Chapter 9: Dice
At the entrance of Le Tong Manor, a woman with a flower hairpin stopped He Yan and coquettishly said, “Young master, this is a gambling house.”
“I know.” He Yan nodded and took out a broken silver from her sleeve, dangling it in front of the woman. “I came here to gamble.”
The woman was momentarily stunned, but before she could respond, He Yan had already walked inside.
The woman standing outside the gambling house was a courtesan. Since the clientele at Le Tong Manor were mostly from wealthy families, money wasn’t a big concern. Therefore, she had learned to judge people by their appearance. If someone looked less affluent, she would advise them to stay away. First, it wasn’t pleasant to see poor people walking around inside, potentially dirtying the embroidered carpets. Second, poor people cared more about their money and couldn’t afford to lose. If they lost, they’d cry and complain, disturbing the pleasure of the wealthy.
With He Yan’s worn-out clothes, she definitely didn’t look like a young master from a wealthy family. Unfortunately, the courtesan hadn’t managed to stop her before she entered uninvited.
Inside the gambling house, voices were clamoring, and everyone had a rosy complexion. Those who won were naturally filled with joy, while the losers wore expressions of frustration. A stack of silver notes was pulled out from someone’s pocket after a round, and they shouted, “Another round!”
He Yan looked around, feeling that what others said about the gambling house being a place where money flowed like water was indeed true.
After dealing with Wang Jiugui earlier, she had asked him one question: which was the biggest gambling house in the city. As a street thug, Wang Jiugui would undoubtedly know, and indeed, he had told her about Le Tong Manor.
He Yan had never been to a gambling house before. From the time she joined Fu Yue Army, because her identity was special, places with many people were places she couldn’t go, let alone gambling houses. After joining the Fu Yue Army and when she returned to the capital after a victorious battle, He Yunsheng also returned. She became the second young lady of the He family, and lowly places like these were even more off-limits for her. As a result, she didn’t even know where the gambling house was located; it was her first time encountering such a situation.
Le Tong Manor had everything: Pai Gow, Tan Qi, Chinese chess, Dou Cao, cockfighting… It was dazzling and overwhelming, but she didn’t know how to play any of them.
Some people were playing dice games, guessing the numbers rolled in the cup. It was the simplest game, and the most people participated in it. After each round, the sound of silver coins clinking was overwhelming, almost blinding He Yan’s eyes. Finally, a faint smile appeared on her lips.
The He family was really too poor, but He Yunsheng had to attend school and military academy. The jewelry she currently owned couldn’t fetch much money, it was still far from enough for the tuition. Even if she sold da nai cakes, it would take a long time to save enough money. After much consideration, He Yan could only think of going to the gambling house – trying to make money with money. Although it’s a risky and speculative move, she can’t afford to be picky at the moment.
“Hey brother, why are you blocking the way here if you’re not going to gamble?” Someone pushed He Yan, and disdain flashed in their eyes.
Without any money, why come to a gambling house? Why not use the money to buy a nice set of clothes? It ruins one’s appetite.
He Yan replied, “I’m here to gamble.”
The people around burst into laughter. A poor-looking teenager suddenly appeared, and everyone couldn’t help but look over. He Yan took out the only two broken silver she had from her sleeve and placed them on the table.
Someone mocked, “Kid, have you thought this through? This is no child’s play. I see you don’t have any other money left on you. If you lose, don’t cry and ask for your money back! No one will return it to you!”
Indeed, there had been cases where gambling addicts would continue to bet, losing more and more, and some even bet away their deeds, wives, and children. They would later regret it but had no way to back out, and would end up being thrown out by Le Tong Manor. Such cases were not uncommon.
Their eyes on He Yan were filled with pity, for the poor had no way out in Le Tong Manor.
He Yan smiled faintly, “It’s alright, just gambling for fun.”
The crowd laughed loudly, it was hard to tell if the laughter was well-intentioned or just amusement.
The dice were put into the cup, turned upside down, and the house dealer shook it left and right. The clattering sound of the dice was like a melodious tune, mingling with the boisterous voices of people, as if they could hear rough men talking and laughing.
He Yan remembered the days in the military camp.
When she joined the military, from a common soldier to a deputy general, and then to a general, it was all achieved without the He family’s connections. It was all earned through her own blood and sweat.
The border area was cold and harsh, and there were no other forms of entertainment. The men in the military camps couldn’t bear the boredom, so they secretly gambled.
Every time He Yan saw this, she would punish them according to military regulations. Unable to contain their enthusiasm for gambling, they couldn’t help but find a way to play. Helpless, He Yan set a rule: no betting with money, but they could bet with other things, like a chicken leg, a piece of dry food, or a fur.
They weren’t really interested in gambling, just extremely bored. Besides training for war, this was probably the only entertainment available, and He Yan couldn’t bear to take it away. So, she played with them sometimes. Whenever she felt like it, she would join in. Every time, she would lose badly.
Almost all of the small trinkets she had on her were lost, but she wasn’t upset. She just realized that, indeed, every trade had its specialization, and gambling wasn’t something everyone could do.
The crisp sound of the dice suddenly stopped, and the house dealer looked at her.
“Big,” He Yan said.
The cup was opened, and the two dice laid quietly on the table. Everyone held their breath and looked over. The two dice showed a five and a six, indeed a big number.
The crowd was slightly surprised, but after a moment, the man who had mocked He Yan earlier burst into laughter, “You do have good luck! Take this money and get some clothes tailored!”
Various scattered broken silver and banknotes were piled in front of He Yan.
He Yan pushed the money back.
Everyone looked at her.
“Another round,” she smiled.
Someone couldn’t help but say, “Hey, this kid is a bit arrogant!”
“Brother, you should quit while you’re ahead. Winning is already good enough,” this was a well-intentioned advice.
“Do you really think your luck will always be this good? Hahaha, kids are so naive!”
Mockery, persuasion, and spectators’ voices filled the air, but He Yan’s eyes were only on those two dice.
He Yunsheng needed money for school and military academy expenses, and Qingmei couldn’t handle all the housework alone. The He family should hire a few more servants. In a few months, summer will arrive, and the rainy season will come. The roof tiles on the gate of the He family’s house were missing some, and it would definitely leak… both inside and outside, money was needed for various purposes.
She wanted to inquire about the matter of Xu Zhiheng and He Rufei, and that also required money.
Money wasn’t something she needed a lot of, but she couldn’t afford to have none at all. Otherwise, in times of crisis, life would become difficult.
“Have you made up your mind?” The middle-aged man who was shaking the dice patted his beard with a kindly and gentle smile.
He Yan returned the polite smile.