LE TONG, THE GAMBLING HOUSE
Editor: Emme, marchmallow
Wang Jiu Gui wondered if he was in his right senses. He pinched his thigh with great force, and then yelped ‘ouch’ out of pain.
It didn’t seem like a dream.
But if this wasn’t a dream, how could he explain all this?
In a short time, the men he had brought were scattered on the ground. The initiator walked to the stone steps while brushing off the dust on her clothes. Wang Jiu Gui looked at her incredulously. He Yan turned to him, her eyes bright and clear, making the hair on his body stand on end.
He had never seen He Yan acting so high and mighty.
He Yan never behaved this way. She was beautiful, mean and rather vain, obsessed in gaining advantages from others through unfair methods. A girl like her was a common sight in Jing Cheng Capital. These kinds of girls aimed for a higher rank in society but never managed to achieve it. The fortunate girls could enter rich households as concubines, while the unfortunate ones could only marry commoners and lead plaintive lives. He Sui raised his daughter like a rich miss of a noble household. Wang Jiu Gui knew for a fact that He Yan had never touched sharp and pointed objects in her life. She may have played musical instruments or painted pictures, but her delicate hands had never beaten up people like this.
Yet, just now, Wang Jiu Gui witnessed how this pair of hands clenched into fists and threw a strong man to the ground with a single punch. He recollected how he howled in pain when He Yan had caught his wrist. Her fingers were sharper than an axe.
Wang Jiu Gui desperately wanted to sob.
Before he could even think of a way to beg for mercy, that young girl walked towards him.
“Grandma! Have mercy on me!” His rational thoughts vanished into thin air, and Wang Jiu Gui blurted out: “I failed to use my eyes, please be generous and forgive me!”
“From this day forth, don’t give me any presents.” He Yan said gently, “I don’t like them.”
“Alright! Alright! Alright!” Wang Jiu Gui said ‘alright’ more than once, afraid that He Yan wouldn’t believe him. He added: “Is there anything you want me to buy for you?”
“There is no need for that. Haven’t you heard the saying ‘sow nothing, reap nothing’?” He Yan smiled. “We are neighbors. I would appreciate if you don’t try to pull any more pranks.”
“Yes, yes, yes.” Wang Jiu Gui answered gratefully.
“However, I have something to ask of you.” He Yan said.
After a while, He Yan left the messy alley with a light heart as the burly men on the ground moaned in pain. She walked away quickly, not knowing that after she left, someone from one of the floors of Restaurant Zui Yu released the fan on his hand, covering the messy place below with gauze curtain.
A man with an enthusiastic voice laced with laughter said, “When did the girls in Jing Cheng become so brave and fierce? Uncle, is this the reason why you neither want to make an engagement nor get married soon?”
His question wasn’t answered.
That person pressed on, “Uncle, do you want me to find out which family that young girl belongs to? If she’s strong enough, you could take her in as a female guard under you. Late at night, she could also accompany you…”
Someone’s fingertip lightly tapped on the table and sent a tea cup lid flying accurately into his mouth with a ‘swoosh’, rendering him speechless.
“Hmm, hmmmm—” That person revolted unwillingly.
“If you talk one more word of nonsense again, I’ll throw you down from here.” A lazy, unconcerned voice stopped his counterpart from making any complaints.
The place was silent again.
The sound of strings plucking the song ‘Liu Guang’ flowed throughout the room, covering the spring scenery outside the window. They continued drinking tea. Someone mumbled the word ‘stingy’, but the notes of the music soon overlapped his voice.
He Yun Sheng was relieved to see He Yan returning without a scratch.
“Are you alright? Where are Wang Jiu Gui and his men?” He Yun Sheng asked, as he hadn’t caught a glimpse of Wang Jiu Gui.
“I cleared the misunderstandings by reasoning and enlightened them with my affection, hence they left the place. They informed me that they would come to apologize another day and would not commit such atrocities ever again.”
He Yun Sheng was not fully convinced.
If Wang Jiu Gui could be persuaded merely by reasoning, he wouldn’t be called Wang Jiu Gui. Yet, He Yan didn’t seem to want to continue talking about it. She had returned safely and soundly, so He Yun Sheng didn’t give it much thought. He was only a young boy, after all.
At night, after having dinner, He Yan pulled He Yun Sheng aside just as he was about to go to sleep.
“What?” He Yun Sheng was slightly annoyed.
“Do you have any clean clothes?” He Yan asked.
He Yun Sheng was momentarily confused.
“I just want to check if there are any clothes to be mended.” He Yan explained, “I’ll sew them for you tonight.”
He Yun Sheng’s face grew pale with disbelief.
Since the day he was born, He Yan had never told him that she wanted to help him mend his clothes. Instantly, an unfamiliar feeling of warmth spread through his heart. He hesitated before asking: “Have you ever touched a needle or thread?”
He knew very well that He Yan had no skill in needlework. This was handled by Qing Mei.
“You’re looking down on me,” He Yan said.
“Of course, I am. How could I not?” He Yun Sheng replied tartly.
He Yan slightly pushed him: “Won’t you bring your clothes to me? Come on…”
He Yun Sheng brought a pile of clothes, just as he was told. He Yan grabbed all of them and was about to head over to her room when she heard He Yun Sheng’s hesitant voice: “Just let Qing Mei sew those clothes.”
“How good is Qing Mei be compared to me? Go to bed, you have to wake up early tomorrow.” He Yan said.
After dismissing He Yun Sheng, He Yan went to her room to select a few pieces of clothes. She finally found a round collar with narrow sleeves and a maroon-colored long coat. He Sui clearly spent most of his earnings for his daughter, leaving He Yun Sheng with cotton and breeches. Only this long coat seemed proper, even though it seemed to have been previously worn by others, its color faded.
Her build was similar to He Yun Sheng’s, therefore, his clothes fit her perfectly. She then proceeded to comb her hair to a man bun and slid in a stick she had plucked from outside. She painted her skin darker and drew her eyebrows to make them thicker. He Yan looked at the mirror, which reflected the figure of a youthful, young boy.
He Yan was an expert cross-dresser in her previous life. She was sure that her secret hadn’t leaked in the past few years. She had no problem disguising herself as a boy in her current life, either. If she had proper clothes, she could have easily dressed herself as a handsome young man. In these flimsy clothes, she looked like a young master from a declining noble family.
She paced back and forth in the room and only sneaked out to the courtyard once she was confident about her disguise. She leaped with agility along the walls and walked to the streets.
Jing Chen Capital had no curfew at night, and the streets were rather lively and bustling. He Yan pranced through the brightly lit places, eagerly listening to the tunes drifting from the luxury boats and the shouts of vendors. Spring was in the air, and this night view signified prosperity.
She had not been able to go for an outing from the moment He Ru Fei returned to the He Family. She then married to the Xu Family, consequently losing her eyesight.
Such picturesque sceneries, full of life and activity, had moved further and further away from her in her past life. But tonight, as the cool wind blew from the lake, she regained all of them back. She was free again.
She was truly grateful to God for providing her with another opportunity.
Not far away from Jing Cheng’s Restaurant Zui Yu, outside Ming Guan, girls who were as tender and as beautiful as flowers were busy receiving customers.
This wasn’t a place for nobles to drink and dine. This was the largest and the most popular gambling house in Jing Cheng, Le Tong.
He Yan’s footsteps stopped in front of Le Tong, the great gambling house.