Chapter 17 – Congratulations!
Big Boss Tang had awoken, and her eyes were open, but in front of her was a sheet of darkness. She couldn’t see a thing. It was as if her eyes were closed.
How long had she been unconscious? What time was it? What was this place? Why had the weird old man brought her here?
She had no idea.
She only knew that all important acupuncture points on her body had ben sealed in a unique and ingenious way. Her tendons, arteries, Qi and blood were all undamaged, but she couldn’t move even so much as her pinky finger.
If that old man had been a bit younger, perhaps she could have guessed what he had in mind for her. She would have thought of it immediately.
But the old fellow really was just too old, old enough that she could comfort herself because of it.
—He wouldn’t do something like that. He couldn’t be interested in a woman like herself. He couldn’t handle it. When old men want to chase women, they always chase the young, naive girls.
This was how she comforted herself, and yet thinking about it made her sick.
Fortunately, she could still hear.
Not long after she woke up, she heard the sound of two people conversing. The first was a woman, her voice thin, shrill and loud, as if she took everyone around her to be deaf.
The second person spoke at a leisurely pace and in a very eccentric tone. It was none other absurd old man.
“Did you bring that woman back?”
“Of course I did,” said the little old man. “Having been dispatched on such a duty, I achieved immediate success, as simple as stretching out my hand.”
“I know you like this kind of thing,” said the woman, her voice growing louder. “You old wretch, pervert!”
“Who likes this kind of thing? You sent me to do it. Had you asked someone else to do it, I wouldn’t go even if you knelt down and begged me.”
“Shut the hell up. You take advantage, then try to show off your cleverness?”
“Took advantage of what?”
“You… I know without doubt that you molested her.”
Suddenly, a “whap” sound rang out. The little old man had just been slapped across the side of the face. He cried out.
“Unjust treatment, unjust treatment!”
“You dare to claim unjust treatment? You dare to say you didn’t molest her?”
“If I did, then call me a son of a b*tch.”
“You’re definitely a son of a b*tch. And elderly son of a b*tch.”
“If I’m a son of a b*tch, then what are you?”
“Beat it! Beat it and get as far away as you can! The farther the better. And don’t come back until I call for you.”
“As you wish.”
The old man sighed, muttering to himself: “You live to seventy or eighty and still get as jealous as a little girl. You’ll drive me to my death.”
The old man’s voice faded into the distance. He seemed to be afraid of receiving another slap across the face.
Big Boss Tang finally breathed a sigh of relief. She could tell that the old man and the woman with the thin, shrill voice were husband and wife.
The man had gone, leaving behind the woman, and she was seventy or eighty. How would an old lady treat her? However she ended up being treated, it would definitely be better than what she had been imagining moments before.
Just when she began to think that she could set her mind at ease, she saw lantern light shining.
The light was exceedingly bright. Anyone’s eyes would have a hard time adjusting to such a bright light amidst the darkness.
Big Boss Tang closed her eyes. Then she opened them, and then closed them again. When she opened them again, she didn’t see a person, but only several lanterns, each and every one much brighter than the lanterns in her gambling hall.
All of the lanterns hung directly above her. By use of covers, all the light of the lanterns was directed directly onto her body. Everything else in the room was pitch black.
She squinted her eyes, trying to block the light with her eyelashes. By tilting her head, she could just barely make out the shadow of a person.
It was a woman, skinny and tall.
Big Boss Tang actually couldn’t see the person. She could only see the skirt she wore.
It was a gaudy, pleated skirt, not the type that a seventy- or eighty-year-old elderly woman should be wearing.
Seeing the skirt, Big Boss Tang could tell that this woman was taller than anyone she had ever seen before. That was because the skirt was longer than any skirt she had ever seen. And it was very tight.
The skirts Big Boss Tang wore when she was thirteen years old were more loose than this dress.
What kind of figure did you need to be able to wear such a skirt? Big Boss Tang simply couldn’t imagine.
The woman was definitely looking at her, from head to toe. After a long time passed, she asked a question with her thin, shrill voice: “What’s your surname? And what’s your given name? How old are you? Are you the one who started the As You Wish Gambling Hall?”
Big Boss Tang refused to answer. This woman didn’t have the right to interrogate her, so she felt no need to respond.
