103. Expert in Gomoku
“Feng Qun’s dead. The other four men insist the kidnapping was just born out of a grudge between YiHan and Feng Qun. The mastermind behind it all was Feng Qun,” FuRen solemnly said.
“How did Feng Qun die?” asked a frowning Yan Cheng.
“During a time when he was all alone in his room, he shattered his glass of water and used one of the shards to slit his throat. The nurses couldn’t save him in time. The nurse who first found him said there was blood everywhere. Half of the room was stained red,” FuRen replied. When he heard of how Feng Qun died, his body went cold with fear. All his mind could think about was how his youngest son had tried to commit suicide using the same method.
“From the way he cowered that evening, he doesn’t seem like someone who’d kill himself,” the old Mr Yan mused as he stroked his beard. “Have you investigated everyone he’d been in contact with yet?”
“We have,” FuRen said with a nod. “But we found nothing. Now that he’s dead, the others have been keeping their mouths shut tight. They are criminals after all.”
“That’s quite troublesome,” the old Mr Yan said.
The conversation had brought the air in the room down to a heavy stutter. Upon sensing it, YiHan smiled and interjected, “No matter how troublesome a problem is, there’ll always be a way to resolve it. We must believe in Captain Chen.”
“True, true,” the old Mr Yan guffawed. “You’re so young yet you’re so calm and steady. You certainly know how the world works. Yes, you’ve got a good head.”
A bead of sweat trickled down the back of FuRen’s head. He knew his family well. He particularly knew just what kind of person his youngest son was. Calm? Steady? Even as an audience, he could feel his face flushing from embarrassment.
YiHan let out a little chuckle through pursed lips. His dimples flickered in and out of sight. “Pardon me. It’s my first time visiting and I didn’t know what you like, sir. I got you a Go game set. Is it to your liking?”
Yan Cheng went pale. His father loved to play Go. However, the old man was a sore loser and a sore winner. If he won, he’d scold his opponent for being dumb. If he lost, he’d get mad. He also loved takebacks. Every time Cheng played chess with his father, he’d suffer so much that he wished he were dead. If the old Mr Yan took a liking to this new chess set, Cheng would be captured for several rounds now.
Oblivious to his son’s sorrow, the old Mr Yan happily exclaimed, “How could I not like it? I love Go the most. Come, show it to me.”
YiHan rose and placed the Go game set on the coffee table in front of the old Mr Yan. The board was stained with deep glossy amber lacquer. It shone and shimmered under the sunlight. The stones were made of jade. They were delicate and chill to the touch. The bowls were made of the same wood and lacquered with the same amber shade as the board, but their finishing was matte. It made them look even more exquisite.
Truthfully, this Go game set wasn’t worth much but it showed how much thought YiHan had placed in selecting his gift. The Yan family is a rich and powerful force. How could they lack anything? The old Mr Yan was now an old man. All he wanted now was merely sincerity.
The old Mr Yan took a stone and fiddled with it. Then, he joyfully said, “Come, play a round with me.”
Yan Cheng, a face full of deep-seated exhaustion, was about to stand up when the old Mr Yan barked at him, “You stay and talk to FuRen. I don’t like playing with you. You’re bad at it and you’re so rude during the game!”
Yan Cheng: …May I ask you something? Are you sure you’re not talking about yourself?
The old Mr Yan patted YiHan on the shoulder and said, “Let’s go, young YiHan. Let’s go play a round.”
“Grandpa Yan, I don’t know how to play,” he awkwardly replied as he slowly stood up.
“It’s fine,” the old Mr Yan kindly said. “I’ll teach you.”
“Go looks really hard. I’m afraid I can’t really get it in just one round,” YiHan said, scratching his head.
The old Mr Yan paused and thought about it. “True. It’d take you a while to learn Go now. Well, what games do you know then?” he asked.
“Gomoku?” YiHan tentatively asked.
