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I thought so … skirting it again! Your loach maneuver must be more formidable than Ying Gu's. You are right, I did ignore you. But have you ever stopped to think of the reason? Those readers that you despise so much because they thank me, those are my supporters; borrowing the term that Seattle Seahawk uses, they are my 12th man, cheering me on in this marathon to continue (in case you forget, this is a long story, a lot longer than any other stories I have translated, I do need all the supports I can get). Some others, they offer advice, missing texts, you name it. Some even stand up for me against people like you. But you? What POSITIVE contribution have you brought to this forum? You have plenty of contribution all right, negative ones; snarling left and right at everybody just because we do not succumb to your bidding. And you are wondering why I choose to ignore you? I thought that by ignoring you, you would quietly go away, but I guess I am grossly mistaken. What is it that you want to accomplish? Don't you realize that by doing this you are only alienating everybody? I said it, and I will say it again: I actually feel sorry for you. Are you doing what you are doing because of other personal issues that you vent in this forum?

I wrote the above yesterday morning, before I saw Ren Wo Xing's post, just because I wanted to see how he would react to my 'challenge'. I always felt bad because I thought I should not be distracted by negative comments like that, but I am glad to find out that I am not the only one.

Anurman, Ysabel, HPC, you are welcome. Akolaw, thanks, indeed some of those gambling terms can be found on Wikipedia, see my note in Chapter 10. Some others, unfortunately, only in Chinese (either baike baidu or Chinese wiki). Eccentric, I don't recall seeing your name here, so … welcome. Jaya, I received your email, glad you are feeling better. To the other readers, Jaya has been hospitalized for quite some time, so let's welcome him/her back. Ren Wo Xing, welcome back, and thanks. Xiaohu, you are so naughty. Morbiuzz, actually Ren Wo Xing has just stopped him, although only for 2 weeks. Bchin, Lance, always appreciate your support.

I think I like Hu Xiaoxian. She likes Xu Ziling not because of his outward appearance, but for who he is. This is a short chapter, the Lord's willing, next part tomorrow. Don't say that I did not warn you.

Book 26 Chapter 12 - Ten Gambles Nine Cheats

Closing the door of the VIP lounge, Yun Yuzhen said, "Nobody can hear us now; these walls are specially made, it can stop noise from leaking out, disturbing other people [Translator's note: the sentence stopped here. I checked all four of my sources, and they are all the same.]

Xu Ziling sat down and asked, "Does Zha Hai know who I am?"

Yun Yuzhen sat down on his left, and then said, "Naturally I would never tell him you are Xu Ziling; I just told him that you and I knew each other, and that we have a little friendly relation between us. I always have a wide circle of friends, so he will never be suspicious. Nobody has ever thought that Ziling's gambling skill is this formidable."

Heaving a deep sigh, Xu Ziling said with a wry smile, "Is there anything good to say between us?"

Yun Yuzhen was silent for half a day. Finally she asked in soft voice, "Is Kou Zhong coming with you?"

Xu Ziling sensed that he could not trust her anymore; shaking his head, he said, "I came with a friend, but not Kou Zhong."

Yun Yuzhen stared at him; biting her lower lip, she said, "That night at Baling, why did you not kill Xiang Yushan and me?"

The load in Xu Ziling's mind was evoked, his tiger-eyes shot grieved expression; shaking his head, he said, "I don't know! I really don't know! If I could not harden my heart toward Xiang Yushan, I could not make my move against you even more. Ay! Even until now, I still don't understand why you want to help Xiang Yushan to harm us?"

Yun Yuzhen hung her head low and spoke in distress, "If you believe me, that's good, if you don't, that's all right too, but I never expected that things would go this far. Plus I, Yun Yuzhen, also suffer the retribution; I found myself utterly isolated [lit. people rebelling and friends deserting (idiom)]. Jukun Bang's name remains, but the reality is gone; day in and day out I am living my life like a walking corpse, so much so that I hate myself. I am thinking that rather than passing the rest of my life in pain like this, death would be much better. I have been completely defeated."

Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "But on the surface you still appear to be well-off!"

