Chapter 01: Gu Hai

Vast Ocean Mansion, Capital City.

The cost of land in Capital City was exorbitant, few people could even afford to live in the suburbs. In the suburbs of Capital City, a single mansion occupied several hundred acres of land. Few people would think that in this seemingly exorbitant city, a mansion could occupy such a large piece of land. This was not to mention that the scenery here was quite beautiful. If someone wanted to take a vacation, this place would fit the description.

But this villa never made the news; hardly any outsider knew about it. It was somewhat unusual.

“The invisible rich and powerful!” In this world, there were always some people who, for a variety of reasons, didn’t want to appear in public. What was more amazing was that their wealth was never publicized.

Vast Ocean Villa was owned by Gu Hai, and today was his thirtieth birthday. However, Gu Hai did not like to celebrate his birthday in grandiosity like other rich people. This was another characteristic of the ‘invisible rich and powerful’—they were all very low key!

Gu Hai was sitting quietly in the library wearing an azure robe, and placed in front of him was an unfinished Weiqi game.[1] However, this game of Weiqi wasn’t played on a standard Weiqi board with 19 checkered lines. This board had 20 checkered lines, and although it was just a difference of one line, it added seemingly countless variations to this Weiqi game.

Gu Hai held a black piece in his hand. It seemed as if he didn’t have any plans to place it on the board; he was still contemplating on how to beat this endgame.[2]

This game didn’t belong to this era. In fact, in this era, there was no one who was more capable than Gu Hai in standard Weiqi with 19 checkered lines.

Gu Hai had challenged the top world-class players, yet he still remained undefeated to this date. He had even sought out some of the hidden masters and national players, but he was still able to win against them. So for now, it could be said that in this world there was no one who was better than him in Weiqi.

Gu Hai had once stood at the peak in the world of Weiqi. However, one day he encountered an unfinished Weiqi game which had completely awakened him to a new realm of Weiqi. That Weiqi game was this very game with 20 horizontal and vertical lines. It was an ancient game which by now had experienced several hundred, or maybe even thousands of years of history.

When he saw this Weiqi game, he felt afraid inside as the layout of this board was both clever and breathtaking. The main intricacy of this Weiqi game was that it was not in any way ordinary. If it was just a standard Weiqi game of 19 horizontal and vertical lines, then naturally, Gu Hai would not fear it, but this Weiqi game had an extra line. This meant that there were countless more possibilities, so for the time being, Gu Hai had no way of solving it.

However, Gu Hai was certain that whoever created this Weiqi game had a much greater Weiqi prowess than him. However, Gu Hai’s Weiqi prowess was naturally not bad either. He had been studying this Weiqi game for several months, and now he had finally understood the general direction, but still required a flash of inspiration to finish it.

……

The door opened quietly, as an elder dressed in traditional clothes came in. He was the steward of this Vast Ocean Villa who had worked here for nearly thirty years. He had been the steward of this villa since the time of Gu Hai’s parents; he had watched over Gu Hai as he grew up!

The old steward didn’t understand other people’s skill, but he knew that Gu Hai’s level of prowess could definitely be called legendary.

From the time when Gu Hai was a young boy, he was very fond of Weiqi, to the point that it had become an obsession. Furthermore, Gu Hai was extremely talented in Weiqi, as his comprehension skills of Weiqi were extremely terrifying. This was evident from that fact that all of his Weiqi instructors had left after they had all been defeated by Gu Hai. If not for him wanting to stay low-profile, he wouldn’t know how many Weiqi awards Gu Hai could have collected!

However, with the death of Gu Hai’s parents in an accident, another talent of Gu Hai was revealed which was a talent in the business. At that time, Gu Hai was only twenty years old, and his parents left him not only this villa, but also their business empire which was in a great deal of mess after their death.

However, Gu Hai was a natural born businessman, full of business acumen, as well as adequate decisive means. Through a series of measures, not only was he successful in solving the mess left by his parents, but he had also made his personal assets grow multiple times over.

In only three years, Gu Hai had made it so that the business could keep running on its own, without him personally managing it. Afterward, Gu Hai extricated himself from the business, and laid low in the background. Ten years had passed since then, and even Gu Hai himself wasn’t clear on how much wealth he had accumulated.

“Oh, Uncle Hu came. What can I do for you?” Gu Hai eventually decided not to place the piece on the Weiqi board. As he rubbed his eyes and prepared to get up, he saw the somewhat dazed old steward standing at the entrance, so he inevitably asked doubtfully.

“Ah!” That old steward woke up from his stupor, and said in an apologetic tone: “Young Master, I did not mean to disturb you, but at the same time, I humbly request Young Master not to blame me!”

