Book 3 Chapter 7 – Brothel and Casino in One
The two boys ran to a side alley. From here looking out, they happened to see the wall and the main gate of Cuibi Lou that was owned by Xiang Yushan’s old dad. There were layers of courtyard on the inside, in term of scale, it was definitely above Yihong Courtyard.
Following the setting sun in the west, the sky was gradually turning dark. The lanterns of Cuibi Lou were lighted, giving the two boys some kind of romantic, yet mournful feeling, reflecting the two boys’ uneasy mood.
Out of habit, the two of them sat on the ground with their backs against the wall. After staring blankly for a long time, Kou Zhong gnashed his teeth and said, “That woman [again, used derogatorily; also in subsequent references to ‘woman’ below] is very ruthless, unexpectedly she really wanted to take our lives, completely ignoring the fact that we are her benefactor.”
“She did not want us to fall into Ol’ Die’s hand,” Xu Ziling said, “So what do we do now? We promised that kid Li Shimin that we are going to wait for Madame Dong Ming’s arrival. But now Ol’ Die’s people already knew where we are. If we don’t leave now, what are we waiting for?”
“Our little life is important,” Kou Zhong said, “Let that Li kid blame us, but we must immediately leave town, and go the farther the better. And then we’ll look for Susu Jie at Xingyang. Her Miss has already been captured anyway, so we can take her back to the south, where she can join our Shuanglong Bang [two-dragon clan] in trading salt in peace and quiet.”
Xu Ziling forced a smile and said, “If we just leave the town in big style like this, if that stinky woman did not catch us, we would be just like a sheep offering itself into Ol’ Die’s tiger mouth. The best course of action right now is to find a place to hide, and then at midnight we will try to climb the city wall to escape. Relying on our current skill, if we have things like rope and hook, we should be able to make it.”
“More and more I found out that you, this kid, have a brain like mine,” Kou Zhong praised, “Come! There is plenty of money in our purse, while the sky is not completely dark yet, we quickly find a hardware store to buy hooks. As for rope, to steal some is not a difficult matter.”
After making up their mind, their spirit was aroused; they came out to the street at the other end of the alley and stealthily walked along the main street, but soon discovered that other than wine shop and pleasure houses, other stores had already closed.
Kou Zhong suddenly had a bright idea, “We’d better look for that Xiang Yushan for help, that kid seems to have a little yiqi [spirit of loyalty and self-sacrifice, code of brotherhood]. Right now there are friends meeting with misfortune, he should not be shirked without dishonor.”
Xu Ziling was doubtful, “Is he that kind of person?” he asked.
Kou Zhong wrapped his arm around his shoulder as they turned into another side street and walked toward the direction of Cuibi Lou. He said bitterly, “This is called we are at the end of our rope, without any choice we have to ignore what kind of saint he is, and simply consider him as a good saint. Worst yet, we are also wanted criminals; reporting to the authority is tantamount to committing suicide. Besides, who knows if those government officials are not in cahoots with the stinky woman or Ol’ Die? Right now I don’t dare to trust anybody.”
Xu Ziling spoke in distress, “After hearing that stinky woman speaking about the girls in pleasure houses, I really do not wish to go to brothel anymore. Is there any other way?”
“The other way is digging a tunnel,” Kou Zhong replied, “But please forgive laozi for not accompanying you. Don’t be so easy to be influenced by other people, will you? Don’t forget that at Yangzhou, all those ladies that we know voluntarily sell their bodies to earn money. Don’t those so-called government officers also prostitute themselves to be the Emperor’s lackeys? At least being a lady you won’t easily have your head chopped. Ha! We are here!”
The two boys crossed the busy street clamoring with horses and carriages racing against each other. The decorative lanterns were hung high, shining their light on the people coming and going on the street; it was indeed very lively. However, because the two boys have witnessed the brutal scene of war, they had a feeling that all these liveliness was but a fleeting moment.
Upon reaching the main gate, they waited for a gorgeous looking carriage galloping inside, and then trailed behind it. Six, seven doorkeepers stepped forward to meet them. Seeing the two boys’ bright and neat clothing, and spirited expression, they did not dare to be negligence. One of them spoke respectfully, “Welcome Gongzi, your presence honors us; I wonder …”
Kou Zhong knew what to expect; he casually stuffed a string of coins into his hand. Assuming a young tycoon air he spoke arrogantly, “We are your honorable Xiang Yushan Gongzi’s old friends. Have Yushan arrived?”
