The sudden upset caught Mu Linger off guard. She forgot to duck, but Gu Qishao’s hand swept up and over from his armrest at the last possible second to knock the bowl back towards Manager Jin. It smashed against his head before falling to the ground and shattering into pieces. Manager Jin’s head immediately started bleeding as blood trickled down his face.
Everyone grew alarmed. If Manager Jin’s act had been an accident, then Gu Qishao’s was definitely on purpose! They could tell from his head wound how much strength Gu Qishao had used against the bowl. While the crowd was still reeling, Gu Qishao rose to his feet and said coldly, “What’s the meaning of that? If you can’t afford to play, you hurt people? Who were you trying to bully?”
His words made everyone realize that Manager Jin’s slap hadn’t been an accident at all. But the man didn’t panic, merely took out a gray handkerchief to lightly wipe away his blood. He then pressed the cloth against the wound to stem the bleeding. “Sir, you’ve misunderstood. Just then, this one made an accidental slip. I never meant to hurt anyone, much less bully them. Sir and I have yet to determine a victor, so why wouldn’t I be able to afford playing with you?”
“An accidental slip?” Gu Qishao snorted.
“Indeed, it was an accident. So many eyes were watching. My Thousand Gold Pavilion doesn’t need to resort to such tricks, do we?” Manager Jin said sincerely.
Most of the crowd still favored Manager Jin, since he was well matched with the black-robed man and had no reason to stop the gambling on purpose, much less injure someone. Gu Qishao was inwardly doubtful as well. Manager Jin would only cost himself losses if he hurt anyone, so he wouldn’t act so stupidly.
Was it really just an accident?
Coldly, Gu Qishao said, “No matter whether it’s an accident or not, you have to pay the price for alarming my lass!”
“That’s a matter of course!” Manager Jin was waiting for this very chance. He ignored his own injury and approached Mu Linger before giving her a heartfelt bow. “Madam, I was careless just then and scared you. I ask this Miss to forgive me. If you need any compensation, Miss can say what she needs.”
At this, many women around them grew jealous. Manager Jin was a famous beauty amongst the men of the black markets. Calm and introverted by nature, he was also low-key and mysterious. It was difficult to even find him for casual conversation on a normal day, but this little girl had the luck to get such a generous gift from him--and compensation to boot.
“Little Miss, how about having Manager Jin accompany you for a day around the black markets as payment? Haha.”
“Aiya, little Miss, a chance miss is a chance lost! Think it over carefully, it’s not anyone who can have an appointment with our Gentleman Jin.”
“Little Miss, how about this big sister pays you 100 million so you can give the chance to me instead?”
As the cries of the crowd grew around them, Manager Jin pretended not to hear a thing. He was still bowed at a 90 degree angle, his head down before Mu Linger. The entire reason for creating that accident was to find a chance for him and Mu Linger. Gu Qishao wanted this exact attitude from the man since he was dissatisfied with all of Myriad Merchant Hall. Why let the opportunity slip? Loudly he said, “Little lass, since Manager Jin’s so sincere, you should speak up about whatever you want.”
Mu Linger had been smiling like a fool for ages beneath her veiled hat. She loved the feeling of being protected by Qi gege. After knowing him for so many years, he’d never paid her so much attention before.
“Manager Jin, I don’t need any compensation. As long as you agree to one thing for me, I’ll forgive you,” Mu Linger said seriously.
Manager Jin raised his head with a slight smile. “Miss, please speak.”
Delighted, Mu Linger cried, “Just admit defeat to my Qi gege, that’s all!”
Silence greeted her words, but it was quickly replaced by explosive laughter. Everyone was thoroughly amused. No one was familiar enough with the “Qi gege” moniker to give it any thought, but assumed that the black-robed man was the girl’s seventh older brother.
Beneath his mask, Gu Qishao was all smiles as well. Linger, that lass. She’s always so adorable.
Manager Jin’s mouth twitched a few times before he regained his calm with another small smile. “Miss really knows how to joke.”
Mu Linger turned serious. “I’m not joking. If you won’t agree, then call out your people in charge. I’ll complain! I’ll switch you for someone else!”
Manager Jin’s eyes flickered with surprise as he realized he’d underestimated her. Although she was simple-minded and direct, that didn’t make her stupid. If he was switched for someone else, then no one would be able to compete against Gu Qishao’s gambling skills in all of Thousand Gold Pavilion. Judging from how easily he’d tossed in the gold card, Gu Qishao would play until he ran Ning Cheng’s coffers dry.
“Miss, victory or defeat hinges on skills. I believe your Qi gege won’t accept it if I admitted my loss, so I ask--”
“As for me, I have no objections,” Gu Qishao interrupted. “As long as it makes my lass happy.”
Mu Linger couldn’t help but laugh out loud, while Manager Jin’s expression darkened. His net had ended up snaring himself. What could be more depressing?
“Manager Jin, my Qi gege doesn’t even have any objections. What else can you say? Either admit your losses or call out the bosses,” Mu Linger said resolutely.
