General Above I Am Below / General Above I am Below Chapter 17
Oh My General Chapter 17
Chang Sheng Gambling House
From the palace came the news that the empress had summons.
Handing over the business to the guards, telling them to inform the people of the An and Wang families, Ye Zhao hurriedly changed clothes and entered the palace.
On the streets, Xia Yujin was busy trying to figure out Ye Zhao’s tastes. He stood outside the tavern for a while before forcing the two servants beside him to grab a Xinghua House’s Shehongchun and Huwangjiang House’s Daughter’s Red, respectively while he passed through the alleys and streets without hesitation in his casual clothes, creeping up to Old Gao’s lamb shop.
Old Gao had been in the business for decades. His lamb was savory like no other. But because the out-of-the-way location of the little storefront, the laziness of the boss, the meanness of his wife, and their lack of sufficient help, they sold premade lamb to all the surrounding restaurants while the store itself remained closed year-round. So few actually came.
Xia Yujing was one of those old customers that, regardless of whether it was the middle of the night or in the midst of a raging storm, Old Gao would greet him in person.
But today, he didn’t.
From inside the house came the sound of him cussing out the heavens and earth alike, and his wife wailing and sobbing.
“Is this a funeral?” Xia Yujin was the type that was happy when others were happy, but felt a bit uncomfortable in the face of someone wailing. He was preparing to go in to give them a short lecture, but when he saw what was happening inside, he couldn’t help but stop short in his tracks.
The small lamb store was in total disarray. Old Gao’s only son had blood all over his face and was lying on the ground moaning. His single-eyed wife had her hair down and was on the ground as well, crying out loud. From the kitchen nearby came the sounds of someone sharpening a knife, and soon after, his ugly daughter charged out and shrieked, “I’ll fight them!”, scaring Old Gao so much he jumped over and tried to hold her down.
Xia Yujin’s jaw had dropped. Cui Hua seemed about to charge at him, so he shrunk to the side to avoid being cut alongside whoever her would-be victim was, and asked in a small voice, “What happened here?”
“Duke!” Old Gao finally realized that he was there. Glancing quickly at his wife and daughter, the three of them threw themselves at him, wrapping their arms around his legs and wailing, “You have to speak out on our behalf!”
“S-stop this, say whatever you have to say! I’m not a god, I can’t help you with anything!” Writhing in the six desperate arms, Xia Yujin kicked at them, “Dammit! Stop crying, don’t get my clothes dirty! If you keep crying I’m leaving right now!”
Hearing this, Old Gao immediately stopped crying, his expression becoming calm again. He shouted at his wife and daughter to stop as well, telling them to go take care of his son while he picked up a bench from the ground and wiped it, inviting Xia Yujin to sit as he started telling his story with anger.
He had a son called Gao Tianxiang, who was a short man with a pockmarked face. All told, he was a pretty honest fellow, aside from the fact that he had a little bit of an obsession with chess. Every time he saw others playing, he couldn’t stop his own hand and would also play for ten or so coins. Yesterday, as he was cleaning the coat off of a lamb and buying spices, a friend of his made a deal with him to go out and have some fun. When they were passing the Changsheng gambling house, they saw a few people there playing chess and shouting at each other, yet they seemed terrible at chess. Next to them were a few coins, laid there as a bet.
The more he watched the itchier his hands were, and he wanted to join the game.
The person setting up the game said, “Sir Lu here hates the people who bail on their debt. If you’re going to play, then you need to play by the rules. One game, three chess pieces. You’re only allowed to leave after five games!”
Gao Tianxiang thought that five games could only be about fifteen coins, and that was nothing. So he said yes. He waited for the man in front of him to finish his game and leave to start the game quickly.
The first game he lost, although it was close. Out of frustration, he started the second game. But he lost that as well, the third, the fourth…every single round was a loss.
That’s when the man who had been in front of him came back with a handful of paper money. He pushed it to the person setting up the games and smiled apologetically, “Sir Lu’s quite the player, I lost by eight pieces.”
Sir Lu took the money and counted it, then took two bills and handed them to the man behind him, “You won by two pieces, take it.”
Gao Tianxiang saw that every single bill was for a hundred, and began to realize his situation. With a forced smile on his face, he asked, “This…so one piece is?”
Sir Lu spat on the ground, “Of course it’s a hundred per piece.”
The people who had given and taken the money nodded eagerly, their mouths curved in wicked smiles.
Gao Tianxiang’s whole body began to shiver as he jumped up, “I’ve made a mistake, I’m not going to gamble any more.”
