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Akolaw, thanks for sharing. Xiaohu, congratulation, you beat Anurman again. Anurman, it WAS a good guess. We'll find out together. HPC, Ysabel, you are welcome. Lance, thank you, it will be fixed in the Unabridged thread. Sky, I can almost hear your thought, 'if only Ba Fenghan were here as well …'

Book 26 Chapter 10 - Yin Ru Casino

Having just disembarked from the ship, Xu Ziling had a feeling that he was being watched. And then he saw the official boat that Bai Qing'er took. Evidently, at least on the surface, the relationship between Xiangyang's Qian Duguan and Xiao Xian was quite good.

Lin Lang has personally removed any obstruction he might encounter at the city gate by issuing a pass of safe conduct to him just before they landed, so that all he needed to do was to pay the tax and he could enter the city immediately.

Walking along the main street, heavy with endless stream of horses and carriages, Xu Ziling had a feeling that he was returning to the mortal world. This Three Gorges trip would forever be engraved in his heart.

In less than ten steps, Xu Ziling already sensed an unusual feeling, like a bucket of iced water was poured on his head and soaked his entire body. Instantly he reacted by looking at shop on his right. The first thing he saw was a powerful, as bright as lightning, abundant in divine light, fierce and severe without equal - pair of eyes.

And then he saw 'Kou Zhong'.

In that instant, he knew that just like him, after they parted, Kou Zhong had made incredible breakthrough in his martial art skill; he was not the same as the former Kou Zhong.

Kou Zhong was raising his cup to toast him, with a bright, 'ugly' smile on his face.

But this smile could not hide the profound, touchingly strong emotion exuding from his pair of tiger-eyes, brimming with delight, joy, and excitement of meeting again after a long period of separation.

Xu Ziling signaled with his eyes from a distance; he suddenly walked faster and disappeared into a side lane.

Inside the shop, Kou Zhong put down his cup and shouted loudly, "Three taels of silver, I want the table closest to the back door."

After throwing off the people who were following his tracks, Xu Ziling entered the shop via the back door. Kou Zhong already poured him a cup of good wine and waited respectfully for his honored-self's arrival.

One cup of wine gone, the two boys' four eyes met, they looked at each other and then laughed. In this moment, being able to stay alive was indeed a rarity.

Kou Zhong poured another cup of wine for him; lowering his voice, he said with a sigh, "Kid, you are amazing; unexpectedly even the 'Heavenly Lord' Xi Ying was slaughtered under your hands."

Stunned, Xu Ziling said, "Did you develop a pair of tail-wind ears [fig. a well-informed person]? Unexpectedly your information is so fast and abundant."

Immensely proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, "It was Yuzhi who told me. Luckily I told Song Que that Yue Shan is your disguise; otherwise, you, this kid, will be killed by Song Que without knowing what's going on. If you don't see it with your own eyes, you wouldn't know to what extend the awesomeness of his Heavenly Saber; even my eggs were nearly cut off by him."

He has been keeping his belly full of foul language in check, so now he needed to pour out everything.

Smiling wryly, Xu Ziling said, "Unexpectedly you sneaked away to Lingnan to meet the beauty; too bad I have promised Song Yuhua not to let you see her Die."

Staring blankly, Kou Zhong said, "I am not mountain spirit or demon, why would she talk to you about stopping me from seeing her Ol' Dad?"

Although Xu Ziling had thousands of words, he did not know how to bring it up. Changing the subject, he said, "How did you know to wait here for me to enter the city?"

Kou Zhong picked some food and put it in Xu Ziling's bowl. Leaning closer, he said, "When there is an effect, naturally there is a cause. Today, I met face to face on a narrow path with two groups of old friends. One is Yin Gui Pai yaonu yaofu [female demon and witch] who conspired to split your corpse five ways by pulling it with horses. The other group was led by Yun Yuzhen, that stinky poniang [reminder: woman (derogatory)]. Ay! Seeing you alive and well, there is no need for me to have a headache alone."

And then he stared blankly at Xu Ziling, who had become fine-gem like jade, clean, beautiful and lustrous. Lifting his hand holding the chopsticks, he said, "What actually happened? It made you appear like you shed your mortal body and exchanged your bones."

While eating, Xu Ziling said, "It's complicated and not easy to express succinctly. Right now I must hurry to the casino. I'll tell you on the way!"

Yin Ru Ge was located in the heart of the most prosperous business district in Jiujiang, about seven, eight buildings away from Chun Zai Lou where they assassinated Ren Shaoming. The scale was grand. The main building complex consisted of five wooden structures on a central axis, connected to each other by corridors. On both sides of the corridors, there were ponds, mountain rocks, flowers and plants in pots. Outside the main complex, there were more than a dozen smaller buildings, courtyards and residences, in all-the-stars-cup-themselves-around-the-moon configuration [idiom, from Analects: to group around a revered leader] with the five main halls as the core, surrounded all around by high walls.

This moment the entire complex was as bright as white painting; the external wall facing the main street was resplendent with colored lanterns. Outside the main gate vehicles and horses were forming a long queue, as they slowly entered in. The streets in the vicinity were crowded to bursting point with pedestrians; some were there just to enjoy watching the bustling scene, some others, because they did not have enough money to pay the admission fee for the gambling meet, were unable to get in.

