Huang Rong smiled and gently said, “The Old Urchin is most willing to listen to me; he won’t dare to turn down whatever I say. If you want to see him, follow me and go down the mountain. Let me be the matchmaker between the two of you; just consider it my way of saying thanks for saving my life.” Her words had made Ying Gu’s cheeks turn red with her heart thumping wild.
Seeing her speech might turn murderous intent into a happy occasion Huang Rong felt smug. Suddenly she heard a slapping sound; Ying Gu’s palms struck each other. Her face looked like it was covered with a layer of frost; sternly she said, “What makes him listen to you, a girl surnamed Huang? Why would he follow your direction? Because of your good looks? I have never shown kindness to you, I don’t need you to repay. Quickly make way for me, or else don’t blame me for being merciless.”
“Aiyo, you want to kill me?” Huang Rong laughed.
Ying Gu raised her eyebrows. “What if I do?” she coldly said, “Others are scared of the Old Heretic Huang, I am not afraid of the heaven and the earth.”
Huang Rong chuckled, “Killing me is not a big deal,” she said cheekily, “But who would help you solve the three mathematical problems I left for you?”
Since that day Huang Rong wrote three mathematical problems on the sand inside the thatched hut at the Black Marsh, Ying Gu had painstakingly racked her brain day and night; but she did not have any clue on how to solve them. At first she studied mathematics with the intention of rescuing Zhou Botong; but later on she was captivated with this complex yet mysterious subject. The further she dug into it, the more fascinated she became that sometimes she forgot to eat or sleep, and could not stop even if she wanted to. She knew perfectly well that even if she could solve these problems, compared to Huang Yaoshi’s, her skill would still be like heaven from earth; in other words, it would not help her the least a bit in her plan to rescue Zhou Botong. But curiosity had forced her to rack her brain; without a clear answer it would be difficult for her to keep her mind at peace. Now that Huang Rong mentioned it, the three subjects immediately flashed on her mind clearly; without realizing it her face showed hesitation.
“Don’t kill me, I’ll teach you,” Huang Rong said. She took the oil lamp from the image of Buddha and placed it on the ground. Taking a golden needle out, she started writing numbers and letters on the brick floor.
The first subject was the ‘qi yao jiu zhi tian zhu bi suan’ [seven dazzling nine grasping Indian method of calculation]. As Ying Gu saw the solution she was dazzled and could not help but secretly sigh in praise. Huang Rong continued with the second subject, the ‘li fang zhao bing zhi yin gei mi ti’ [lit. standing up soldier supplying silver topic] had profound changes in it. As Ying Gu waited for her to write the last answer she sighed and said, “This middle subject surely has an endless wonderful secret.”
A moment later she said, “If we say the third subject to be easy, then it is easy; but if we regard it as difficult, then it is difficult. There is an unknown number; three and three has a remainder of two, five and five has a remainder of three, seven and seven has a remainder of two. What number is that? I know it was twenty-three; but that was a hard guess. I need to line up every number for all interchangeable computational patterns, but even after thinking until I split my head I could not figure it out.”
[Translator’s note: I tried to translate the following as is, I don’t have the slightest idea the mathematical operands being discussed. Any help will be greatly appreciated.]
Huang Rong smiled, “It is very easy. Calculating three and three, it amounts to seventy. Calculating five and five, it amounts to twenty-one. Calculating seven and seven, it amounts to fifteen. Adding three numbers together, if not greater than 105, then that’s the correct answer. Otherwise, subtract 105 or its multiple.”
Ying Gu calculated it in her heart and sure enough she got the correct answer. With a low voice she recited, “Calculating three and three, it amounts to seventy. Calculating five and five …”
Huang Rong said, “You don’t have to memorize it like that. Let me give you a poem to help you memorize it easier: Three people travel together in seventy directions, five plum blossom trees have twenty one branches, seven children reunite for half a month, a hundred and five remained to be known.”
Listening to ‘three people travel together’ and ‘reunite for half a month’ Ying Gu felt offended, she thought, “This girl knows him, she knew my shameful secret from early on. ‘Three people traveling together’ is me one woman serving two men. Could it be that by ‘reunite for half a month’ she was ridiculing me of having a love affair knowing him for only a dozen of days?” What she did in the years past had become a matter of the heart to her, unavoidably she became quite over-suspicious to everybody. “All right,” she said flatly, “Thank you for your directions. ‘Asking direction in the morning, bored to death in the evening’. Must I stay to listen to you speaking more nonsense?”
Huang Rong smiled, “’Asking direction in the morning, bored to death in the evening.’ The one who died is the one asking; but I’ve never heard the one asking question kill the one preaching the sermon.”
Ying Gu stole a glance toward the meditation room; she knew Emperor Duan must be residing in the back. She saw Huang Rong kept pestering her, something was amiss. Even though Huang Rong was young, her intelligence and eccentricity was not inferior to her father’s. How could a thirty-year-old lady bicker with a baby? She was afraid her luck would turn bad just like a ship capsized in the gutter. She had wasted not a few moments because she wanted to look at Huang Rong’s calculations; while a very important matter was still ahead of her. How could she allow senseless thought over mathematics consume her energy? Therefore, she decided not to answer and immediately lifted up her feet to walk inside.
Crossing over the worship hall she saw there was a dark room ahead with only one flickering light inside. As a wary person she did not dare to rush in; raising her voice up she called out, “Duan Zhixing, are you or are you not going to see me? You hide your tail in the dark, what kind of real man are you?”
Huang Rong followed behind her, laughing, “You don’t like there is no lamp in here? The Reverend was afraid too much light would scare you away, so he ordered us to put the lights out.”
“Humph,” Ying Gu snorted, “I am the kind of person who is not afraid to go to hell, why would a mountain of blades or boiling oil scare me?”