None of the crowd dared to raise their voices now. The older women were all looking at Mu Linger with increased respect. After all that excitement, it seemed that everything had finally calmed down, but Manager Jin quickly stirred up the crowd again. He bowed towards Mu Linger with a small smile and said, “Alright, count this round as my loss. I ask forgiveness for my wrongdoing, Miss.”
Further silence greeted this words. Everyone thought they’d heard wrong, even Mu Linger and Gu Qishao. They never expected Manager Jin to really admit his losses, but were simply pressuring him at most. In the stillness, Manager Jin took out a single gold card and showed it for the crowds to see. Then he placed it on the table and pushed it across--along with Gu Qishao’s own card. Despite this, he maintained a smile as he said, “Sir, you’ve won this round. These are two limitless gold cards, please take care of them both. If you’d like another round, this one shall accompany you anytime.”
Finally, the crowd exploded into a mix of discussions, exclamations, and shrieks. Mu Linger could hear multiple people complaining about how unfair this was to Manager Jin, and that the gold card wasn’t property of Thousand Gold Pavilion, but his own. Mu Linger could believe that. After all, the accident just then had been Manager Jin’s own fault, so there was no way Thousand Gold PAvilion would take responsibility for his actions. Meanwhile, the man had admitted his loss without discussing anything with Ning Cheng beforehand. It was clear he’d taken matters into his own hands. Seeing his sincerity suddenly made her feel sorry for him.
On the other hand, Gu Qishao easily accepted the cards and tossed one to Mu Linger. With a smile, he said, “No need to admit your loss. But you should still pay compensation.”
Gu Qishao knew there had to be more to Manager Jin’s actions, but he too was surprised by the limitless gold card. Looks like Ning Cheng dotes on this Manager Jin a lot!
More discussions followed in the wake of Gu Qishao’s comment. Mu Linger held the gold card while feeling a little perturbed. Manager Jin smiled at Gu Qishao and said, “Since there’s no need to admit losses, shall we continue?”
Manager Jin had ample grounds to refuse Mu Linger’s request, but he was willing to part with a limitless gold card to win the girl’s good graces. Moreover, with the card in her hands, he had more excuses to get closer to her. Ning Cheng told him to deal with this pair in exchange for returning his indenture papers. Once he got that, he’d be a free man again.
This exchange was worth it!
“Of course we’ll continue!” Gu Qishao was in an even better mood than before. The attendants brought over new bowls and dice and the men began another heated exchange. Time passed fast in the gambling house. Soon enough, it was daylight. Ning Cheng and Bai Yuqiao had reached Blacktower already. Last night, she’d sent a letter by messenger hawk to its guards to ask about the situation. As expected, she knew her master best. He hadn’t told the guards she “died” at Tianning’s palace, so these men had no idea. Bai Yuqiao and Ning Cheng didn’t lay in ambush around Blacktower or try to sneak in, but simply strode through the doors. Ning Cheng disguised himself as one of Bai Yuqiao’s retainers and followed behind her the entire way. The head guard of Blacktower was delighted to see Bai Yuqiao again and raced over to greet her.
“Miss Yu’er, you’re finally here. Something big’s happened, don’t you know?”
“What kind of thing?” Bai Yuqiao asked as she headed for Su Xiaoyu’s quarters. Ning Cheng didn’t elicit any suspicion as he followed behind her.
The guard hastened after her as he lowered his voice. “The Perplexing Butterfly Illusion!”
Bai Yuqiao and Ning Cheng were both alarmed by the words. She blurted, “Su Xiaoyu knows of its whereabouts?”
“Exactly! I wanted to tell you, but I couldn’t find you no matter how I tried. Since it’s so important, I alerted the master directly, “ the guard explained in a rush. Bypassing his immediate leader to report the news was a major offense. Now Bai Yuqiao and Ning Cheng were doubly alarmed. They were planning to use the ‘Perplexing Butterfly Illusion’ to lure Bai Yanqing here, but Su Xiaoyu had made her move first!
“When did this happen? Did master reply? Is he coming?” Bai Yuqiao asked urgently.
“Just yesterday. Master should be nearby, because he wrote to say he’s coming over, probably by this afternoon. If he’s fast, he should be here in a bit,” the guard replied honestly.
Bai Yuqiao broke into a cold sweat that soaked her back. Ning Cheng could even see that her hands were shaking. He couldn’t speak, so he only coughed lightly to remind her to stay calm. It’s good that Bai Yanqing’s coming so soon. He’ll save me the wait!
Bai Yuqiao calmed down and asked, “What else did Su Xiaoyu say?”
“That girl is stubborn and insists on waiting for master to arrive so she can talk terms with him,” the guard replied.
Bai Yuqiao dismissed the guards and entered the prisoner’s room with Ning Cheng. There was an outer and inner room on the premises, and Su Xiaoyu was locked within. Guards stood at attention outside. Bai Yuqiao didn’t go to see Su Xiaoyu, but tugged at Ning Cheng and asked with a desperate air, “Master’s about to arrive any second now. What do we do?”Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Today's chapter! Woot!