Shaken, Yun Yuzhen said, "To Xiang Yushan, I am just a plaything which value lies in the usefulness that he could exploit. And now my usefulness has decreased substantially, and by his side there are beauties surrounding him like a cloud, and his riches can overturn a nation; why would he still want me, Yun Yuzhen? My only regret is that it was only today that realize it. Xiang Yushan's martial art skill is nothing to be talked about, but speaking about crafty plots and machinations, he is an expert among the experts. Your firsthand experience on this regard ought to be more profound than mine."

Xu Ziling mused inwardly that it was indeed too profound. He spoke heavily, "How's Xiang Yushan's recent development?"

He was deliberately pretending that he knew nothing about Xiang Yushan's situation, to see if Yun Yuzhen was still defending him.

Yun Yuzhen replied, "Since the Great Liang's army's grand plan of advancing to the north has been crushed by you and Xiao Zhong, Xiang Yushan no longer thinks highly of Xiao Xian; he retired with the pretext of being sick. The fact is that he wanted to separate himself from Baling Bang, and wanted to establish his own business empire by relying on his Xiang Family's more than twenty years of hard work in operating their business. Because he is afraid of your revenge, even I do not know where he is."

Xu Ziling mused that this was probably the real reason you woke up. He said, "Xiao Xian is not a lay practitioner of Buddhism [i.e. good person]; how could the Xiang Family, father and son, say they are going to leave and simply leave?"

Yun Yuzhen replied, "This is a big puzzle for me. My guess is that there is some kind of mutually beneficial agreement between the two sides; in case the troops are defeated, Xiao Xian could still enjoy the Xiang Family's riches and honor without any harm. Ay! If you have never had a chance to pass your days in riches and honor and power, it is still all right, but after tasting riches and honor and power, it is hard to return to ordinary life! The feeling of losing what one has just obtained is the most difficult feeling to endure!"

Xu Ziling began to understand her current desperate mood and wretched state. Sighing lightly, he asked, "So what are you going to do?"

With tears gushing out of her eyes, Yun Yuzhen hung her head low, shook it, and said, "I don't know; I already do not have anything at all. I don't want to think, or even talk about it. Thinking about it seems to drain all the strength from my body. Ay! Please just kill me!"

Smiling ruefully, Xu Ziling said, "If I could do that, I would have done it long ago."

Wiping her tears, Yun Yuzhen spoke in low voice, "Are you and Xiao Zhong still planning on going to Guanzhong?"

Xu Ziling remained silent.

Yun Yuzhen said, "Xiang Yushan intentionally sent out his people to broadcast this information, so that nobody under the heavens does not know it. If you cannot cancel this trip, you must be extremely careful. Simply because you and Xiao Zhong have body type and bearing that are one in a million; very easy to recognize."

Deep hatred toward Xiang Yushan welled up in Xu Ziling's heart; he thought that even though he could not harden his heart toward Xiang Yushan, but if he could expose his Xiang Family's shady business in human trafficking and harm him until he lost his family fortune and destroy his casino, it might make him suffer, which was more unbearable than simply killing him.

"Ziling, could you make arrangement for me to see Xiao Zhong?" Yun Yuzhen asked.

"It would be best if you don't see him," Xu Ziling replied, "He definitely does not have any good thing to say to you."

Yun Yuzhen forlornly said, "I have nothing else to fear."

Xu Ziling rose up to his full height and said, "Let me talk to him first! How do I find you?"

Lei Jiuzhi watched as Lai Chaogui put thirty taels of gold on the table; turning his eyes toward Liu An, he said, "Where's your gold?"

Liu An took out eight taels of gold from his pouch; he said, "If Chen Ye can win my gold, Xiaoren will be immediately out of the game."

Lei Jiuzhi shook his full-of-white-hair head; his excitement rose up, he shouted, "We take turn rolling the dice and shuffling the tiles!"

Ling Gu pushed the deck to the middle of the table to let the four men shuffle the tiles. Immediately continuous clickety-clack was heard, the atmosphere was blazing hot.

Watching the two men's hand movement, Lai Chaogui knew that Kou Zhong was obviously a novice, while Lei Jiuzhi was not going anywhere either. Greatly delighted, he said, "Chen Xiong, how do you want to play it? I have a good proposal, which will make gambling even more enjoyable."