The men felt even deeper veneration for them; the man who spoke earlier hastily said, “Xiaoren [little/lowly one] He Biao, two Gongzi, please follow Xiaoren.”
Kou Zhong puffed up his chest and said, “Lead the way!”
He Biao bowed respectfully with cupped fist and turned around to lead the way.
The two boys followed him passing through a spacious square where at least a row of ten carriages could park, toward the main building. As the reached the bottom of the steps leading to the door, a rather good-looking middle-aged woman with gorgeous dress [orig. lovely scene of blossoming plants swaying in the breeze] met them. He Biao hurriedly stepped forward and whispered a few words in her ear. And then after saluting them, he walked away.
All smiles [orig. brows raised in delight, eyes laughing], the beautiful lady stepped between the two boys, and then with each hand grabbing the boys’ elbows, she coyly said, “Turns out Xiang Shaoye’s good friends. I wonder what are two Gongzi’s honorable surnames and great given names? Ay! Almost forgot, you can just call me Feng Niang [lit. phoenix lady].”
Kou Zhong enjoyed her generous ‘gift of luck with women’ very much; while following her inside, he said, “My name is Zhang Shi, and he is Li Min. Ha! Feng Niang, you are so pretty, you attract us to our death.”
Feng Niang laughed so hard that she was shaking, “Although Zhang Gongzi is young, you are an old hand in the midst of flowers. Don’t flatter people casually! Otherwise if Nujia [lit. slave] wants to entangle you the whole night, you will regret it.”
Casting a coquettish glance toward Xu Ziling, he said, “Li Gongzi is more honest than you are.”
By this time Kou Zhong had completely forgotten about the stinky woman and the old dad; bursting with joy he said, “This kid is only pretending to be an old hand; if Feng Niang don’t believe me, you can give him a try.”
Greatly embarrassed, Xu Ziling said, “Don’t listen to him, I … hey! I …”
In the meantime Feng Niang already pulled them into the main hall, where more than ten clusters of chair were arranged, and she had them sit down in a cluster of chair leaning against the corner. She laughed and said, “No need to say anything, how can I, Feng Niang, make an error of judgment?”
Two young maids, about sixteen, seventeen years old, came out to greet them, to pour tea and offer towel; their service was very attentive.
The two boys swept the room with their gaze, and noticed that there were already more than ten groups of guests in the hall; the atmosphere was very lively.
After instructing the maid to notify Xiang Yushan, Feng Niang’s fawning manner grew without restraint, “Based on two Gongzi’s personality, which girl would not fight over the right to accompany you?”
Xu Ziling also relaxed. He was about to speak when Feng Niang asked to be excused; she stood up and rushed to meet another group of visitors that look like rich merchants.
Kou Zhong told the two maids, “Jiejie, no need to wait on us, we, brothers have a private matters we’d like to discuss.” The two young maids took their leave.
Kou Zhong excitedly said, “Have you ever be well-regarded like this? We’d better stay here tonight to celebrate a wonderful evening; who’d think that we would hide in here? Besides, this grand occasion is bestowed by that Li guy, we might as well wait until tomorrow night to sneak into Dong Ming flagship and do the best for him.”
“Hey!” Xu Ziling stammered, “I don’t know why, but my heart is flustered and panic; I don’t know what to do.”
Kou Zhong sighed. “To be honest,” he said, “I am a bit nervous as well. But there is always first time for everything. Otherwise, how can we be considered real men? Later, we will ask ‘yiqi Shan’ to pick two most beautiful girls and make it clear that they must take up the responsibility to give us ‘guidance’. Hey! But if we just say it like that, won’t we have no face left?”
While the two boys were having tumultuous thought, Xiang Yushan arrived. For some reason, in his ‘habitat’, this fellow was exceptionally confident, not at all like the good-for-nothing appearance he displayed when they met in the street earlier that day. Especially since there were four big men escorting him, he looked completely imposing.