Everybody who had 'head and face' in Jiujiang was there; hats and head coverings converged into one place. It was indeed a magnificent and unprecedented event.

Watching the bustling scene outside the main gate from a distance, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were both speechless. Emotionally moved, the former said, "Just like that time we went to Wang Tong's mansion to listen to Shi Qingxuan's flute; history repeats itself, very quickly it has been several years! At that time we were on the run every day. But now, even if Zhu Yuyan and Ning Daoqi came to give us bad luck, we, two brothers, are not afraid of his mother."

Having his bad memory of Shi Qingxuan mentioned, Xu Ziling hung his head and did not say anything.

Kou Zhong thought Xu Ziling was recalling his lot in life, just like he just did, so he did not mind him; he went on, "When we have time later, I must try how formidable your Nine-word Incantation Handprint is."

Putting his worry out of his mind, Xu Ziling laughed and said, "I knew you would not let me get away with it. Don't blame me for not giving you a warning in advance; if somehow my hand slips and I injure you, I don't care how many faces you have, you will lose them all!"

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Kid, stop showing off, your words are too full of yourself. How can I, Kou Zhong, be like Xi Ying, flaunting off his demonic name without restraint, looking impressive but was actually worthless?"

The two have not teased each other for a very long time, so they both found it amusing. After looking at each other and roaring in laughter, they walked toward Yin Ru Ge's main entrance.

From a side alley someone rushed out and blocked their way. He was wearing brocade clothes and gorgeous attire, but his face looked unfamiliar. Kou Zhong was about to bark and cuss, Xu Ziling just saw that this person was Lei Jiuzhi in disguise. "He's a friend," he hastily said, "This is Lei Dage."

Lei Jiuzhi did not know Kou Zhong. After the introduction, he was immediately pleased beyond his expectations to finally meet him. Due to their mutual relationship with Lu Miaozi, naturally Kou Zhong and Lei Jiuzhi hit it off right away.

The three stepped aside into an alley to discuss their grand plan. Xu Ziling asked in surprise, "Didn't Lei Dage say you wanted to force Xiang Gui out using Lei Jiuzhi's identity? Why are you dressed like this?"

Smiling, Lei Jiuzhi replied, "This is Lei Jiuzhi's 'real appearance'; I am using false in place of real. When I am not in 'Lei Jiuzhi' disguise, I can make my nine fingers appear to be ten. Lu Shi was a great master precisely in this kind of trickery, I have a model to learn from!"

"What are you going to play tonight?" Kou Zhong asked, "I hear that the Tian Jiu competition is not going to start until tomorrow night."

Astonished, Lei Jiuzhi said, "Shao Shuai's news is indeed fast and abundant. The difference between tonight and tomorrow night is that the participants of tomorrow night's Tian Jiu competition are by invitation only; people who, if not giant businessmen, then must be leaders of gangs and societies, anybody who has name and surname within the Dulin [reminder: gambling forest] world."

Smiling wryly, Kou Zhong said, "Turns out that little con man used fake token to swindle me; but the fake article looked very exquisite."

Lei Jiuzhi opened up his palm to reveal a round bronze token. He laughed and said, "The real bronze token looks like this."

Stunned, Kou Zhong said, "That's the token, only the number is different."

After listening to Kou Zhong's explanation one more time, Lei Jiuzhi said, "I wonder if Shao Shuai remember the number?"

Kou Zhong laughed aloud and said, "Lei Dage asked the right person. Ling Shao can read ten lines at a glance, but once I see it, I won't forget it. It looked to be … Ha! It looked to be forty-eight. No! Now that I think about it, it ought to be twenty-eight. Yes, I am sure it was twenty-eight."

Lei Jiuzhi said, "If it is indeed twenty-eight, then this is called 'heaven's net has wide meshes, but nothing escapes it' [idiom, from Laozi]." Turning toward Xu Ziling, he said, "The nicknamed 'dian shi cheng jin' ['Midas touch' see Chapter 8] Lai Chaogui's number is precisely twenty-eight."

Xu Ziling could not believe his ears; he said, "You disembarked just a moment before I did; how could you be so quick that you even looked up Lai Chaogui's number?"

Lei Jiuzhi laughed and said, "Under heavy rewards, there must be brave men. The power of this saying is more effective toward gamblers than anything else. The people who came to participate in the gambling meet this time, a lot of them are my old friends. Looking up this kind of thing is just a matter of the exertion of lifting my hand!"

Kou Zhong drew a blank. "Who's Lai Chaogui?" he asked.

Lei Jiuzhi said, "Shao Shuai, please give us the description of that Liu An's outward appearance and body shape. According to reason, based on Lai Chaogui's status and prestige, he could not possibly do such a thing."

Thereupon Kou Zhong described how he looked, as well as what happened then.

Lei Jiuzhi sighed and said, "Indeed this guy's character does not change even if he's dead. This Liu An fellow is Lai Chaogui's 'agent' [lit. middleman]. Before the Tian Jiu meet, he went everywhere looking for a fat sheep on sedan chair. First, they would let you win big, so that you'd think that you are in collusion with him to swindle the other fat sheep's money, while actually you are the fat sheep. This kind of gambling cheat is called 'releasing the kite'. First, they let you win small, afterwards, lose big. After the event, they would even push the blame on you."

Xu Ziling happily said, "Lai Chaogui shouldn't have enough capital to compete tomorrow night!"

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