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The Silver Hook Gambling House Chapter 2

Chapter 2 – Mistakenly Breaking Into a Secret Cave

“This woman is an iceberg, if you want to move her, be careful, your hand will catch frostbite!”

The sparkling-like-wine eyes, the transparent-like-crystal, light-as-a-feather, soft silk gown in apple green. This iceberg-like woman did indeed sit here, opposite to Fang Yufei.

“But you must be careful nonetheless; icebergs are very slippery, you might slip down and fall.”

Fang Yufei was smiling. He smiled as he raised his cup toward Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng also smiled. He laughed hard.

Fang Yufei: “I heard you can laugh even though you are extremely angry?”

Lu Xiaofeng did not stop laughing.

Fang Yufei’s smile turned into a forced smile: “I know you are angry with me; but I have warned you!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “I remember a friend did indeed warn me; he warned me not to climb the iceberg. That friend is called Fang Yufei.”

Fang Yufei’s countenance brightened: “I know you will remember.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You know? Are sure you are that Fang Yufei?”

Fang Yufei sighed. With a bitter smile he said, “Actually I wanted to disguise myself as someone else, but I am afraid I won’t look authentic!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “At least you can disguise yourself as Lu Xiaofeng!”

Fang Yufei’s countenance changed, even his forced smile had disappeared altogether.

Lu Xiaofeng turned his head and laughed: “How about you? Are you that Leng Ruoshuang?”

Fang Yufei suddenly opened his mouth: “She is not surnamed Leng!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You know who she is?”

Fang Yufei: “Nobody knows her better than I do.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Why?”

Fang Yufei: “Because I was there when she was born.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “So she is your Meimei.”

Fang Yufei: “She is Fang Yuxiang.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed again.

The one sitting in between these brother and sister was wearing a very exquisite outfit; his appearance looked very refined, his demeanor was like a highly educated middle-age scholar. His facial features were delicate; his lips red and his teeth white. In his younger days certainly a lot of people would say that he looked like a child. Now that he had advanced in years, Lu Xiaofeng could still say that he looked like a girl.

This man was also laughing.

Lu Xiaofeng was looking at him: “Since she is Fang Yuxiang, you must be the Blue Beard.”

Blue Beard: “Do you have any feng [Phoenix]?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I don’t.”

Blue Beard: “Since Lu Xiaofeng [little phoenix] can have no phoenix, then the Blue Beard can also have no beard.”

Lu Xiaofeng stared at him for half a day. With a bitter smile he said, “What you said make a lot of sense. But I still don’t understand; a man like you, why are you called the Blue Beard?”

Blue Beard: “Operating a gambling establishment is not an easy matter. You don’t want to eat others, but others want to eat you. A man with my look should not have earned his rice from this line of work.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Because others saw your delicate and refined features, they thought you are an easy target to be bullied, so they wanted to eat you.”

Blue Beard nodded and sighed: “Therefore, I need to find another way.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “What way?”

Blue Beard did not answer this question right away; he turned his head around and used his long sleeve to cover his face.

When he turned back, his face had changed, he turned into a dark-faced, bucked-tooth, with thick eyebrows and glowering eyes, man. On top of that, his mouth was covered with a beard, a black with tinge of blue, full beard.

Lu Xiaofeng was startled, but suddenly he laughed and said, “I understand it now. The Blue Beard actually has two personalities. You really have not disappointed me.”

Blue Beard also laughed and said, “Lu Xiaofeng is truly Lu Xiaofeng. You also have not disappointed me.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Oh?”

Blue Beard: “We have calculated before, that sooner or later you will find this place!”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “I did not think that I would be able to find this place.”

Blue Beard: “But you have come.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “That was because my luck was good, I met a boy who can imitate a dog’s bark.”

Blue Beard: “Boys who can imitate dogs’ bark are many.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “But some people not only can imitate a dog’s bark, as soon as they open their mouths, they can produce all kinds of sound!”

Blue Beard smiled: “I know that kind of people; they can imitate the sound or running water, the sound of a carriage going over the bridge, the voices of many people shopping in the marketplace and haggling over the price. They can imitate all kinds of noise very well.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “It seems to me that this person not only can imitate sounds, he also masters ventriloquism!”

Blue Beard said with a laugh, “I did not know you are an expert in this matter.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Out of a hundred different skills, I am an expert in at least 80. It should be easy for a man like me to get rich, it’s a pity that I have one weakness!”