From a zhang away Xiang Yushan had already laughed aloud and said, “What Zhang Gongzi, Li Gongzi, turns out its two renxiong. Forgive me for failing to salute you!”
The two boys noticed his attitude was still sincere, he really lived up to the nickname they have given him, the ‘yiqi Shan’; hence they were relieved and immediately stood up to pay their respect.
After the three of them were seated, Xiang Yushan inquired, “This time two renxiong came to Pengcheng, is there any business you need to attend, or are you just sightseeing, enjoying some scenic spots around here?”
Knowing that he was trying to get a feel of who these two boys were, Kou Zhong laughed and said, “There’s a saying that traveling for ten thousand li is better than patronize ten thousand scrolls of book. We, two brothers, roam to the other end of the world, is precisely to widen our horizon.”
Leaning forward, he continued in low voice, “Frankly speaking, our visit to the pleasure house is also part of our effort to enrich our knowledge. Because this is the first time we visit the pleasure house, our hope is that Xiang Xiong would give direction and take care of us. Hee, hee … ! Xiang Xiong is sensible, most probably I won’t have to explain more?”
In his heart Xu Ziling was full of praise; Kou Zhong indeed have a knack of turning such an embarrassing and reputation-losing matter into something that sounded so natural.
Xiang Yushan suddenly understood; he laughed and nodded his head, “That should be no problem,” he said, “Just leave it to me.”
Chapter 7, Part 2
Jaya, Ysabel, Weed, Anh, HPC, you are welcome. DongBin, sorry to disappoint you, but no. Critical, Sky, another beauty coming up. The Lord's willing, I will post the rest of Chapter 7 within 24 hours.
About slow or fast update, I checked Grundle's original thread, Xlandhenry finished Book 4 Chapter 2. But I seem to remember somebody somewhere (not in Grundle's thread for sure) said that he/she was going to continue. Does anybody know what's going on? Did he/she completed the next chapter?
Here's my plan: chapters 8, 9 and 10 are comparatively longer than the earlier chapters. Let's say one chapter per week, plus another week or so for Book 4, chapters 1 and 2, so I should be able to catch up in about a month, right in time for our moving date. We'll see after that, but I will try my best to update regularly, about once every 2-3 days.
After pondering for half a day, he said seriously, “Zhang Xiong and Li Xiong please forgive Xiaodi [little brother, referring to self] for bringing up deep subject to a comparative stranger, after all, what we, men, seek after in the world is nothing more than wealth and women. I see that two renxiong [dear friends] are men of character, and what you carry is top-quality blade; you are definitely not a nobody. I wonder if two renxiong have any plan for the future?”
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “We are living in the moment [as before, the original was ‘have wine now, get drunk now’]. Right now we only have plan for tonight. As for what will happen tomorrow, we will think about it when we get out of bed. Ha …”
Xiang Yushan laughed a perfunctory laughter and then said, “Turns out you have bottomless money purse, hence you have no worry about tomorrow. Xiaodi is really envious.”
Xu Ziling matter-of-factly replied, “Xiang Xiong is definitely much richer than we are; we just recently made a business deal, so the cash in hand is rather abundant. After the money is gone, we must start earning money again!”
Xiang Yushan revealed a mysterious smile. “I wonder which line of business the two gentleman do?” he asked.
The two boys were dumbstruck. And then Kou Zhong lowered his voice as he said proudly, “I really don’t want to conceal anything from you, our business is salt. Hey! The kind that does not need to pay taxes.”
“I see,” Xiang Yushan happily said, “No wonder as soon as we met I got a feeling that we are kindred spirits. Perhaps there are more possibilities of cooperation between us later on?”
“Is Xiang Xiong also in transporting salt business?” Xu Ziling asked in astonishment.
“Compared to salt business, it is more ‘small capital, huge profit’, easy-to-get-rich kind of business,” Xiang Yushan calmly said, “But please forgive Xiaodi for temporarily keeping the climax of the story to myself. I’ll wait until two gentlemen enjoy all kinds of pleasure my Cuibi Lou has to offer, I will examine the grand plan to get rich with Zhang Xiong and Li Xiong.”
“So there is a business that is more lucrative than sea sand?” Kou Zhong happily asked, “We will definitely listen with respectful attention.”
