At the doorway of the Gambling House, a girl wearing a flower hairpin stopped He Yan and sweetly spoke: “Gongzi, this is a gambling house.”
“I know.” He Yan nodded, slid out a broken piece of silver from her sleeve, and shook it in front of the girl’s face, “I’m here to gamble.”
The girl was reluctant, but He Yan already marched inside before she could even utter a response.
Outside the casino, girls known as ‘gambling prostitutes’ stood to usher people in. Those who came to Le Tong Gambling House were mostly wealthy, and these girls could easily identify people’s status by their silvers’ worth. Those that looked lowly were asked to leave. Firstly, the poor people gambling inside weren’t pleasing to the eyes and sullied the embroidered carpets. Secondly, they cared too much about their silver that they were stubbornly intent on winning. Once they lost, they wailed and howled, insisting to repudiate their debts, hampering the rich people’s interest to gamble.
He Yan was obviously not from a rich family just based on her worn-out clothes. However, her persistence to enter made the gambling prostitute helpless.
Noise and shouting surfaced from within, and everyone’s faces were red. The people who won were satisfied, while those who lost were unwilling and tossed out stacks of money, yelling: “Again!”
As He Yan roamed around, she thought: it was not a lie when people said that gambling houses and whorehouses were money-squandering establishments.
Earlier, after teaching Wang Jiu Gui a lesson, she had asked him which gambling house was the biggest in Jing Cheng. A street thug like Wang Jiu Gui was naturally well-informed. As expected, Wang Jiu Gui answered: Le Tong Gambling House.
He Yan had never been to a gambling house. Before joining Fu Yue Army, her special identity had hindered her from traveling around, much less visiting a gambling house crowded with people. After joining Fu Yue Army, winning battles, and returning to Jing Cheng, He Ru Fei had reappeared. Her identity as the daughter of the He Family’s second branch was restored, which rendered it even more impossible for her to explore such places. Thus, where gambling houses were located, she had no knowledge of. This was her first time.
Nearly everything was in Le Tong Gambling House: pai gow poker, bouncing chess, Chinese chess, fighting grass, fighting cock… they all dazzled her. In her heart, she was excited but also regretful. A pity she had no idea how to play any of those.
Someone was guessing dice. He placed the dice into a bowl and guessed the dice point. This game was the easiest and had the most onlookers and participants. A huge amount of money streamed down after each game, dazzling He Yan’s eyes. Her mouth curled into a smile.
The He Family was very poor, but He Yun Sheng needed to go to school and train martial arts. The jewelry He Yan had pawned didn’t amount to much, so she was momentarily unable to afford a private tutor. Even though they made and sold Da Nai cakes daily, saving up adequate amount of silver would still take a long time. So, He Yan decided to test her luck at a gambling house, earning bit by bit. Although quite risky, at the moment, she couldn’t care less.
“Hey brother, why are you blocking us? Don’t just stand there if you ain’t gambling.” The surrounding people pushed He Yan around, their eyes laced with disdain.
What was the point of a poor person coming to a casino? Wasn’t it better to use his money to buy new clothes instead? Ugh, it truly provoked disgust.
He Yan could only reply: “Gamble.”
The people around donned on gold or silver—they were either wealthy or noble. The sudden appearance of a poor young boy had stolen their attention. He Yan fished out the only two silver pieces from her sleeve and put them on the table.
Someone ridiculed: “Little kid, you better think it through. This isn’t a play. I see you have no other money with you, so don’t gamble, or you’ll cry when you lose. Others won’t give back your money!”
This kind of situation was a common occurrence. Gambling was addictive—the more you lost, the more you gambled; and the more you gambled, the more you lost. After suffering continuous losses, some would regret, especially after using their land and family to pay off debts. If they failed to pay, workers of Le Tong Gambling House would throw them out.
They gazed at He Yan with pity. Poor people in Le Tong Gambling House would never become wealthy.
He Yan smiled slightly: “It’s fine, it’s just a play.”
The people laughed loudly. Whether their laughter contained amusement or mockery, no one knew.
The dice was put in the bowl and inverted. The dealer shook it left and right, the rattling of the dice crisp and clear. The sound was like a melody amidst the crowd’s lively chatter, with men’s rough voices resurfacing vaguely from time to time.
It reminded He Yan of those years in the army.
Joining the army—from a low grade soldier to lieutenant general, and then from a lieutenant general to a general—she had gained everything with her flesh and blood, with no aid from the He Family.
It was bitter and cold at the border, and there was no entertainment. The men in the army couldn’t stand it and started gambling in secret.
He Yan would always punish them with the army law, but she really had no way of dealing with the jubilation that occurred behind her back. He Yan was helpless about this and thus created a rule: they couldn’t gamble with money, but they could use other things like a chicken leg, a piece of solid food, or fur.
They never had the intention to gamble, but the boredom was unbearable. It was their only form of entertainment when they weren’t either training or fighting on the battlefield. He Yan didn’t want to deprive them from it, and she was eventually enticed to join them. Sometimes, when He Yan had the interest, she would gamble once or twice, but lost badly every time.
She nearly lost every little bit of her things, but she wasn’t mad. It was just that people were proficient in different fields, and not everyone was good at gambling.
The crispy sound of the dice stopped, and the dealer slammed the bowl down and looked at her.
“Big,” He Yan said.
The bowl was opened. Two dice lay silently on the table, making everyone hold their breaths. They eyed the dice. Two of them, one number five, and one six. It was indeed big.
The people were slightly astonished. After a moment, the guy who ridiculed He Yan guffawed: “You are in good luck! Go take these money and buy some new clothes.”
A few silver pieces were pushed toward He Yan.
He Yan pushed them back.
People looked at her.
“Again,” she smiled.
“Brother, you better stop when you earn. It’s already quite good to win once.” This was a kind advice.
Someone couldn’t stand it and said: “Hey, you’re quite arrogant, little kid!”
“He really thinks he’ll always be that lucky? Hahaha, kids are naive!”
Voices of ridicule, persuasion, and mockery rang in her ears from all directions, but He Yan’s gaze remained fixed on the two dice.
He Yun Sheng needed to attend school and train martial arts with a private tutor. Qing Mei couldn’t finish all the work by herself, so the He Family had to hire a manservant. After some time, the rainy season would come, and the roof at the He residence was short of a few tiles, so leaking would be inevitable… they desperately needed money.
She intended to collect news about Xu Zhi Heng and He Ru Fei, which also required money.
Money, it didn’t have to be a lot, just enough, but also not too little. Otherwise, when the urgency arose, it would be really difficult.
“You sure?” The middle-aged man who shook the dice soothed his beard, his smile kind and gentle.
He Yan returned a polite smile.