THE BENEFITS OF BEING BLIND
A huge amount of money was laid on the table. Not long after, someone deposited their jade pendant on the pile. He Yan stood out as a youthful lad who had stolen the attention of onlookers, and the place was soon crowded by merry-making people.
“Gongzi, please choose.”
A huge pile of coins and jewelry were stacked in front of He Yan. Those who laughed at her minutes ago simultaneously shut their mouths, as they could now tell that she wasn’t a mere rookie at gambling. Had it not been for Le Tong’s cast-iron reputation, people would have come to the conclusion that this situation was a scam she and the dealer had cooked up to astound the outsiders.
Outside the casino, the sound of the night watch faded. He Yan stood up and said: “The dawn is near, it’s time for me to return.”
“Gongzi,” a bearded old man smiled slightly, “Just gamble one more time. How about changing the method?”
He Yan raised her eyebrows and looked at him: “What do you mean?”
“We won’t gamble based on big or small dice anymore. You seem to be an expert, so guessing the number on the dice should be easy for you, right?” He pushed the piles of jewelry and money on the table to the center, “If you win, all these will belong to you.”
He Yan glanced at the money on the table.
She had gained a lot through this little expedition and was well aware that she had attracted the attention of many individuals. When she was in the army, she had heard a rumour that the casinos in the capital were involved in a number of shady deals. She knew it was time for her to put a stop to gambling, but for some reason, the memory of He Yun Sheng eagerly talking about going to school floated to her mind. She looked at the coat she was wearing—it was the only coat in He Yun Sheng’s possession, and it was rather worn out.
“Alright.” She had made her decision.
There was an instant uproar amongst the onlookers due to the surging enthusiasm.
Guessing the number on the dice and guessing whether the results were big or small were two entirely different matters.
Guessing the answers ‘big’ and ‘small’ was only a matter of luck. However, precision and accuracy were required to guess the numbers on the dice. Once you made a mistake, you couldn’t rectify it, and there were infinitesimal chances of winning this. There was also the fact that the dealer shook the dice rather vigorously.
He Yan also pushed all her money to the center of the table.
If she lost, everything she had done today would be for naught. On the other hand, if she succeeded, the amount she would obtain would be more than enough to cover the He Family’s expenses and He Yun Sheng’s tuition fees for five years.
Watching the situation unfold like this, everyone added their money: “I’m in too!”
“These are my coins; I bet this brother will win!”
“How could that be? I’m betting the opposite, hahaha!”
A game with heavier bargaining chips would have more spectators. Getting rich in a night or losing everything in a night was more entertaining than watching Jing Cheng’s best theatrical troupe performing.
As the bearded old man slowly held up the bowl, the whole casino went silent. It was as if they could only listen to the sound of the dice shaking in the copper bowl.
He Yan’s mind went blank.
She was never good at gambling. At least, that was the case until she returned to Jing Cheng and was married to the Xu Family. After her marriage, she had played poker with the furens of other families in banquets, but she lost badly every time. Those times, Xu Zhi Heng would smile at her warmly and lightly mock her: “How could you be so silly?”
Xu Zhi Heng would rarely show his mischievous side to He Yan. He Yan had assumed that she learnt how to make Xu Zhi Heng show that side of his more often. She felt genuinely happy about this and made a big decision in her heart – she would learn this skill no matter what it took and make Xu Zhi Heng proud in the next banquet.
Yet, it was a pity that before she could master this skill, she had lost her eyesight.
Be it a family feast or a banquet, the Xu Family would never allow a blind person to represent the household. She could no longer step outside, and staying alone at the large manor was rather boring. Hence, she could only learn to listen.
Although she was blind, she refused to seek help from anyone, even if it was only to amble idly around. She had always been a competitive person, so she strove to quickly adapt. She familiarized herself with the characteristics of various sounds and then moved on to learning how to distinguish each one. She then practiced to take action, and when she was finally ready, she used a stick for a sword and revised the movements.
It was during this time that she had learned to listen to the sound of dice.
Dice was easier than poker, He Yan thought. The quainter the movement was, the more challenging it was to her hearing. She listened. Every single side of a die produced a different sound when it fell. She shook dice in a bamboo log then threw them on the table, meditated on the number, and grazed her fingers on the dice to know if she was correct. She frequently made mistakes in the beginning, but the more she practiced, the more accurate she was. She persevered until one day, after guessing the number, she felt the dice and finally smiled.
She had done it.
The servants in Xu household held private discussions about her, saying how she had gone crazy after turning blind, shaking a bamboo log every day in her room. But they gradually discovered that they needn’t help He Yan anymore, and she could do almost everything herself. She could accurately recognize every servant in Xu Family just by listening to their footsteps, and she knew where each piece of furniture was located.
If they didn’t know that He Yan was blind, they would have mistaken her for a person with normal eyesight.
Xu Zhi Heng held her hand and praised her for being so capable. He Yan was delighted, yet in her smile, there was an indescribable loneliness that stemmed from an unknown source.
Her hearing ability back then had reached the point of perfection. Thinking about it now, she had probably heard the cool and perfunctory note in Xu Zhi Heng’s voice whenever he talked to her, but her feelings made her subconsciously suppress the thought.
He Yan lowered her eyes. Of course, the player saw things less clearly.
The sound of the dice rattling in the vessel suddenly came to a stop. With a ‘bang’, the bowl was inverted on the table.
One, two. Two dice stayed still.
Everyone’s gazes were fixed on He Yan. He Yan closed her eyes. It was as if she had returned to the days in the Xu Family when she’d sat in front of the table, shaking the bamboo log alone, then opening it and feeling the surface of the dice with her fingers.
Trying to catch that small ray of light in the darkness.
“Two, five.” She opened her eyes and said.
The inverted bowl was quickly lifted, and two dice were reflected in everyone’s eyes.
At first, there was a prolonged silence. After a few moments, the sounds of exclamation started one after the other. A young man in brocade clothes grabbed He Yan’s arm and loudly proclaimed: “Superior! From this day forth, you are my master! Please accept your apprentice!”
He Yan helplessly shook away his hand.
The bearded old man’s smile slightly stiffened, but he recovered after a moment. He patted his beard and said lightly: “I will not take back my word. All these treasures belong to you.” He paused and added: “May I know gongzi’s name? May I have the pleasure to drink a cup of tea with you?”
He Yan packed all the money and jewelry and politely declined: “I’m just a kid with no name, it’s nothing worth knowing. It’s already late, let’s drink tea together another time.” After finishing her words, she walked past the crowd and hastily left Le Tong.
Some people remained stunned, while some continued to gamble. The bearded old man’s smile remained unchanged as he turned and headed upstairs. Another man followed him. The old man turned to him and commanded: “Go after that lad.”
On the other side, a burly chap pressed his fingers then waved at the guards behind him. They followed him out of the casino.
“Running away after winning my money? There’s no such good thing in this world, fool!”