Xiang Yushan nonchalantly replied, “Xiaodi still has something I’d like to inquire, and then Xiaodi will take gentlemen to broaden your horizon.”
The two boys were greatly delighted; they nodded their heads ready to answer his question.
This Xiang Yushan was at most only two, three years older than the two boys, but his demeanor was just like a lot older man who had deep experience of the ways of the world, in just a few words he had played down the information the two boys wanted to know more.
Xiang Yushan said with a smile, “Right now the world is in chaos, heroes and warriors arose, and gentlemen are definitely Wulin characters who understands the compass and set square of Wulin world. Right now Xiaodi is dying to make friends with gentlemen, I do wish you would inform Xiaodi about your martial school or sect origin, so that we can deal with each other candidly.”
Kou Zhong exchanged an eye signal with Xu Ziling first before answering, “Our martial art skill is actually handed down in a family. Xiao Min’s [little Min] and my dad were escort masters with an office in Yangzhou, but they served far away places, and they were also sworn brothers. Hey! But in one expedition they encountered thieves and thus lost their lives. Hence we went out to roam the world.”
How could Xiang Yushan know that Kou Zhong was simply spouting nonsense? He laughed aloud and stood up, “Gentlemen, please follow Xiaodi!” he said.
Recalling that they were about to receive the most important lesson in their lives, the two boys followed him delightedly.
Both nervous and happy, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling followed Xiang Yushan stepping out of the main building, and only then did they know that the beyond the rear courtyard there were other buildings that look like residence buildings. A gravel path, lined with well-maintained flower gardens on both sides, led them from the main building’s rear door to another big door. This moment there were a lot of people walking back and forth on the path connecting the two doors; it was a very busy path indeed.
Kou Zhong could hear noises coming from the inside, it sounded that there were hundreds of people inside the building. “What kind of place is that?” he wondered aloud.
Immensely proud, Xiang Yushan replied, “This is the biggest casino in Pengcheng.”
Xu Ziling jumped in fright, “But we don’t want to gamble!” he said.
Xiang Yushan laughed and said, “Naturally Xiaodi understood, but throughout the ages brothel and casino are always inseparable. Any place without brothel and casino will not thrive. The reason our Cuibi Lou can dominate Pengcheng is precisely because of the combination of these two businesses, and thus the whole Pengcheng is flourishing. Don’t you want to broaden your horizon? Just relax and follow Xiaodi to increase your knowledge.”
The two boys looked at each other. They began to feel that this ‘yiqi Shan’ was not as simple as he was on the surface. Just like in Yangzhou, the biggest casino was owned by Zhuhua Bang [bamboo flower clan/gang]. Without a strong background, who would dare to touch this kind of big, lucrative business?
As soon as the three of them entered the casino’s main gate, Xiang Yushan loudly said, “These two gentlemen are my friends, you must take care of them well.”
The several big men guarding the door immediately voiced their compliance respectfully.
As they stepped into the casino, a fat man, whose entire body was covered in copper stench, and looked unbearably vulgar, came out to meet them. “Would you like Xiaoren to prepare guest rooms for three Shaoye?”
Xiang Yushan waved his hand and said, “We are just looking around, you go take care of other guests.”
The fat man complied and withdrew.
But Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were just staring agape. It was the first time that they were inside a casino. They saw the gambling tables, the gambling equipment, down to the furniture and furnishing, none was not gorgeous or exquisite. Moreover, the place was very large. Not only it was divided into three sections, front, middle and rear, each section had halls on the left and right, joined together. Therefore, although there were about four, five hundred people there, these gambling halls did not feel crowded at all.
Most striking was that all dealers, down to the women pouring tea and offering tobacco in each hall were all young, alluring girls with jade countenance. And their clothes were sexy; they wore only moxiong [old feminine garment, covering chest and abdomen, similar to modern day tube top] and dudou [lit. belly cover; apron-like undergarment, also only covering chest and abdomen] like red upper garment, and skin-tight green short skirt, so that their jade, lotus root like upper arms and their fair, slender jade legs were completely exposed. When they walked back and forth among the gambling tables, their breasts and buttocks swayed like rippling water, graceful and beautiful, so that the two boys who watched them had their soul shaken and their mind swept away, they were completely stunned.