“Uncle Hu, you are older than I am. You do not have to call me Young Master, instead directly call me by my name!” Gu Hai had always respected this steward who had been working for the Gu Family for nearly 30 years; he can be counted as the last of his loved ones. “Besides what do you mean to disturb, this is also your home, so just like me, you’re also the master!”

“I have been calling you Young Master for thirty years, thus I am already accustomed to it. I cannot change it now!” The old steward shook his head and continued speaking, “Young Master, I only wanted to tell you that the collection of the 100,000 endgame puzzles has already been completed. Young Master can now go to the library and take a look.”

Gu Hai was very fond of Weiqi, and naturally, he was very much interested in collecting a wide variety of unfinished Weiqi games. He had utilized all of his strength across the country in collecting endgame puzzles, and in 10 years he had already collected 100,000 endgame puzzles, and all of these endgame puzzles had been placed by him inside the library.

“Oh, already 100,000?” Gu Hai suddenly laughed, “Haha, today happens to be my thirtieth birthday, and it seems that God has sent me a gift!”

Gu Hai got up and went to the library, leaving that unfinished endgame with 20 checkered lines unsolved for the time being. To change the way of his thinking, and to gain the inspiration he needed, he wanted to take a look at the 100,000 endgame puzzles.

Gu Hai went alone inside the library. As for the old steward, he naturally had his own work to do. This was not to mention the fact that Gu Hai did not like being interrupted while researching about Weiqi.

The library was large, and it was filled with all kinds of books, but there were no signs of any of those 100,000 endgame puzzles. The 100,000 endgame puzzles were not placed in the library, but rather in an underground cellar below the library.

Every day, the cellar was cleaned by the servants, so Gu Hai didn’t find it dirty. Gu Hai picked up an endgame puzzle, carefully glanced at it, and said with a smile: “Interesting.” He then continued carefully observing.

Gu Hai had waited till all 100,000 endgame puzzles had been collected before he started to look; mainly because if the endgame puzzles were too little, then they would not be of any help to him. Gu Hai hoped that the quantity will bring forth a qualitative change in his thinking which would allow him to break through the bottleneck of his thought process!

Time passed by in a rush, and Gu Hai himself didn’t know how many endgame puzzles he had observed, but he didn’t feel tired. Gu Hai’s spirit was actually quite jubilant.

“Pop!” A crisp sound surprised the obsessing Gu Hai causing him to awaken. Gu Hai took a closer look, and discovered that an extra black Weiqi piece was lying on the ground. Presumably, it had been smuggled inside an endgame puzzle, and when Gu Hai flipped the endgame diagram that black piece was revealed.

Gu Hai, due to curiosity wanted to pick up the black Weiqi piece. Just as his fingers came in contact with the surface of the black piece, Gu Hai’s face revealed a sliver of surprise. He continued and placed the black Weiqi piece on the center of his palm. As expected there was something strange about the black piece. The black piece was slowly emitting a trace of warmth at the center of his palm. He could not help but voice his doubt: “What is this material?”

Gu Hai, since his childhood, had been in contact with all types of Weiqi pieces. Even he himself had a collection of tens of different Weiqi pieces made up of different materials, but did not have a single Weiqi piece which had this effect. This was the warm jade from the legends.

Before Gu Hai could carefully study the material of the black piece, a sudden anomaly arose. The black piece levitated high in the air, while at the same time emitting an endless black aura. This black aura gradually started to expand, slowly enveloping the entire cellar within it.

The moment that the black piece emitted the aura, Gu Hai lost his consciousness. But, before he lost his consciousness, Gu Hai seemingly saw a huge Weiqi board which had 33 checkered lines. That Weiqi board was densely filled with black and white pieces, and it was an unfinished Weiqi board. However, Gu Hai was not sure whether what he saw was real or imaginary!

At the same time Gu Hai saw the Weiqi board with 33 horizontal and vertical lines, an inspiration seemed to have blazed throughout his mind. In the blink of an eye, the previous endgame with 20 checkered lines appeared in his mind and was subsequently solved; this time it did not pose any difficulty for Gu Hai!

After quite a while, the black aura slowly dispersed. However, with the disappearance of the black aura, Gu Hai had also disappeared. Along with him, the black piece, as well as those 100,000 endgame puzzles all, disappeared. In this huge cellar, only a few tables and chairs remained, and nothing else!

TLN:

  1. Weiqi: Weiqi is is is an abstract strategy board game for two players, it very much looks like a checkerboard, it has black and white pieces and you capture one or many pieces by surrounding with pieces of opposite color. In Japan, it is called Go, in Korea Baduk. You can learn more here. A standard Weiqi board have 19 checkered lines (19 horizontal and vertical lines).

(Also for context western chess has 18 lines including the outside ones)

  1. Endgame (puzzles): In chess and chess-like games, the endgame (or end game or ending) is the stage of the game when few pieces are left on the board. (usually only kings and pawns in normal chess)

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