Blue Beard: “Oh?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I like women, especially women who I should not like.” He sighed and then continued, “Therefore, although I am smart and competent, I often fall under a woman’s trickery.”

Blue Beard smiled: “A man who has never fallen under a woman’s trickery cannot be considered a true man!”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “It was precisely because I am a genuine-article-and-reasonably-priced man that I volunteered to be your wife’s bodyguard, to accompany her sitting in that carriage going around in circle. Just like a fool I obediently let her to cover my eyes.”

Blue Beard: “At that time you did not think that she would bring you back here?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “It was not until I met that boy that I thought the night market and the running water were all in someone’s mouth.”

Blue Beard laughed: “Not only this person knows ventriloquism, he can also drive a carriage.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “The sound in that empty room, certainly also came from his lips!”

Blue Beard: “No.”

Lu Xiaofeng was startled: “No? An empty room can also produce sounds?”

Blue Beard: “The empty room is actually located underneath the gambling hall. If the vent is opened, the noise from above will be transmitted down.”

With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “No wonder I could not think of how he could get out of that room!”

Blue Beard: “And now you certainly have figured out why we did this?”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “You intentionally wanted me to be totally disoriented so that I won’t be able to figure out where exactly I was last night, and then you masquerade yourself as me and did all kinds of crime and let me be the scapegoat!”

Blue Beard: “Wrong!

Lu Xiaofeng: “Wrong? Really?”

Blue Beard: “We do not want you to be the scapegoat. Not at all. We only want you to do one thing for us!”

Fang Yufei joined in: “If you are successful, not only we will immediately wash your name clean, we will also give you anything you care to ask for!”

With a cold laugh Lu Xiaofeng said, “What if I want to be your brother-in-law? Can I?”

Blue Beard: “You can.” He smiled and continued, “Friends are like hands and feet, wives are like clothes. You can change clothes anytime you like!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “How many times have you changed?”

Blue Beard: “Only once. I traded four to get one!”

Lu Xiaofeng burst out in laughter: “I am surprised someone like you can also make a losing business deal.”

There were several scrolls of paper arranged on the shelf behind them. The Blue Beard took a scroll and handed it over to Lu Xiaofeng.

Lu Xiaofeng asked: “Who drew this painting?”

Blue Beard: “Li Shentong!” [lit. divine child, a prodigy]

Lu Xiaofeng: “What kind of person is Li Shentong?”

Blue Beard: “He is my former wife’s younger brother!”

Actually, Lu Xiaofeng had received the painting, but as soon as he heard it, he pushed the scroll back. “Other people’s paintings, I might be interested in looking. But this fellow’s painting, no, thank you.”

Blue Beard smiled: “There is no harm in you looking at this painting. Regardless of how dreadful a painting might be, it won’t frighten you to death just by looking at it once or twice.”

With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “I am not afraid to be frightened to death, I only afraid I will die of aggravation.” However, he took the scroll and unfolded it anyway.

To his surprise, the painting was about four women. Three of them were younger; they were picking flower or chasing butterfly. The other woman looked considerably older. She bore the air of a respectable madam, sitting straight underneath a gazebo, as if she was watching over the other women.

Blue Beard: “These four women were all my wives.”

Lu Xiaofeng looked at the four women in the painting, he also looked at Fang Yuxiang. “Looks like your business dealing is not a total loss after all,” he muttered.

Blue beard: “My ex-brother-in-law did not fear neither the Heaven nor the Earth, but he fears his Jiejie. When he drew this painting, obviously he did not dare to draw his Jiejie too ugly, but he drew the other women a bit uglier instead. Just by looking at this painting, although you meet them, you might not necessarily able to recognize them.”

Lu Xiaofeng stared at him: “Why would I want to meet them?”

Blue Beard: “Because I want you to find them.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “So you want me to find women who you yourself did not want anymore?”

Blue Beard: “I just want you to ask them and get one thing for me.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “What thing?”

Blue Beard: “Luocha Tablet.” [Luocha is a demon in Buddhism. I haven’t read the White Hair Demoness by Liang Yusheng, but I believe this is the same Luocha as in Yu Luocha, the title character.]

Lu Xiaofeng knitted his eyebrows; his countenance seemed to change a little bit. He had never seen the Luocha Tablet, but he had heard about it.

The Luocha Tablet was a piece of jade tablet, an ancient jade tablet which was probably thousands of years old. Its worth was said to be comparable to the amount of money paid by the king of Qin in exchange to Yan Kingdom’s eighteen fortified cities [not sure about this part].