Funny thing was that Xiang Yushan and the other gamblers seemed to turn a blind eye to these women.
Right this moment two waitresses, whose smile was as beautiful as a flower, came over, offering fragrant tea and some pastries, while also helping Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling to remove their outer clothing.
Not only they were very attentive, their alluring flesh constantly touching and bumping onto the two boys’ body.
Seeing the two boys’ powerfully built body, their fitting leather vest, their broad shoulders and narrow waist, their out of the ordinary might, Xiang Yushan’s eyes lit up. He sighed and said, “Gentlemen’s figure is indeed shapely, certainly it is rarely seen.”
The two waitresses were also staring blankly at the two boys; they looked even more fiery with passion. One of them even embraced Xu Ziling from behind before laughing tenderly and then picked their outer garments and left with the other waitress.
It was the first time that the two boys received such a generous treatment; momentarily their soul melted and their mind turned soft; as for their body, who knows where they went?
Xiang Yushan reached out to stroke Kou Zhong’s leather vest; he said in astonishment, “This is the finest quality bear hide, is only produced in the land of the north, and is pricier than gold. Xiaodi had to suffer untold hardships before obtaining one; I wonder where did Zhang Xiong buy it?”
How could Kou Zhong tell him that it was a gift from Li Shimin? Cooking up some nonsense he said, “Xiang Xiong certainly knows good product. We exchanged salt for these two leather vests with a traveling merchant; indeed they cost more than gold.”
By this time the two waitresses returned, each one pulled the boys’ arms to press them bodies against their prominent and silky breasts with a very enthusiastic attitude.
Xiang Yushan introduced these two women to them, one was called Cui Xiang, the other Cui Yu; and then he said, “Zhang Gongzi and Li Gongzi do not need your service for the time being, they will call you when they need anything!”
Clearly disappointed, the two women went back to work.
Kou Zhong delightedly said, “Now I understand why brothel and casino are inseparable, Xiang Xiong’s Ol’ Die is really business-savvy.”
Xiang Yushan laughed proudly.
Xu Ziling asked, “Do these beauties have Cui as their surname? I wonder what is the history of the Cuibi, two characters, in the name Cuibi Lou?”
Xiang Yushan’s eyes revealed an adoring look as he spoke tenderly, “That was the fragrant name of a ‘thousand-tender, hundred-charm’ beauty; but she is already taken [orig. famous flower has its master/owner], she is our Clan’s dragon head [i.e. boss] Laoda’s most favored concubine.”
Kou Zhong asked in surprise, “Turns out Xiang Xiong is a member of a Clan; I wonder what’s your precious Clan’s great name …”
Xiang Yushan cut him off, “We’ll talk about it later. Come! Why don’t you play a game or two? If you win you can keep it, if you lose I’ll settle the account. Gentlemen, this way please.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling were greatly dismayed by Xiang Yushan’s ‘yiqi’; for the first time they started to get suspicious.
Chapter 7, Part 3
Sorry guys, it's been more than 24 hours, but I just got home, it's been a long day at work. Jaya, HPC, Drak, Ysabel, you are welcome. DongBin, glad you agree with 'the plan' ... Sky, you got that right.
So, nobody has the answer to my question yesterday?
Although the two boys dreamed about making a fortune all day long, it was due to the necessities of life, not because they were greedy for money or addicted to stuffs. They had been drifting along in the marketplace since childhood; they had deep understanding of the principle ‘no one has voracious desire of inexpensive thing’. Not to mention that they recently learned a valuable lesson from their mistake in dealing with their Beautiful Shifu. How could they easily trust this new acquaintance with evasive speech?
Xu Ziling cleared his throat and said, “We are not too interested in gambling; how about calling those two beauties just now to … hey! To … whatever! Is it alright?”
Not showing any concern, Xiang Yushan said, “Speaking about beauty, those two servant girls have not made the cut yet; the most popular in our place are Cui Ning and Cui Zhi, two girls. But you can only see them in the noble guest room [i.e. VIP lounge]. Let us stroll around in here first, later I’ll take you to have a drink and be merry with them! I guarantee gentlemen’s trip would not be made in vain.”
