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Chapter 12 Chess Opponent

Man Yao didn’t say anything, didn’t ask anything, and just played chess like this with him. Her face was calm and indifferent, but her heart was churning. She was occupying a princess’ body. Ever since she arrived in this strange and primitive world three years ago, she had to be extremely cautious when doing anything. Although she had honor and wealth in the palm of her hands, she lived and exhausting and lonely life.

Looking at the white jade chessboard, Zongzheng Wuyou had not played chess with anyone in a long time. His hand absentmindedly played with the chess pieces, unhurriedly putting them down. He did it quite gently as if he was afraid of breaking the board. Man Yao glanced at him she placed her originally cornered piece into the center.

Zongzheng Wuyou took a sip of tea and observed the board, becoming surprised. The look in his eyes changed. Every move she made looked unconventional and amateur-like, but this move made sense of all of the placement of all of her other pieces. He couldn’t move his knight anywhere, neither his bishop nor his rook could attack. His king was lost and could not be saved. This round’s winner and loser was already determined. Squinting his eyes, he stared at her beautiful face, his gaze continuously changing. Using a confident voice, he declared, “You know how to play! Where did you learn?”

Returning his gaze, she tried to figure out what he was thinking, but those eyes were unfathomable. Gently smiling, she didn’t answer but asked another question instead, “Where did Your Highness learn?” She couldn’t confirm whether he had also transmigrated like she did. For someone like him, whether he did or didn’t, what of it? Matters like souls occupying bodies were far too mysterious. If it were to spread, with their sensitive identities, there would not be a good ending for them.

The moonlight was like water, pouring onto the both of them. They sat there, quietly staring at each other, trying to guess what the other was thinking. Like that, a lifetime seemed to have passed. The newly brewed tea on the table was still steaming, rising up like mist between the two as they gazed at each other.

Zongzheng Wuyou suddenly laughed, “Good! Benwang has finally met a worthy opponent. Let’s play another round. This time…benwang will definitely not go easy on you.”

Man Yao smiled but didn’t say anything, returning the pieces back to their original places. She was still the red player while he was black, “Your Highness, please.”

Zongzheng Wuyou was not modest and made the first move, no longer leisurely playing like before. Every move was made after careful consideration, and Man Yao became more and more cautious with every move she made. Chess was like life. Through a person’s chess skills, one can see what they’re truly thinking. She put all of her skills to use, causing her to be a litle overworked.

Time unknowingly passed by. There were no other customers left in the garden. There was a maidservant who came up to ask if they should close up now, but before she could say anything, she saw Zongzheng Wuyou furrowing his eyebrows, his face full of impatience. When two chess experts are playing, the unspoken rule is that there should be no disturbances. She nodded her head, letting everyone else go back home to rest. Chen Yu was the last to leave, stealing a peek at Zongzheng Wuyou. Towards the events that happened that day, she still had some trauma so she bowed towards him from afar to bid farewell. She walked towards Man Yao, plucking the fallen flowers off of her and then placing a cloak around her shoulders. Her voice was incomparably gentle as she reminded, “Gongzi, it’s cold at night. You should also rest soon.”

Man Yao sincerely thanked her, smiling as she watched her walk away. This past month, they became quite close. She had also already resolved Chen Yu’s new identity.

The dark night was silent as only the two of them were left in the garden.

The lotus lanterns floated on the water, looking like bright lights dotting the stream. The light from the red candles cast a hazy yellow glow over the water, making it seem warmer. Under the peach blossom tree, the two of them played a round of chess for over an hour. Neither rushed the other, giving each other plenty of time to contemplate.

There was a faint fragrance in the air that filled one’s nostrils, causing one to become absentminded. Zongzheng Wuyou looked at the calm contemplating face of the girl in front of him. She was incredibly beautiful, with a pair of eyes filled with intelligence, as bright and clear as the moonlight, seemingly able to see through one’s heart with a single glance. This was the first time he seriously looked at a woman, as if he was trying to find out something from her.

“Your Highness, Your Highness Prince Li?” After Man Yao set her piece down, she saw that he didn’t react at all. Raising her head, she saw that he was blankly staring at her with a gaze that she had never seen before…pretending that she was still thinking, she frowned.

Zongzheng Wuyou suddenly came back to his senses, his expression slightly changing as a flicker of coldness flashed through his eyes, returning back to his sinister and silent persona in an instant. Grabbing a piece, he pretended as if everything was normal, “What is your name?” He had already known her for over half a month, but other than the name “Li Yue” that old Ninth gave her, he still didn’t know her name.

She paused, thinking, and then answered, “Man Yao.”

Zongzheng Wuyou set down his piece, “The peach tree is young and elegant, brilliant are its flowers(1)?”

The light in her eyes dimmed, as she indifferently spoke, “No, it’s the Yao from zao yao(2).” When her father gave her this name, she didn’t know why it was this character. Later, she understood that her life was destined to not be a long one.

Maybe it was because the candlelight was too gentle and the moonlight was too beautiful, maybe it was because he had spent many years looking for a worthy chess opponent, he let down his guard.

She held his gaze and quietly asked, “And you? Zongzheng Wuyou…your parents must have hoped that you would never have any worries for the rest of your life(3).”

He lifted the cooled cup of tea, the knuckles on his slender fingers prominent. Gently taking a sip, the ice-cold tea was already bitter. With an indifferent smile, he spoke casually, “It’s Wuyou(4), so I have nothing.” An empty existence, he could not obtain anything, and he would not leave anything behind either.

She paused. His voice was low and heavy, not fluctuating with any emotions. She couldn’t tell what he was hiding underneath his long and thick eyelashes, only feeling that such words being said in this quiet night made one feel quite somber. She gave a small laugh, “Is that your own understanding? How could parents name their child with this meaning in mind.”

He slowly lifted his head, his eyes full of deep feelings and asked her, “What about you? Which parents would want for their child to die young?”

Pursing her lips, she didn’t say anything else, and the garden fell into silence once again. As he continued to drink the cold tea, the bitter taste radiated from his lips and tongue all the way to the bottom of his heart, expanding to his extremities.

There were only a few pieces left on the chessboard as both eliminated their opponents’ pieces. This round which resulted in a draw, lasted for four hours.

Playing chess with him really mentally drained her, but there was a carefree feeling that she never had before. Her maternal grandfather was an expert at chess. She was taught how to play since she was little and she loved it. Playing chess together with her grandfather was her biggest source of happiness when she was young. Later, when her grandfather had passed away, under the strict control of her father, she could only play against herself when she was alone.

Zongzheng Wuyou was similar. He hadn’t played chess like this with someone in a very long time. Ending in a draw made him feel unaccomplished. But tonight actually wasn’t a good time to play chess.

A sudden gust of wind curled through the branches of the willow tree, bringing with it cold air. Hitting the tree, the falling peach blossoms looked like blood. A strong killing intent suddenly filled the garden. Zongzheng Wuyou’s eyes were cold while his face was relaxed as he lifted his lips up into a cold smile, “You should reveal yourselves, benwang doesn’t have any more patience.”

(1) 桃之夭夭,灼灼其华 (Tao Zhi Yao Yao, Zhuo Zhuo Qi Hua): From a poem named 桃夭 (Tao Yao) about a young lady who is preparing to get married.

(2) Zao Yao (早夭): Dying young

(3) The Wuyou (无忧) part in Zongzheng Wuyou’s name means no worries.

(4) The Wuyou (无有) here means to have nothing. It is spelled the same as Wuyou’s name, but the ‘You’ part here is emphasized differently than the one in Wuyou’s name.