That’s when Sir Lu and the few goonies that had helped him set up the gambling plot came over and beat him down to the ground with a few punches, shouting, “We told you that each round was for three pieces, and you’re not allowed to leave until you’ve finished five rounds! You were ballsy enough to enter the game, but are you ballsy enough to leave? You better fucking keep going! Give up all the money you owe us, or we’ll break your arms and legs! There’s no law when it comes to dealing with us, you blind dumbass. When it comes to gambling at the Changsheng gambling house, Sir Lu’s word is the law!”
All the bystanders started to laugh.
His friend who had brought him here had disappeared without a trace a while back.
Gao Tianxiang was dazed and dizzy. Only then did he realize he’d fallen into a trap. Of course he was in no state to finish the game, and was immediately saddled with a debt of a thousand and five hundred, and was forced to write down a receipt for the debt.
Then it came to enforcing the debt. Sir Lu and his goonies came over and smashed Old Gao’s storefront. No matter how hard Old Gao begged, it was no use. In the end, Sir Lu leaned back and threw one leg on top of another, speaking through the silver toothpick in his teeth, “Whatever. If you really refuse to pay up, Sir Lu here’s a good guy. I’ll let you off and let you live. How about this: your homemade lamb is pretty interesting. If you give me the secret recipe, I’ll let you off the hook for your debt.”
That was when Old Gao realized what was going on. A while back, the Drunken Flower Restaurant had tried to take over the lamb dish as their own specialty. They’d sent a few people over to talk, but were turned down each time. After that, they came up with this shady trick to dupe his son.
After Xia Yujin heard this, he thought about it for a while, “Sir Lu…I’ve heard the name before. He works for the Changsheng gambling house. His methods are pretty low. This gambling house, and the Drunken Flower Restaurant…neither of them are easy to deal with. Both of them belong to Count Qi. He’s not so lousy and good-for-nothing as I am, but has a bunch of responsibilities in the court and is highly valued. Plenty of officials are looking to appease him. You’re just a normal citizen, plus this is a gambling affair…there’s nothing to be done about the situation.”
Old Gao sighed, hanging his head, “So we just have to take it?”
His wife and daughter began wailing again.
Hearing their voices rise like squealing pigs, Xia Yujin covered his ears and jumped up in anger, “What the hell are you wailing about? I’m still planning to buy lamb for my wife! Go and light up the stove, stew the lamb a little longer and softer than usual. I want five jin of muscle, bone and meat each. I’ll send someone to pick things up later!” With that, he turned and left.
Coming back to himself, Old Gao immediately slapped his daughter in the head and said with a smile, “Stop howling! Didn’t you hear the duke say he’d be coming for his lamb later on? Hurry up and start the fire, let’s stew slowly and wait slowly.”
It was cold early spring. On both side of the Changsheng Gambling House were the couplets, “Summoning Wealth and Fortune” and “Leaving the Old and Welcoming the New”. Inside, the crowd flowed like a stream. Each of them was so excited that sweat beaded on their foreheads. Mixed with their voices was the sound of dice bumping together, the shouts of those who were either happy or pained, plus the strange mixed flavor of a motley city crowd.
From the distance came a carriage with a silver top, yellow lid, red curtains, complete with a grand procession and all. It stopped slowly at the gambling house’s door.
A bitter-faced servant went up and opened the curtains to reveal the jade-like flawless beauty of the duke, dressed in a white snake-skin suit adorned with a dragon’s rolling body. With a bright smile on his face and a small warming furnace in his hands, he strolled leisurely into the gambling house.
The manager of the gambling house Sir Lu saw the procession from a distance and thought someone was coming to stir up trouble. Coming in a hurry, he saw that the person who had come was no other than the Duke of Nanping, Xia Yujin, a famous second-generation rich boy, and couldn’t help but sigh a long breath of relief. That’s when he recalled that he was also known for his love of gambling. But even so, coming with such a huge procession was unheard of, and Sir Lu remained as confused as ever as he asked, “Coming to play a few hands as well, Duke Xia?”
“I heard the sound of dice as I was passing by. It got me in the mood to play,” Xia Yujin yawned, walking from one end of the gambling house to the other with Lu by his side, glancing around. Finally he came to a stop before a small counter. He watched a few rounds and waited for the dice to stop. When they were about to open the cup to show the number, he felt a tiny bill out from his pocket and threw it at the “small” side of the counter. “I’ll play a few hands too. How about fifty?” he said happily.
The Changsheng Gambling House was one of the biggest in the capital. Many rich young men would end up throwing away a grand on a single throw. Fifty wasn’t a small sum, by any means, but Sir Lu didn’t take it very seriously and said with a smile, “Of course we welcome Sir Lu.” He gestured for the cup to be opened.