Instead, she retorted, “What is your surname? And what’s your given name? How old are you? Why don’t you tell me first?”
“I can tell you,” said the woman. “I’m surnamed Lei, and people call me Grand Miss Lei.” 
“Well then, I can tell you that I am surnamed Tang. People call me Big Boss Tang.”
“How old are you?”
“Did you tell me how old you are?”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Then why should I tell you how old I am?”
“You can tell me. You definitely can.” In a cool voice, Grand Miss Lei said, “I like your disposition. You have the kind of spirit which would rather die than be at a disadvantage. I have the same type of disposition.”
“Well that’s excellent, then.”
“Unfortunately, there is a bit of a difference between us.”
Grand Miss Lei didn’t respond. Instead, she slowly extended her hand, and then slapped Big Boss Tang across the face.
Her had moved out slowly, and yet Big Boss Tang couldn’t clearly see what the hand looked like before the palm slapped her face, then disappeared.
The slap happened very quickly.
“I can hit you, and you have no way to hit me. That is the area of difference. Do you understand now?”
Big Boss Tang said nothing.
“I can do more than slap you,” Grand Miss Lei continued. “Anything that you could possibly imagine, I could do. Even things you can’t imagine, I can do.”
Big Boss Tang’s heart began to sink. She knew that what Grand Miss Lei said was not intended to frighten her. The things women can do to women are far worse than the things men can do, and she had already imagined a few horrifying things that could be done.
Grand Miss Lei sighed. “I’m confident that you understand my meaning. So, can you tell me now? What is your name?”
“Tang Lanfang.” 
“How old are you?”
“You’re only thirty-four? That’s good. You’re still a young girl, you’ll make a good match.”
In her eyes, a thirty-four year old woman was still a young girl. Exactly how old was this Grand Miss Lei?”
Big Boss Tang really wanted to see her face, see what she looked like.
“You’re not too old, and you don’t look too bad. Even though your temper isn’t too good, it can’t be considered bad.” Grand Miss Lei’s voice grew soft. “To be frank, I’m already quite satisfied. However, I still need to take a close look at you.”
“Take a close look?” cried Big Boss Tang. “Why do you need to do that?”
She had cried out because she had suddenly remembered something quite horrifying.
She had remembered what the little old man had said.
—If I tell you, you won’t believe me. I came here because my wife wants to strip off all your clothes and take a close look at you.
At that time, she’d thought it quite ridiculous, and had actually laughed. She had never heard something more absurd before.
But she wasn’t laughing now.
Back then, she hadn’t believed the old man to be speaking the truth. Now she believed.
Grand Miss Lei’s hands stretched out again. This time, it wasn’t to strike her, but rather to unbutton her clothes.
All of Big Boss Tang’s clothes were tailored by master tailors; the clothing was of the highest quality, the cut perfect, completely unique—
And the buttons were specially crafted. Even were she motionless, it would be difficult for another person to undo them.
That’s not to say that it was a frequent occurrence for a man to attempt to undo her buttons. Even if someone wanted to do that, no one would dare to try.
Rather, it was her preference.
She had always believed that the buttons on a woman’s clothing were like the outposts on a battlefield, and should have the ability to protect things carefully.
And yet now, the battlefield outposts collapsed in a moment, disintegrated by Grand Miss Lei’s fingers.
Big Boss Tang had never seen anyone with fingers as dextrous as hers.
Gao Tianjue’s hand was ice cold, as cold as the edge of a blade, seemingly as cold as the steel of his pincer.
Anyone who felt such a hand wrap around their throat would be frightened, if not to death, then at least half to death.
But no look of fear appeared on Ingot’s face. Instead, it a look of sympathy filled it as he looked at Gao Tianjue. He sighed, and continued with what he had been saying: “You really are quite pitiable. I really sympathize with you.”
It seemed he actually felt sympathy for him, as if he didn’t know that this person could crush his throat like a walnut in a door jam.
“You sympathize with me?” blurted out Gao Tianjue. “Why would you sympathize with me?”
“Because you fear that you don’t have very long to live.”
His own life was being held in another’s hand, and yet he talked about that person not having long to live, and quite earnestly at that.
Gao Tianjue had roamed unhindered across Jianghu for twenty or thirty years, but had never met a person like this.
“Who doesn’t have long to live; me, or you?” he asked Ingot.