The jade tablet was actually not too big. The front surface was engraved with seventy-two demons and twenty-six evil spirits. The opposite side was engraved with Buddhist scripture. It was said that from beginning to the end, there were more than a thousand characters.

Blue Beard: “Not only the jade tablet itself is already priceless, it is also the treasured object of the Devil Cult of the Western Region. To the Devil Cult disciples all around the world, seeing this jade tablet is the same as seeing their Jiaozhu [Cult Leader] personally.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I know!”

Blue Beard: “I am sure you do.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “What I don’t know is how did this jade tablet end up in your hand?”

Blue Beard: “Someone lost to his last penny, so he pawned this thing to me for five hundred thousand taels; but he had lost it all again in one night!”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed: “This person really knows how to lose!”

Blue Beard: “In the thirteen years of the Sliver Hook Casino’s history, he holds the record as the biggest loser!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You did not know who he was at that time?”

Blue Beard: “I only knew he was surnamed Yu [jade], and called Tianbao [the jewel of heavens]. I have never dreamed that he was the son of Yu Luocha of the Western Region.”

Actually, what kind of person was Yu Luocha of the Western Region? Was he a man or a woman? Was he ugly or handsome?

Nobody knew.

Nobody had ever seen his true identity.

But everybody believed that for the last several years, the most mysterious character of the Wulin world, the most fearsome, was undoubtedly him!

Not only his personality and martial art skill were mysterious, he was also the founder of the most mysterious, the most fearsome cult of the Western Region, the Devil Cult.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Was he alone at that time?”

Blue Beard: “Not only he was alone, he looked like one who visited the Central Plains for the first time!”

Among the young people who lived for a long time outside the Great Wall, there was no one who did not want to experience the glamorous life of the Central Plains.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed and said, “Perhaps because it was his first visit that he had fallen just in a short time.”

Blue Beard: “After I recognized his origin, I did not dare to accept his jade tablet, but he insisted that I took it.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “I’m sure he was anxious to win that five hundred thousand taels of gambling capital back.”

Blue Beard: “Actually, he was not anxious to win the money back, he was ready to lose again.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “People who love to gamble would gamble just for the sake of gambling, winning or losing does not make any difference. However, without gambling capital they cannot gamble. Therefore, to acquire gambling capital, a lot of people pawn everything, even their own wives.”

Blue Beard: “It’s just that pawning your wife, you may or may not redeem her, but pawning this jade tablet, there is no other option, he must redeem it. That’s why after I accepted this jade tablet, I was trembling with fear, not knowing where would be the best place to hide it.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “So where did you hide it?”

Blue Beard: “Originally it was hidden inside a secret cash box underneath my bed.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “And now?”

Blue Beard sighed: “Now it’s gone!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You know who took it?”

Blue Beard said, “The secret cash box is reinforced with three iron gates on the outside. Only two people can open it.”

Lu Xiaofeng asked, “Other than you, who else can open it?”

Blue Beard replied, “Li Xia!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Is she the one looking at the painting underneath the gazebo?”

Blue Beard sneered: “She was married to me for more than ten years; I don’t think I have ever seen her holding a book!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “She was married to you for more than ten years; yet you casually sent them away just like that?”

Blue Beard: “I gave them five hundred thousand taels each.”

Lu Xiaofeng coldly said, “With five hundred thousand taels you bought a woman’s several years’ worth of youth. Not a bad business deal, actually!”

Blue Beard sighed: “I also realize that they certainly are not satisfied, hence …”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Hence they stole that jade tablet to vent their anger!”

Blue Beard smiled bitterly: “But she is a bit too harsh. She definitely knew that if I cannot hand the jade tablet over, the people of Western Region’s Devil Cult would surely not spare me!”

Lu Xiaofeng said, “The deeper the love, the more extreme the hatred. Maybe that’s why she wanted your life.”

Blue Beard: “But I don’t want her life at all, I only want the jade tablet back.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Do you know her whereabouts?”

Blue Beard: “She went outside the Great Wall. Probably she just wanted to go north, but for some reason she stopped by Rahasu by the Songhua River [located in Jilin province, through Harbin, a tributary of Heilongjiang] and took residence in that vicinity. I think she is wintering there.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Now it is already the tenth month, and you really want me to travel tens of thousands li [1 li is approximately 0.5km] to that damned place where one’s nose can freeze, to find someone for you?” [Translator’s note: previously, the months were translated into Gregorian calendar’s months, but since the Chinese calendar differs slightly from the Gregorian’s, I decided to keep it as it is, i.e. ‘the tenth month’ instead of ‘October’.]