When he saw the old Mr Yan staring blankly at him in confusion, he explained, “It’s a remarkably simple game. Both players take turns putting down a stone each. The first person to line up five stones in a row, wins. Be it horizontally, vertically or diagonally.
Excited realisation visibly dawned the old Mr Yan’s face. “It sounds quite interesting,” he said, ushering YiHan over to the small table placed beside the window. “Come, come. Let’s try it out.”
As YiHan is younger, the old Mr Yan generously let him play black, the first to go. Unbeknownst to himself, the old Mr Yan was a bad player. However, YiHan was worse. The only people he’d ever beaten in strategic board games like chess were his family members and JingYuan. That’s because they would wreck their brains and do their best to let him win so he’d be happy.
Place two bad players on the same chessboard and, unexpectedly, a fierce tug-of-war would occur. Both old and young eyes focused hard on the board and stones before them. It actually felt like a game between two expert players. There would never be a clear winner. It was a very thrilling scene to watch.
Cheng and FuRen looked at each other and traded exasperated smiles. Yan Cheng could see just how ecstatic his father was by today’s guests. Perhaps they should invite the Bai family child over more often. The young boy sure can cheer his old father up.
Mrs Yan and Ma Bai chatted away amicably in a corner. Yan Cheng and Bai FuRen discussed about their businesses. The old man and young man bent over a Go board, intently competing against each other under the bright morning rays. It was a harmonious sight to behold.
Time flew by and noon was inching closer. If the Bai family stayed any longer, they’d be having lunch with the Yan family. Ma Bai shot a glance at FuRen. It was about time for them to leave, wasn’t it?
FuRen then side-eyed the pair happily playing away at Gomoku as if to say, I want to go too. But look how into the game these two are. If we interrupt them, it’d be rude, right?
Ma raised a brow: What do we do then? We’re here to thank the Yan family. Are we going to mooch a meal off them now?
FuRen glanced back at her with a helpless look: What can I do? I’m also at a loss!
As the Bai couple’s silent conversation came to a standstill, footsteps echoed from the front door.
“I’m back, Grandfather!” a girl’s voice cheerfully called out.
The old Mr Yan and YiHan had just finished another round of Gomoku. YiHan was hanging his head over his defeat while Mr Yan was proudly puffing his chest at his win.
“You’re back, Pei-Pei? Come over to Grandfather!” the old Mr Yan said, laughing.
YiHan turned and saw a young girl walking over to them. She was dressed in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt with her long hair tied up in a high ponytail. With a cheery and cute face, fair and slightly flushed skin, and a pair of wide eyes which glistened and danced so playfully that a prank could be pounce any moment now, she was the prime example of youth.
As Yan Pei walked over to her grandfather, she greeted Ma and Pa Bai. She seemed like a nice and sweet girl but when she looked over at YiHan, he saw…green light gleaming in them?
“YiHan-ge,” Yan Pei greeted with a smile.
Oh, my. That soft, sweet little “ge” spoken by a girl made YiHan’s little heart keel over. It was just so cute. For a moment, YiHan felt a sense of pride and responsibility. He felt like an older brother. He finally understood what his older siblings felt around him now.
However, this beautiful sight wasn’t perfect. Why was there something off about her smile, something that made his hair stand? Was he just mistaken?
The two actually knew each other before this meeting. They studied in the same university. YiHan was in the batch earlier than Pei. So while they knew each other, they rarely talked.
“Ms Yan Pei,” YiHan politely greeted back.
“You don’t need to be such a stranger, YiHan-ge,” Pei giggled. “You can just call me Pei-Pei.”
YiHan had no choice but to greet her again, “Pei-Pei.”
Only then was Yan Pei satisfied.
The old Mr Yan was in a great mood then so he pulled Pei over. “Look, Pei-Pei,” he said, pointing to the finished game on the Go board. “Your YiHan-ge is also an expert in Gomoku. It took me a lot of effort to defeat him!”
Yan Cheng, Kong Wen, Bai FuRen, Hua XiaoRan, Bai YiHan: Figurative black lines streaked down foreheads as awkward silence reigned.
