Chapter 44.1: Fire and Flood

Fengtian Monastery sat on top of the mountain and was surrounded by a mystical energy. Anyone who saw it from afar would have his spirits uplifted. However, Sheng Chumu was not interested in this place. The food was distasteful and he could not sleep here. He ate two meals in one but he was still so hungry he slouched awfully. He almost choked when he gobbled down his food and had to cough for a long while. 

The reason why he was being treated so inhumanely was because the famous Master Yuan of Fengtian Monastery was a chess fanatic. Every time he mentioned playing chess, everyone would avoid him, afraid of being called on. Although Sheng Chumu knew he was a sacrificial lamb to play chess against Master Yuan, he had not imagined that the chess fanatic would be so crazy. He could not leave even if he lost and had to continue playing game after game. This was a test of his physical and mental strength. 

However, Sheng Chumu would not back down. This game would help him to buy over Master Yuan. 

Master Yuan was a famous chess fanatic and one of the things that Sheng Chumu learned from his uncle was chess. He had not thought much of it before but chess has become his key to win. He has played, and lost a total of one hundred and six rounds of chess without eating or sleeping. Master Yuan was not tired at all but was impressed by Sheng Chumu’s novel ways of thinking. Hence, he demanded that Sheng Chumu continue to play with him. 

Regardless, this was the right way forward. 

Sheng Chumu drank as he gobbled down his food. He had a lot of stress and he also had to make his next move. 

Master Yuan frowned upon seeing the muddle-headed Sheng Chumu. He said, “Throughout my life, I have not been afraid of status and have regarded money as dung. I have lived till this day and the world is nothing but a passing breeze to me. However, for chess, I have put down my pride for you. I never imagined that you would trample upon my sincerity!” 

Sheng Chumu laughed, “I just wanted to drink a few bottles of your superior wine. Don’t be angry, once I return, I will send you a hundred and eighty bottles of superior wine.” 

“Who cares about those stinky bottles of wine? I waited a long while for you and even took out the chess board that the Emperor gave me. Do you know how much anticipation I had for our next round? You are so drunk, you can’t even sit still. How are you going to play chess with me? Someone, take him to the well and splash him with cold water. Don’t think that you can run just because you are drunk. I, Master Yuan, will not allow others to fool around!” 

“Old man, what are you complaining about? Don’t think that you are so good just because you have beaten me a hundred and seven times. Once I read through the Linglong Chess Book, I can beat you with my eyes closed.” Sheng Chumu was speaking his mind as he was drunk.

“Young lad Sheng, what did you say? Linglong Chess Book?” Master Yuan’s eyes widened. 

“What?” Sheng Chumu spat and waved drunkenly. “No, no. I did not say that.” 

“I heard it clearly, Linglong Chess Book. You have this treasure with you?” 

“No...nope.” He has caught the bait. 

“Aiya, we are the same, what is there for you to hide. The Linglong Chess Book is a sacred book for chess. In the past, I was willing to spend my money and riches to get it but I didn’t manage to. How did you obtain it? Can you lend it to me?” 

“Do you want the Linglong Chess Book so much?” Sheng Chumu was going to pull the reel in. 

“Yes.” Master Yuan nodded heavily. 

“It is easy to get it. You can bet with me.” Sheng Chumu’s eyes narrowed. “We can play one round. If you lose, you grant me a favor. If you win, I will give you the Linglong Chess Book.” Sheng Chumu reached into his chest and placed a book on the table. 

Master Yuan’s eyes hardened and he exclaimed, “Alright! I will make the bet!” 

This round was different from previous ones. Sheng Chumu did his best and gradually began to gain an upper hand. 

Sheng Chumu played his next move and smiled gleefully. He said, “Master Yuan, it is only natural that the waves behind Yangtze River would push the ones forward. I have cornered you with this move. There is no use even if you frown. Admit your loss!” One should never underestimate their enemy. 

“Young lad Sheng, you are smart. You have learned many moves from me after a hundred and seven rounds. You even used some moves against me in this round. This brat might still have a few tricks up his sleeve. 

“One is born with intelligence. I will have to thank my parents.” Sheng Chumu raised his eyebrows gleefully. 

“However, intelligence can be beaten by intelligence too.” Master Yuan’s next move completely changed the circumstances of the board. There was no way for Sheng Chumu to regain the advantage. 

Sheng Chumu blinked his eyes dumbfoundedly. “This is not possible!” 

“Chess is a game of personal development. You only wanted to win and made aggressive moves. If you had not been so hasty to make that last move and carefully made your play, you might have been able to beat me. However, you were too hasty and tried to snatch the win. You forced me to exhaustion. It should be understood that Yin and Yang depend on each other as do life and death. This is the ultimate principle of heaven. You have lost this round.” 

Master Yuan took the book and grinned. “This sacred chess book is mine to take.”  Sheng Chumu wore a hard face but he laughed internally. The old man had fallen for his trap. 

 

On this day, Empress Zhangsun arrived at Fengtian Monastery and immediately started a ritual. 