Blue Beard: “You can always cover your nose with a piece of sheepskin.”

Lu Xiaofeng was silent.

Blue Beard: “If you have any thoughts, you might as well speak up so that we can discuss it together.”

Lu Xiaofeng was lost in thought for a moment before saying, “I only want to say one sentence.”

Blue Beard: “Only one sentence?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “This one sentence has only two words.”

Blue Beard: “Two words?”

Lu Xiaofeng: “See you!”

As soon as he said those two words, he stood up and left.

Unexpectedly, the Blue Beard did not stop him, he smiled instead and said, “You really want to leave? I won’t see you out then.”

Even if he wanted to send him off, he would not have enough time, because Lu Xiaofeng had already leaped over the door like a frightened rabbit.

Outside the door, the two burly men were still standing like a pair of wooden statues. He could still hear Fang Yufei sighed inside the room: “Such a good wine is already prepared, but he walked away without drinking any. It’s a pity, really.”

Fang Yuxiang coldly replied, “There are some people who are tramps by nature. Wine offered in toast they do not want, wine they are forced to drink they would seek.”

Lu Xiaofeng could only pretend he did not hear anything. Within the last month he had gotten himself into too many troubles. He had decided he needed some time to recuperate; he did not want to meddle into other people’s business any longer.

Besides, Ouyang Qing was still in Beijing, recovering from her injuries while keeping company the newly-wed Mrs. Ximen Chuixue, who was going to have a baby.

He had given them his promise that when the snow starts to fall, he would return to Beijing to accompany them eating mutton soup.

Thinking about those pair of affectionate and loving eyes of Ouyang Qing, he decided that first thing tomorrow he would leave for Beijing.

He climbed over the eighteen steps of the stone stairs in just a few bounces of his feet. Although the door at the top was closed, he was confident that he could reopen it.

“The Silver Hook Casino … beautiful iceberg girl … empty room with iron panel … Western Region’s Yu Luocha …”

He was determined to treat all this as merely a nightmare.

Too bad he was not dreaming at all.

He had just pushed the door open when he heard someone was speaking with a laugh outside: “Whatever Seniors want, drinking wine or gambling, just put it in my account.”

A cold voice replied, “Your account? Who do you think you are?”

This man’s voice was so dry and sharp, and very full of himself, as if he was always ready to curse people whenever he opens his mouth.

Lu Xiaofeng sighed. He did not need to look to know who this person was. But he was still unable to restrain himself from taking a peek. With his finger he pulled the painting hanging over the door a little bit. Immediately he saw that old man in green, whose robe was embroidered with a monster, was standing at the front door with his hands behind his back. With flashing eyes he was looking around the room.

Behind him, the one who speaks with a laugh, was Chief Yang, who in normal times always shows off his authority as a government official.

Turning his gaze to the side, Lu Xiaofeng noticed that the other two old men in green had also come. Their expressions were equally cold and indifferent to. Similarly, their eyes were also bright. Both sides of their temples were bulging, just like two meatballs sticking out of their heads. Someone with keen eyesight would immediately realize that internal energy of these men was immeasurably deep.

Where did these three old monsters come from? Lu Xiaofeng heaved a sigh and gently pulled the door close. With a somersault he landed back at the bottom of the stairs.

The two wooden-statue-like burly men watched him as he walked back; there was a glint of laughter in their eyes.

This time Lu Xiaofeng pretended not to see them; he walked back into the room in big strides while calling out loudly, “Hurry up to prepare the wine for me. The one-who-would-rather-drink-forced-wine-over-the-offered-wine-in-toast is coming.”

The wine had already been prepared.

Lu Xiaofeng quickly downed thirteen cups in just one breath. Fang family’s brother and sister, along with the Blue Beard, only watched him drink.

“We already knew you would come back.” They did not say these words; they did not need to say these words.

Lu Xiaofeng downed three more cups before he stopped and said, “Is it enough?”

Blue Beard laughed: “Is it true that forced wine is better than offered wine?”

Lu Xiaofeng also laughed: “As long as it is free, the wine is always good.”