Knitting his brows, Lei Jiuzhi shook his head and said, "Whatever the gambling format is, that is how we are going to play; how could we change it randomly?"

Lai Chaogui signaled Liu An; in turn, Liu An signaled Kou Zhong. Kou Zhong had to struggle not to laugh. He said to Lei Jiuzhi, "Let's hear what Jia Xiong has to say first, and then Chen Lao [old Chen] can decide. Naturally we will comply with your, the Senior's opinion."

Lei Jiuzhi mumbled his response, indicating that there was no harm in listening.

Lai Chaogui struggled hard to suppress the ecstasy in his heart; he said, "This gambling method is extremely popular in Jiujiang. Everybody gets eight cards, which you could make into four pairs any way you want. First, do not let other people see it. And then four players turn the cards over at the same time. Of course, big and small still follow card rule. In order to determine the biggest, count the points of the cards that do not form a pair. If it is more than ten, we only count the remainder. For example, regular five and regular six [orig. ma wu and ma liu, respectively, no idea what it is] make a total of eleven points, but it is only counted as one. If the sum of two cards' is ten points, then it is a 'chang shi' [lit. overcoat ten], a definite lost. This method is simple and easy to understand."

Under Liu An's signal, Kou Zhong hastily agreed; he said, "Betting this way is definitely extremely delightful; it should be settled appropriately."

Lei Jiuzhi watched attentively at Ling Gu's skillful hands staking the tiles for everybody; albeit reluctantly, he said, "All right! But if anybody can seize total victory with four sets of cards, the win will be doubled. If the banker seizes total victory, the other three players will also pay double. We may even take turn to be the banker."

Ling Gu laughed tenderly and said, "Chen Laoban indeed has heroic spirit; this kind of gambling is very exciting!"

Lei Jiuzhi took out half an ingot of gold and stuffed it into Ling Gu's hand, while stroking her cheek in passing. Chuckling, he said, "Niang'er's [young lady] mouth is really sweet."

Lai Chaogui and Liu An noticed that he still had some gold in his pouch, which he lavishly spent, in a 'throwing away a thousand gold without hesitation' style; their hearts were burning like a blazing coal.

Ling Gu's eyebrows blossomed, her eyes laughed; she leaned close to Lei Jiuzhi and whispered in his ear expressing her thanks in tender voice oozing with flirtation, before rolling the dice on the table to determine who would be the banker first.

The game finally started.

Xu Ziling returned to the gambling hall. Lin Lang came to his side and said in low voice, "Lai Chaogui is inside!"

Xu Ziling asked in low voice, "Is there any place we can hide? Right now we are too exposed."

Lin Lang gave him an address, saying, "It would be best if Gong Ye can leave one step earlier, Gongliang Ji is there, waiting for our good news."

Xu Ziling nodded his agreement, and walked in the direction of the main door. Suddenly someone came toward him from the side, followed by a whiff of fragrance. By the time he saw clearly that it was the beautiful and alluring, tender and charming Hu Xiaoxian, this beauty, who was born of gambling influential family, was already on his left, walking alongside him. She laughed and said, "Gong Xiong has a startling-the-world skill, yet Nujia has never heard Gong Xiong's name; isn't that very strange? Where did usually Gong Xiong make your fortune?"

"It's just insignificant talent plus a bit of luck mixed in it, how could it deserve to enter Miss Xiaoxian's discerning eye?" Xu Ziling modestly replied, "Ol' Gong has always been moving about Yun Gui region, and rarely came to the Central Plains."

Hu Xiaoxian lightly pulled his sleeve, steering him toward the corridor leading away from the first hall, toward a fishpond outside. She smiled and said, "Xiaoxian has no hostility at all toward Gong Xiong, I am just curious! Gong Xiong must not take any offense."

Seeing she was so courteous toward him, Xu Ziling started to have good impression on her; he asked, "Does Miss Xiaoxian want to know which family, which sect I was coming from?"

Hu Xiaoxian shook her head and said, "That is Gong Xiong's personal secret; even if Xiaoxian wanted to know, it is inconvenient for me to inquire. I just wanted to know if Gong Xiong is going to participate in the Tian Jiu gambling meet tomorrow, because Xiaoxian still could not accept my lost."

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