When Yang Zhao left, Wang Chong was still filled with disbelief over the happenings just a moment ago.
“I couldn’t have expected this…”
Wang Chong muttered as he shook his head. There was an indescribable feeling in his heart at this very moment.
Who was Yang Zhao? He was the haughty person who said ‘Gongzi, you look like a talented person. You will definitely be one of the pillars holding up the country in the future’ to everyone he met, the dishonest and insincere Imperial Uncle.
Yet, Wang Chong had actually managed to become his ‘sworn brother’ when he was still in a humble position.
Such a bizarre twist of events left Wang Chong with a peculiar sensation. However, there was one thing Wang Chong knew for sure.
His brotherhood with Yang Zhao would prove essential to him in reversing the fate of the empire and dealing with that hidden snake within the royal palace.
There were only benefits to his brotherhood with Yang Zhao.
“I wonder what he gave me.”
Wang Chong thought upon recalling the present that Yang Zhao gave him. The other party had behaved rather secretively before he left, emphasizing several times that Wang Chong could only open the box after his departure.
Since Yang Zhao was already gone, he could now open it up to take a look.
Opening the reddish-purple wooden box, Wang Chong didn’t see jewelry, pills, cultivation techniques manuals, or anything shocking within. Instead, all he saw were a few thin pieces of folded paper.
“What is this?”
Wang Chong frowned in bewilderment.
He took out the first piece of paper, unfolded it, and saw column after column of words. Wang Chong’s doubt intensified.
From time immemorial, after swearing to brotherhood, there were some who gifted treasures and some who gave nothing at all. However, Wang Chong had never heard of anybody giving their newly sworn brother a box of letters as a gift.
However, when Wang Chong noticed the seal on the paper, his heart skipped a beat. He finally understood the true meaning of Yang Zhao’s gift.
Wang Chong’s heart beat furiously. The paper within the reddish-purple wooden box were all letters that King Qi wrote to Consort Taizhen.
The contents were simple; King Qi was persuading Consort Taizhen to ally with him to deal with King Song. There were six letters in total, and their contents were about the same.
Clearly, King Qi was adamant to pull Consort Taizhen over to his side.
However, it seemed like Consort Taizhen still chose King Song in the end.
“Yang Zhao has truly done both Consort Taizhen and me a favor this time!”
It would be a huge contribution for Wang Chong if he were to give these letters to King Song.
At the very least, it would make King Song owe the Wang Clan a debt.
Carefully placing the letters back into the wooden box, Wang Chong kept them in a drawer within the study. After dealing with other miscellaneous issues, Wang Chong sneaked out of the residence alone, headed for the Ghost Tree District in the city’s west.
The Ghost Tree District was peaceful and silent.
Beneath that towering Chinese scholar tree, Wang Chong saw a tall and skinny figure dressed in simple black clothes. The figure sat cross-legged in front a golden chessboard, seemingly waiting for something or someone.
Wang Chong walked over and bowed deeply.
Su Zhengchen said calmly. His lean face was indifferent, but Wang Chong could sense concern from his tone.
Wang Chong nodded.
“Suffering is a trial of life, being locked in the imperial prison isn’t a big deal. Young man, such suffering will be beneficial for your future.”
Su Zhengchen advised impassively.
“Yes, I’ve learned from your words.”
Wang Chong usually put on a cheerful and casual front before Su Zhengchen, but at this moment, he bowed humbly as though he were a student.
Given Su Zhengchen’s background, he was more than qualified to say these words to him.
Compared to the sufferings the other party had gone through, Wang Chong’s imprisonment was truly nothing at all.
“Un, it’s good that you understand this. Come, have a seat. Let’s play a match!”
Su Zhengchen raised his hand and gestured to the seat before him.
Wang Chong heaved a sigh of relief as he kneeled at the other side of the chessboard, opposite to Su Zhengchen. Just like that, an elder and a youngster began clashing with one another through black and white stones.
Su Zhengchen had always been a reticent person and today, he seemed no different from before. On the other hand, Wang Chong was still mulling over Su Zhengchen’s previous words, resulting in the turmoil in his heart. As such, he lost a substantial amount of points to the other party.
“Expel everything from your heart and calm yourself. Prestige and fame, shame and humiliation, they are all just mere labels of the material world. Since they aren’t a part of you, why should they shake your heart?”
With a lowered head, Su Zhengchen muttered impassively.
Wang Chong was taken aback. He felt as though Su Zhengchen was making use of his imprisonment to teach him something. This had never happened before.
This left Wang Chong perplexed, but even so, he didn’t feel detest it.
“Yes, I understand.”
Wang Chong took in a deep breath and calmed down quickly.
Everyone had a different route to walk, but regarding their views on prestige and fame, the duo shared the same sentiments. Given how Su Zhengchen was able hand over his military authority when he was at the peak of his career showed that he had no desire for power.
As for Wang Chong…
Wang Chong was well aware that authority was just a mean for him to realize his mission; it was not his ultimate goal.
Coming to a realization, Wang Chong laughed heartily and calmed down. Following which, it didn’t take him long to thoroughly defeat the great ex-war god Su Zhengchen on the chessboard.