The three dice had spun out into 2, 2, 4, adding up to 8. It was indeed a “small” sum.
The dealer took out a bill of fifty and passed it to Xia Yujin.
That was when Xia Yujin suddenly exclaimed out loud, smoothing out the bill on the table and showing it to everyone around him with a grin, “I accidentally mistook the bill, and ended up throwing down a thousand! I can’t believe I won, haha! What good luck!”
Sir Lu’s face immediately went pale as as a sheet.
“If you’re willing to play, you have to be willing to lose,” said Xia Yujin, patting his shoulder comfortingly, “It’s a rule of the game: anything you put up can’t be taken back. There are always winners and losers. You just got unlucky this time. I don’t want to upset you though, so I’ll stop playing for now. How does that sound?”
The Changsheng Gambling House belonged to Count Qi. A loss of two or three hundred was one thing, but a thousand at once? Sir Lu would undoubtedly be scolded thoroughly. He needed to find a way to win all the money back. His mind spinning quickly, he noticed that Xia Yujin was about to leave and immediately went and stopped him.
“Who plays just one hand and leaves the gambling house?” he said with a smile, “Wouldn’t that make me seem like an inept manager and a terrible host? Duke Xia, you must play a few more hands.”
Xia Yujin smiled back. “You’re really asking me to stay?”
Sir Lu kept smiling, “Of course. A duke arriving at our humble location is nothing but an honor.”
Xia Yujin “hesitated” for a while, but finally announced, “Whatever. I’m having a lucky day today, and I have no fear of me being scolded. Your gambling house is quite intriguing, so I’ll just stay and play a few hands!”
Sir Lu hurriedly called people to wait on the duke, and called the best dealer in the whole gambling house over, while he oversaw the whole thing himself.
Lowering his head, Xia Yujin had several big bills in his hand. When the dice settled in the cup, he threw two thousand at the “big” side. After a moment’s thought, he flipped out another two hundred’s worth of change from his pockets and threw those on as well.
The dealer began to shake a little.
Seeing this, Sir Lu’s forehead began to bead sweat, “Duke Xia…this…isn’t this a little too much?”
Xia Yujin said without a worry, “Not an issue. I love the thrill of it all. I’ll just put all my money into the game, the more the merrier! Hey! Your dealer keeps dragging this thing out. Is he planning on cheating or something?”
Seeing that something interesting was happening on this side of the house, the other gamblers came over. They were all seasoned gamblers, and were staring at the dealer’s hand hard, chanting for him to open the cup.
With nothing left to do, the dealer had to open the cup. It was one five, one six, one three, and counted up to fourteen points. It was a “big” sum.
Everyone started whooping and celebrating at once.
Sir Lu almost fainted on the spot. Darkness flashed before his eyes in that moment.
Taking all the money that was now his, Xia Yujin chanted as well, “Continue!”
Grinding his teeth together, Sir Lu growled, “Continue!” He gave the dealer a look, signaling for him to leave so that he himself could go on.
He just refused to believe that this kid’s luck was so good!
The first, eighteen points, full win to the house and none to players.
Xia Yujin didn’t put any money down.
The second, twelve points, full win to the house and none to players.
Xia Yujin didn’t put any money down.
The third, nine points, full win to the house and none to players.
Xia Yujin still didn’t put any money down.
The fourth, Sir Lu couldn’t take it any longer and didn’t dare do another full win. He decided to go with two threes, one five, for a total of eleven, a “big” sum.
Xia Yujin didn’t budge for a long time, and he let out a sigh of relief. Right when he was about to open the cup, Xia Yujin called out, “Hold up,” and immediately stacked four thousand five hundred onto the “big” side.
Nine thousand total. It was worth three months’ profits of the gambling house.
“What good luck, what good luck!” Xia Yujin laughed innocently as he counted his money, “Last night the gods sent me a dream, said I was due for some good gambling luck today. Seems like it was real!”
Sir Lu finally realized that he had bumped into a huge troublemaker. The duke was a gambler like no other, and probably had some kind of strange trick he didn’t know of. There was no way he could defeat him. Right then and there he apologized to him with a stiff expression and asked him to please leave.
Putting away all his bills, Xia Yujin asked coldly, “You asked me to stay. I’m staying until the end. You better accompany me! Let’s continue gambling!”
Sir Lu’s body shuddered in anger, “The Changsheng Gambling House has no more money today! No more gambling!”
“Then give me a receipt,” said Xia Yujin coolly, “Sell some sons and daughters and you’ll be able to repay the debt.”
“Are you going to force me to keep gambling even if I have no money?” demanded Sir Lu.
Throwing one leg over the other, Xia Yujin’s smile turned sly, “I’m here to do exactly that!”