Pei stared down at the messy Go board; a slender finger curled under her chin. “Grandpa,” she said. “You two are too experienced. I don’t understand this at all.”
“It’s fine,” the old Mr Yan said. “Have your YiHan-ge teach you later. Once you know how to play the game, you’ll understand it.”
For all that YiHan’s a rotten player at Gomoku, he knew just how bad he was. What the old Mr Yan said was so awkward and embarrassing that his pale cheeks were stained red.
He looked up at Pei, only to see the green gleam in her eye that she’d yet to blink away in time. He could feel his behind clench hard at it. But by the time he tried to search for it again, Yan Pei was back to her cutesy girl-next-door image. Perhaps he was overthinking it.
“Mr Yan,” FuRen addressed with a smile. “Thanks is not enough for what you’ve done for YiHan. It was all thanks to your help he’s fine. If you have any need, please just call for me. It’s getting late now. We should head back. We’ll come visit you another day.”
“You just arrived and now you want to leave?” the old Mr Yan sighed. “I’m a retired old man. What could I need you for? I’d rather have YiHan play a few rounds with me!”
Ma Bai: …we’ve been here for the whole morning. We didn’t just arrive.
“Mr Yan, it’s YiHan’s honour to have your esteemed regard,” FuRen said with a gentlemanly smile. “If you don’t think he’s too bothersome, I’ll have him come over often to play with you.”
“Fine, have him come over whenever he’s free,” the old Mr Yan said, finally pacified. “I’m old. I just like it when it’s lively.”
“Little YiHan, do you like playing over at my place? My chef knows how to cook a lot of delicious food,” the old Mr Yan asked YiHan, eyes squinting as he grinned. He looked just like the Big Bad Wolf enticing the innocent little rabbit.
Bai YiHan, the tiny bunny, had just started nodding when the old Mr Yan immediately slapped his leg as he glanced at the clock.
“Aah,” the old Mr Yan exclaimed. “It’s nearly time for lunch all of a sudden. FuRen, how about you and your family stay and have lunch first? Cheng, look at you. I’m an old foggy, are you one too? Hurry up. Kong Wen, go tell the kitchens to prepare more food!”
Kong Wen responded in affirmative and left for the kitchens.
Then, just as FuRen was about to say something, the old Mr Yan hurriedly spoke, “FuRen, sit. And you, XiaoRan, girl, sit down. Let’s talk until lunch is ready.”
Ma Bai opened her mouth to speak when the old Mr Yan sternly interrupted once more, “Come now. It’s the first time young YiHan came over. I can’t have him going home hungry, can I? The kid’s body is still growing. He can’t go hungry.”
Ma Bai: …what you said made so much sense that I’m speechless!
YiHan: …I’m an adult, okay? How am I a kid? I don’t have a growing body!
Pei and Cheng looked at each other, their lips pursed as they did their best to suppress their laughter: Father’s/Grandpa’s shameless ways never fail!
The three helpless members of the Bai family were forced to stay for lunch. YiHan played a few more rounds of Gomoku with the old Mr Yan. The whole time, the old man had a smile on his face. The entire time during lunch, YiHan would feel a gaze boring into him, scanning him up and down. It made him uneasy but whenever he looked up to catch the person doing it, the gaze would disappear. It was as if everything was just his imagination.
After lunch, the Bai family was asked to stay behind for some tea before they were finally allowed to leave. When their car exited the Yan family manor gates, all three of them simultaneously wiped away the non-existent sweat off their brows and let out a long sigh.
“They always say the elderly are like old kids. They’re not wrong,” Ma commented with a smile.
FuRen nodded in agreement.
- Go game set: Previously translated to chess. It’s only elaborated in this chapter that it’s a go game set instead. This is because 棋 (qi) could mean various types of board games – chess, checkers, draughts, Baduk/Go/Weiqi, etc.
- Ge: Suffix for brother. Commonly used as a term of respect and/or affection for males older than the person regardless of relation.