Seeing that he did not pressure them to gamble, the two boys were somewhat relieved. Gladly they followed him passing through the left and squeezing through the right among the jam-packed gambling tables, toward the largest hall in the middle.
By way of introduction Xiang Yushan said, “Our gambling hall was meticulously designed by an expert in five-element principle. One big and eight small, nine gambling halls are positioned based on Nine-Palace formation. The biggest gambling hall in the middle joined together suppressing the eight points of the compass, as a result the color scheme rely mainly on bright yellow, because dark yellow is too heavy and sluggish. There are twenty-five tables, because five is the earth element, and twenty-five is the square of five, the meaning is that the profit will be doubled.”
It was only then did the two boys find out that opening a casino also involved certain knowledge; it was an eye-opener.
By nature the boys were inquisitive. Listening to this interesting topic, inevitably they asked left and right, and completely forgot about those beautiful waitresses who look at them with raised eyebrows and amused eyes.
Xiang Yushan led them toward a table where twenty, thirty people were crowding around it. They watched as the beautiful and alluring female dealer threw the giant dice made of bone into a square bowl, and after covering the bowl she raised it above her head and shook it vigorously. And then she put it down on the table and shouted tenderly, “Honorable guests, please place your bet!”
One after another the gamblers put their bets on the betting board.
Xiang Yushan said, “This is called ‘betting treasure’; if the bet matches the number of dots on the dice, the payment is three times the stake.”
Kou Zhong sighed and said, “The odd in winning is one in six, but to you, the casino, it is five of six. No wonder opening a casino can make a fortune.”
Xiang Yushan laughed and said, “You can also bet on the dice color; the odd is one to one, very even.”
Xu Ziling focused his attention to watch, most people bet on the number of dots, obviously they were all hoping to win triple their wager. That’s why betting on the color of the dice was provided no more as lip service!
“Don’t you want to play a hand or two?” Xiang Yushan prompted.
The two boys just shook their head.
Xiang Yushan simply brushed it aside and led them into the middle hall. Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s eyes immediately brightened. They saw leaning against a gambling table to the left, a beautiful woman, like a red dot in the sea of obscurity, was gambling enthusiastically.
Not only she had picturesque facial feature, the most noticeable thing about her was that the opening of the flap of her gown was extremely low, exposing almost half of her jade breasts and her deep cleavage, so that she looked exceptionally tarty.
The two boys often heard that a lot of people from the northern part of the country have blood relationship with non-Han people, so that in general they were unrestrained by convention. Still it was the first time that they saw a woman openly dressed in such a low-cut dress in public place with numerous people; they could not help staring with mouth agape.
Xiang Yushan smiled wryly and said, “That woman must never be touched. Despite her coquettish charm, she is actually one of the Peng Liang Hui’s [society] three masters, known as Sao Niang [coquettish lady], Ren Meimei. Her martial skill outstanding, she is adept at toying with men, from head to toe she is covered in thorns, and woe is men who run into her. Even I do not dare to mess with her.”
Kou Zhong swallowed a mouthful of saliva; he said in low voice, “What is Peng Liang Society?”
Xiang Yushan was surprised, “You have not even heard of Peng Liang Society?” he asked, “Peng is Pengcheng, Liang refers to Liang Jun [Liang county], sixty li northwest of Pengcheng. Peng Liang Society is one of ‘Eight Clans [bang] Ten Societies [hui]’. Wherever they go, Jianghu people will have to give them some face.”
Finished speaking, he was just about to pull the two boys away, who would have thought that Ren Meimei’s eyes happened to leave the gambling table and look at their direction? Seeing Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling, two people, her beautiful eyes lit up, with coquettish laugh she called, “Yushan, what are you doing staring blankly like a fool over there? Why haven’t you come over and hang out with nujia [again, ‘slave’, a polite way a woman refers to herself]?”
While waving his hand in response, Xiang Yushan whispered, “No matter what she wants you to do, remember to push all the blame to me.” Finished speaking he promptly walked over to her.
As the two boys heard that she was another Bang Hui [clan and society] people, immediately they felt headache. Without any choice they braced themselves and followed Xiang Yushan toward Ren Meimei.
 Servant girl, orig. yatou - girl, can be used both deprecatingly and as a term of endearment.