A hint of commendation flashed across Su Zhengchen’s eyes. Clearing away the stones on the board, he began another fight with Wang Chong.
They played match after match, but Su Zhengchen didn’t win at all.
Time passed quickly. The two of them had not played together for a very long time, so even Su Zhengchen lost track of time. Unknowingly, the sun set and the sky turned dark.. On this day, they played until a much later time than the duo ever had.
“Here he is, I’ve found him!”
Just as the duo was playing, footsteps sounded from behind. Wang Chong’s face immediately warped. However, before he could react, he heard an extremely familiar voice.
“Hahaha, Wang gongzi, it sure isn’t easy to find you! Today is the day of your release, so His Highness wanted to welcome you back. However, we weren’t able to find you at the Wang Clan. To think that you were hiding here…”
A figure dressed in loose robes walked out from the shadows.
The person’s appearance gradually grew clearer as he drew closer. It was King Song’s aide, Lu Ting!
The Ghost Tree District was usually deserted, and Wang Chong had never brought anyone over before. Thus, Wang Chong couldn’t understand why Lu Ting would show up here, and why the other party knew that he was here.
If it was any other time, Wang Chong would surely be delighted to meet Lu Ting. However, this was not a good time.
“Hahaha, no wonder I couldn’t find you. So you were playing chess with someone… some… one…”
Lu Ting was still chuckling happily a moment ago, but when he saw the figure sitting opposite to Wang Chong in the next instant, his eyes widened in shock.
“You… you… Lu Ting pays respect to Su gong!”
Peng! Lu Ting’s knees caved in, and he suddenly kneeled down in front of Su Zhengchen respectfully. His body was still trembling slightly, reflecting the immense shock he felt.
And upon hearing ‘Su gong‘ from Lu Ting, Wang Chong and Su Zhengchen’s faces warped.
Other than Shen Hai and Meng Long, who Wang Chong trusted deeply, he had never brought anyone here or told anyone about his activities here. The purpose was to not allow anyone to learn of Su Zhengchen’s identity, as well as to be able to continue feigning ignorance of the other party’s true identity.
During this period of time, Wang Chong had never pointed out anything about Su Zhengchen’s identity either.
Yet, as soon as Lu Ting arrived, he immediately exposed the other party’s identity, wrecking the arrangement that Wang Chong had prepared with much difficulty.
“Wang Chong, looks like our fate has come to an end.”
Su Zhengchen stood up from behind the chessboard, and an immense aura flowed out like a torrent. This was the first time Su Zhengchen was revealing his strength before Wang Chong.
For an instant, Wang Chong felt as though he saw a towering mountain rising from the ground. On top of that, it seemed to be growing taller at an absurd speed, piercing straight through the clouds, into the endless heavens.
Before this immense aura, there was no one who could avoid feeling insignificant.
Having hidden from the world for the past few decades ever since Emperor Taizong’s era, many people thought that he was dead.
The reason why he laid out a chess board at an ordinary location like the Ghost Tree District was to avoid having his identity found out.
Yet, Lu Ting identified him. Most probably, it wouldn’t be long before the news spread across the entire Great Tang.
Watching as the ordinary old man turn into the authoritative war god Su Zhengchen, Wang Chong somehow felt as though he had lost something important to him.
Wang Chong knew that from today onward, it would be impossible for the two of them to play against one another anymore. It would also be impossible for them to act casually before one another, chew on beef slices and drink alcohol together
Just like Su Zhengchen had said, their fate had come to an end.
“Lad, actually I’ve been wanting to tell you that it’s impossible for us to continue on like that. However, since it’s the first day of your release, I was intending on bringing it up another day.”
Su Zhengchen placed his hands behind his back as he spoke impassively. He completely disregarded Lu Ting’s presence.
“Regarding the Three Great Training Camps initiated by the royal court, I believe that you’ve signed up for it, right?”
Wang Chong nodded. The Three Great Training Camps would be starting in three days’ time. This was also the reason why Wang Chong rushed out to meet Su Zhengchen as soon as he found time.
“Good, work hard! You possess both wisdom and talent, don’t waste them!”
Su Zhengchen placed his hand on the golden chessboard and a white stone flew into the air. Then, with a swift sweep, he grabbed it with his hand.
“Fate comes and goes. This white stone is my gift to you. Keep it well. I hope that you can be like this stone, maintaining your core and remembering your aim regardless of the situation!”
The white stone appeared in Wang Chong’s palm, and the calm space suddenly started billowing furiously. Su Zhengchen took a single step forward,
“Don’t forget your core, and perhaps, we might still meet one day! Otherwise, I’ll be bidding you eternal farewell here! …”
This word sounded as soft as though a pin drop, but mysteriously, Wang Chong was still able to catch every single word clearly. When those words come to a stop, Su Zhengchen had already disappeared completely amidst the night sky.
gong usually means duke, but if I recall correctly, Su Zhengchen isn’t a duke.
It’s also normally used for respected people, something like gongzi, but much more formal and esteemed.