Definition of an Yiren
A poet had plenty of ways to praise midsummer. There was the proud sun, the sky-shrouding clouds, sun-reflecting lotuses and endless cicada concerts. Even so, nothing was ever more interesting than human beings.
There was practically no gap between people on the busy streets. Everyone out there was running around to make ends meet and put food on the table. Women were constantly calling out for customers. The smell of freshly-prepared sweets gently wafted through the street along the path of their voices and gazes. Instead of the women gaining attention, however, it was the scholar under the tree who seemed to attract more attention.
The business at the end of the street closed their doors during the day, but it was rowdy inside. Anyone was allowed to enter the place irrespective of affiliations. Although one could hear the names of various seafood items yelled perpetually from many different people, they weren’t actually selling any seafood. Whether it was during war or an era of peace and prosperity, whether the ruler in power was wise or a hazard, nothing and nobody could stop gambling.
At the gambling den commonly referred to as “Money Market”, also known as “General’s Platform”, the more reckless and bold one gambled, the bigger of a hero they were. Hence, their most valued customers were the wealthy and big spenders as well as the skilled gamblers. And, unsurprisingly, there were plenty of big spenders at Hangzhou’s famous underground gambling den.
“One thousand taels.”
The maiden’s voice was akin to a blade that flitted through a forest and finished as loud as thunderclap. Her voice ceased the consistent clamouring instantly, drawing all gazes towards her as if it was a matter of urgency, yet not one person regretted hitting pause on what they were doing. A poet had plenty of ways to praise midsummer, but she put midsummer’s beauty to shame.
Even though she smugly took a seat, the upward curve on her rosy lips was universally welcomed. Although she dressed modestly, unlike the women who preferred clothing that emphasised their proud shape and revealed their unblemished skin, she still had men ogling her undeniable curves. Nonetheless, it was her fiery gaze of steel that was most unforgettable.
She played “guess the number”, the most popular and basic game one could play with a dice. While there were cases of people betting over a thousand taels after a dozen games three or four times in a business day, nobody had ever staked a thousand taels right off the bat.
“Miss, are you serious now?”
The banker sneered. “The only differentiations in a gambling den are big and small bets, winner and loser. You sneaked out from your mansion to play, am I right? You can just watch to expand your horizons, Missy. Why stake so much money?”
She just stared back at the banker, yet he gradually felt as if she was going to eat him alive in a game instead of seeing her as the spoilt daughter of some wealthy family.
“I have given my fair warning. I cannot be held accountable for your decisions. We only accept cold-hard cash, no credits. One thousand taels it is.”
She set down a cheque onto the table and tapped it. “Zero.”
That got a couple of surprised reactions out of fellow gamblers.
The banker took a couple of deep breaths before lifting the lid. Lo and behold, it was the lowest possible combination – Zero. In one game, they were going to have to pay out nearly two thousand taels, which was an entire day of their profits.
“Heh, so we have ourselves a hot shot. All right, we lose. Men, pay up. Shut the doors!” ordered the banker.
While one worker pushed money over to her side of the table, other employees started yelling, “We’re closed for business for today. We’re closing up,” as they shepherded customers out despite the customers’ protests. This was all a part of the den’s hidden rules.
The banker held his hands in salute and expressed, “Nothing has or will change. It is our Eternity’s loss today. Please take your prize, Miss.”
She waited in silence until everyone started fidgeting and muttering before silencing them with, “Continue with these three thousand taels.”
“How can a gambling den run away from gambling?!”
“Exactly! If you don’t have the balls to gamble with her, you must well chop your hands off, wussies!”
The banker went silent for a while prior to reaching for the dice shaker cup. Having been in the industry for over two decades, he, needless to say, was an expert, so he wasn’t happy about losing to someone on their first round. His pride as a gambler, therefore, wasn’t helpful against the provocations whatsoever.
This time, he switched between eight different shaking methods to confuse her trained ears. As soon as he set the cup down, he heard her voice, “Four and six.”
The banker lifted the lid, revealing that she was correct. He stumbled back a few steps and bitterly smiled. “This one admits defeat. He has played in the north and south, and he has never met anyone with hearing as superb as yours. He wholeheartedly admits defeat.”
The banker took out a dagger from his sash and extended his pinky finger out on the table. Without a moment of hesitation, he swung the dagger down at his exposed finger. Even though blood gushed forth and his face turned a pallor hue, he, in a shaky voice, said, “Henceforth, I am quitting. I will never set foot in a gambling den again. Men, pay the lady.”
Employees placed another seven-thousand-plus in front of her, only to hear her say, “I’ll stake all seven thousand taels this time.”
An Yiren – It’s “an” because “Yiren” isn’t pronounced “Yeeren” but “eeren”. Maybe I should make a video on how to pronounce the recurring character’s names?