Fu Rou took a walk alone during her free time, since she was feeling unsettled. She received the handkerchief that Sheng Chumu asked Consort Han to send, and understood the meaning of the stitches. She followed the Empress to Fengtian Monastery but did not know what Sheng Chumu was planning to do. 

All of a sudden, someone yelled, “My robe! My pills! Destroyed! Destroyed! What is going on?” 

Fu Rou turned towards the direction of the yell and saw a priest holding a red colored robe jumping up and down. Another disciple wore a humbled expression and seemed to be arguing with the priest. The priest was Sun Siyao and he specialized in alchemy. He was about to make another pill but as a very superstitious man, he would only wear blue robes. Who knew that the robe would turn red? Sun Siyao saw this as an inauspicious sign and did not know what to do. 

The argument between the two became more heated and Fu Rou decided to step in. She asked, “Masters, did you all put any insect repellent items in the box you used to store these robes?” 

“How did you know? This robe is even more valuable than my eyes. There are a lot of insects during the wet and cold season in the mountains. I am afraid that the insects would bite the robe and I specially bought Wu Wei Leaves, an effective insect repellent a few months ago.” Sun Siyao was very agitated. 

Fu Rou nodded and continued, “You must have placed quite a lot right?” 

Priest Sun shook his head and denied, “Not a lot. It was only twelve bags.” 

“Twelve bags…” Is that not a lot? 

“The robe is very precious. As long as I can keep it in good condition, I am willing to spend as much as possible on the insect repellents. However, I did not expect it to change colour instead. Aiya, my robe… Master, I have disappointed you.” 

Fu Rou explained, “This robe is dyed with woad blue dye. The Wu Wei Leaves you bought contains turmeric and purple essence. You placed a huge amount of it in the box for a long time. When the insect repellent came into contact with the woad blue dye, it would react and cause the colour to fade slowly. However, as long as we control the color contrast technique properly, this can be corrected.” 

The pair of disciples stared blankly. Fu Rou laughed and explained, “I mean that it is easy to dye the robe back to its correct colour.” 

Priest Sun jumped for joy. 

Fu Rou obtained a few herb dyes from Sun Siyao and brought a cauldron of water to boil. She placed burnt herb dyes into the hot water and explained, “There are many similarities between dyes and alchemy. For instance, the Chinese nut-gall and the dried pagoda tree flower can both be dyes and medicinal ingredients. Just like how different medicinal ingredients can be transformed into different elixirs under the expert hands of an alchemist, different dye ingredients can be changed into different colours through careful manipulation and special techniques by a dyer. The wood in the box had allowed the purple essence in the Wu Wei Leaves to dissipate quicker.” 

Priest Sun exclaimed in realization, “That is interesting.” 

Fu Rou placed the robe into the water and allowed it to soak for a while. However, when she took the robe out, it was still red. 

Priest Sun panicked and asked, “This...why is it still red?” 

“It has to dry under the sun.” Fu Rou confidently answered. 

Priest Sun and the disciple wringed the robe dry of water and hung it out on a rack to dry. The sun rays shone on the robe and slowly dried the robe. At the same time, a mysterious thing happened, the red colour slowly turned blue.

Priest Sun exclaimed, “It has changed! It has really changed!” When he turned around to look, he wondered, “Hm, what happened to the lady from before?” 

Fu Rou left once she helped the pair as she had to catch up to Empress Zhangsun. 

The disciple was also puzzled and he said, “We were so focused on the robe, I didn’t see where she went.” 

“We should thank her when we have the chance. Quickly quickly, I need to hurry along and get the fire started! Master, please bless me!” Priest Sun wore his robe and dashed into a room. 

The next morning, Empress Zhangsun and the Imperial Emperor arrived and sat in their seats. Master Yuan was stifling a yawn, he had not slept well the previous night. First, the Empress Zhangsun had sent Wei Song to give greetings to him. Next, the Imperial Emperor sent someone else to threaten him. Master Yuan had dismissed him and he was only focused on his chess. 

Empress Zhangsun raised her eyebrows and asked, “Master, did you have a good rest yesterday night?”

Master Yuan replied, “I did not sleep well last night. Grand Emperor and Empress, whose fate would you like me to look at?” 

Empress Zhangsun answered, “I would like to seek your help with a female official under me, Fu Siyan.” 

“This is very interesting. Why are so many people interested in a female official’s fate reading?” 

The Grand Emperor laughed, “Fu Siyan is no ordinary person. There are actually four men who asked for her hand in marriage. One of them is my son, Grand Prince Liang.” 

The Empress also laughed, “The Emperor said that this matter is in my hands. However, I am troubled. I do not know who to bless with this marriage and hence, I can only seek your help.” 

The internal attendant led Fu Rou into the hall. 

Master Yuan looked at her and remarked, “No wonder there are four men chasing one lady. She is dignified and elegant. Who is interested in her?” 

The Empress did not reply to his question directly but said, “Master, two amongst the four are officials and are not worth mentioning. Look at her features, fate and destiny. Is there a chance that she is qualified to marry Grand Prince Liang…or Prince Zhou?” 

“I will do my best.” Master Yuan stroked his beard and instructed, “Fu Siyan, please take two steps towards me.” 

Previous Chapter Next Chapter