Blue Beard burst out in laughter: “In that case I’ll offer you sixteen more cups!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “You’re on!” Unexpectedly he really drank sixteen more cups, then plopped his butts on a chair. His eyes started at Blue Beard. Suddenly he asked, “Are you really afraid of the Western Region’s Yu Luocha?”

Blue Beard: “I am!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Yet you have the guts to kill Yu Tianbao?”

Blue Beard: “I do not have such big guts. He did not die in my hand.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “He did not?”

Blue Beard shook his head: “But I do know who the real killer is. If you can find the Luocha Tablet for me, I can find the killer for you to be delivered to the Sui Han San You [Three Friends of Eternal Winter]!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Sui Han San You? Aren’t they the Kunlun Mountains’ Great Brightness Mirror, Heavenly Dragon Mountain Cave’s Sui Han San You?”

Blue Beard: “They have lived in seclusion in that place for more than twenty years. I am surprised you still know their name.”

Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “I am also surprised that they are not dead yet.”

Blue Beard: “I am afraid you will be even more surprised to know that they are now the Law Protector Elders of the Yu Luocha Cult of the Western Region.”

[Translator’s note: for some reason this Cult reminds me a lot of the Ming Cult. The original text of ‘law protector’ is ‘hu fa’, with ‘hu’ – protect, and ‘fa’ – religious law; the same characters Jin Yong used in ‘hu jiao fa wang’, with ‘jiao’ means Cult and ‘wang’ means King.]

Lu Xiaofeng sighed: “Unexpectedly he is able to subdue these three old freaks; apparently his ability is truly not bad!”

Blue Beard: “Luckily I have a way to deal with him.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “What way?”

Blue Beard: “First, retrieve the Luocha Tablet and return it to him, then find the killer and hand it over to him, afterwards go hiding as far away as possible and never to provoke him anymore.”

With a bitter smile Lu Xiaofeng said, “Looks like that is the only way.”

Blue Beard: “Therefore, while the weather is not too cold yet, you’d better leave for Rahasu immediately!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Are you sure your Li Xia is over there?”

Blue Beard: “I am sure she is there!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “How do you know?”

Blue Beard: “Naturally I have a way to get the information.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “When I am there, you are sure I can find her?”

Blue Beard: “As long as you agree to go, even if you cannot find her, there will be someone who will lead you to her!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Who?”

Blue Beard: “When you get there, someone will make a contact with you.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Who?”

Blue Beard: “Just go and you will find out!”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Those three old freaks are outside, how am I going to go out?”

Blue Beard smiled and said, “A smart rabbit’s hole has three way outs; this place naturally cannot have only one outlet!”

He turned around and pulled open the pear flower shaped cabinet door on the wall behind him. Immediately a secret door appeared.

Lu Xiaofeng did not wait for anybody to say anything anymore. He stood up and walked away.

Blue Beard: “You do not need to fear they are going to pursue you. Once they know you are painstakingly looking for the Luocha Tablet, they are not going to bump even a single strand of hair on your body.”

Lu Xiaofeng walked around the table toward the secret door. Suddenly he turned his head around and said, “I have something I’d like to ask!”

Blue Beard was listening.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Since Yu Tianbao was the son of Yu Luocha of the Western Region, certainly he was not stupid.”

Blue Beard nodded in acknowledgement.

Lu Xiaofeng: “Then who won his five hundred thousand taels of silver?”

Fang Yuxiang: “I did.”

Lu Xiaofeng laughed.

Fang Yufei sighed: “Too bad easy come easy go. In less than two days, she has lost that hundred thousand taels of silver again.”

Lu Xiaofeng: “Whom did she lose it to?”

Blue Beard: “To me!”

Lu Xiaofeng burst out in laughter. “This is called ‘dragon matches dragon, ‘phoenix matches phoenix, compulsive gambler [orig. ‘du gui’ – gambling ghost] matches compulsive gambler, bedbug matches bedbug’!” He was still laughing hard when he walked out the door. Outside the door there was another multi-paneled door. He reached out and knocked. ‘Ding! Ding!’ It was indeed iron panel.

After walking through the tunnel again, he climbed about a dozen or so stone steps, and already he saw starlight filled the sky.

The stars were shining bright. The night was very deep.

The night breeze was blowing. Suddenly Lu Xiaofeng felt very cold, because he remembered that very soon he would have to take the long journey to the distant place, the eternally freezing Songhua River, the ice-covered Rahasu.

Suddenly he thought the cold was unbearable.

Right now it was still autumn. The end of autumn.

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