Gu Hai merely smiled faintly and shook his head. He did not say anything, only looked at Chen Tianshan.
“The sect master is not here. How can I agree on his behalf? Save the Chen Nation first, and I will report it to the sect master,” Chen Tianshan insisted.
“It will take Gao Xianzhi’s army at least half a month to reach Hulao Pass. Half a month is sufficient for you to return to your sect and come back here. As long as you can obtain a promise from the Clear River Sect’s sect master, I will immediately save the Chen Nation. It will not be too late to fulfill the promise after I save the Chen Nation. However, I require a decree from your sect master to that effect first,” Gu Hai said in a determined tone.
“Half a month? Many things can happen in half a month. Hulao Pass might fall within this half month. What are you going to use to save the Chen Nation then? Furthermore, the Song Nation’s ferocious army will arrive half a month later. How are you going to defend with these one hundred thousand inexperienced soldiers?” Chen Tianshan argued unhappily with a frown.
“Half a month? Don’t worry. It won’t fall so quickly. How to defend it is my problem. The earlier you return, the earlier the Chen Nation can resolve this danger,” Gu Hai countered adamantly. He would not take this risk without obtaining a promise.
However, Chen Tianshan stared coldly at Gu Hai and said, “Gu Hai, you promised this. If you fail to save the Chen Nation, well, you should know the consequences of cheating us.”
Gu Hai did not care. Instead, he turned his head to look at Chen Liangyi. “Since Chen Taiji already died, then let bygones be bygones. Although I am staying in the Chen Nation now, I pay an extremely vast amount of taxes every year. It is not me receiving protection from your Chen Nation. As of now, as long as I want to move, any of the other five nations would welcome me and bestow land on me. I remain in the Chen Nation due to memories and a reluctance to move. I have no grudge with you, nor do I owe you a debt of gratitude. I can save your Chen Nation, but we have to wait for Immortal Venerate Chen’s news first!”
“Yes. Many thanks, Uncle Gu!” Chen Liangyi immediately said respectfully.
“Go back first. I have many guests in my residence today, so I won’t entertain you any further,” Gu Hai said, sending out his guests.
“Yes!” Chen Liangyi nodded.
Chen Tianshan stared at Gu Hai a while longer. Then, he said, “I will immediately return to my sect to get my sect master to issue a decree. I hope you are telling the truth. Otherwise…humph!”
Chen Tianshan turned his head and left quickly with Chen Liangyi.
Gu Qin, who was at the side, looked to Gu Hai and said with a slight frown, “Adoptive Father, there is practically no saving the Chen Nation this time. How are you going to do it? Could it be…!”
Gu Hai turned to the Go board on the table. After taking a deep breath, he replied, “I know it is almost unresolvable. However, going by their tone, the sects are not permitted to interfere, and this has to be an equal battle between the two nations. Without a doubt, this is a ferocious battle between two weak parties. However, this is Father’s last chance. The Acquired Realm and the Innate Realm differ by only one realm. However, that is an overwhelming difference. After entering the Innate Realm, I can regain my youth, returning to my prime. I lack only this opportunity. I need to regain my youth, so no matter how difficult it is, I have to resolve this!”
“Yes!” Gu Qin nodded somewhat worriedly.
“I’ll think about the countermeasures. Don’t disturb me for now. You may withdraw first,” Gu Hai said.
“Adoptive Father, today is your birthday. Do you want to…”
“There’s no need. I have already received the best birthday gift just now. Go on…!” Gu Hai waved his hand.
Gu Qin nodded and withdrew.
Gu Hai sat by the window, watching the soldiers below leave. He fiddled with a black Go stone and frowned heavily. “On the day of my thirtieth birthday, I collected one hundred thousand Go puzzles and found this black Go stone in that bookstore’s basement. Unexpectedly, you brought me to this world from Earth. Forty years passed in the blink of an eye. What secrets are you hiding? Could it simply be one hundred thousand Go puzzles? After comprehending these for decades, I am almost done with them. However, you have shown no movements over the past few years. How am I supposed to comprehend you?”
Gu Hai sighed softly and pressed the black Go stone to his forehead.
Strangely, the black Go stone moved through Gu Hai’s skin and entered his forehead.
Gu Hai sank his consciousness inside; there was a space under his forehead with one hundred thousand Go boards. Each Go board showed a Go puzzle. The one hundred thousand Go boards seemed to move continuously, with their pieces constantly changing positions. That black Go stone hovered above the one hundred thousand Go boards like a sovereign looking down on the one hundred thousand Go puzzles.
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