“Of course it’s you.”
“And how will you be able to continue living for a long time?”
“Because you’re sick, and quite seriously.”
“If I were you, I would have gone home a long time ago, had a bowl of steaming soup, and climbed under two or three blankets to sleep for three days.” He spoke in complete earnestness. “If you listened to my advice and do as I say, perhaps you could be saved.”
Gao Tianjue seemed to be shocked to the core. Ingot rolled his eyes, and then suddenly grabbed hold of the man’s hand.
“Feel for yourself,” he said. “Your hand is too cold. It’s as cold as the hand of a dead person.” He sighed. “So, I advise you to be good and listen to me. Get home as quickly as possible.”
Gao Tianjue’s hand was cold and smooth, while Ingot’s was warm and soft.
He gripped Gao Tianjue’s hands with his two, and softly said, “A person like you should really take good care of yourself. If you don’t care for yourself, then who will? And if you die, I’m afraid there won’t be anyone to shed even a single tear for you.”
He didn’t laugh. It seemed as if his words sprang forth from his heart, and that he actually hoped Gao Tianjue would be moved by them. He wanted to move others’ hearts, because he himself was often moved by others.
In fact, it would be hard to find another person who was so easily moved by others.
Gao Tianjue showed no reaction whatsoever, and yet he also did not remove his hand from Ingot’s throat.
This was a truly strange reaction. If anyone else had said such things in front of him, that person’s tongue would already have been sliced off. And if any other person had dared to touch his hand, then that person would no longer have an intact skeleton.
Ingot waited for a long time, and, seeing that he did not appear to be moved at all, asked another probing question, “Did you hear what I just said?”
“I heard,” responded Gao Tianjue. “I heard every word very clearly.”
“So are you prepared to go home?”
“What are you prepared to do, then?”
“I’m prepared to kill you,” he responded coldly. “I’ll start by slicing out your tongue, then I’ll cut off your hands, and finally I’ll kill you and feed you to the dogs.”
“Why?” asked Ingot, looking surprised. “I’ve treated you so well, why would you want to kill me?”
“Because I know that of everything you said, not one bit is the truth,” said Gao Tianjue with a cold laugh. “You’re just trying to use words to move me, so that I will let you go.”
Ingot seemed completely unwilling to deny this. He just sighed and laughed a bitter laugh. “It seems it really isn’t very easy to fool you.”
“So you admit it?”
“Well, since I can’t fool you, there’s no use in denying it. Go ahead and just kill me.”
“I was always going to kill you.”
“How exactly are you planning to kill me? Can you kill me using only this one arm?”
His own hands still held Gao Tianjue’s. He suddenly kissed the hand with his soft, warm lips. Then he closed his eyes, appearing to wait for death.
“I’ve heard that death row inmates get a last request before they die,” he said. “So this is my last request, you definitely have to grant it.”
With that, he closed his mouth, and prepared to die.
Big Boss Tang didn’t cry, nor kick up a row. She did not shriek or struggle. She knew those things were useless.
She wished she could die. If death were not an option, she wished she could pass out. But unfortunately, she wasn’t dead, and in fact completely sober. So she could only lay there underneath the lights while Grand Miss Lei, who did not seem like a Grand Miss at all, looked at her from head to toe in extreme detail.
She had a slender waist, a large bust, and long, slender legs. She had no blemishes whatsoever on her body, nor any fat whatsoever. Her body was no different than when she was seventeen years old.
For a thirty-four year old woman to maintain her body in this way was no easy task. It was the result of years of hard work, and something she was immensely proud of.
On spring nights, after bathing, standing alone in front of the mirror, Tang Lanfang would sometimes visualize an impossible fantasy in which someone gazed upon her flawless figure, just like that other spring night seventeen years go when she had offered herself up for the first time.
She really had thought about such things, and she believed that many other women had had similar thoughts.
Not willing to eat this, not willing to eat that, looking horrified at the sight of fat, expending all effort to remain slim: wasn’t it all for others’ enjoyment?
And yet, at the moment, what she really wanted to do to the person who was “enjoying her,” was to dig her eyes out.
Even more annoying, as Grand Miss Lei examined her, she kept muttering things to herself.
“Not bad, she’s taken good care of herself, no flabby skin at all, no defects whatsoever. She can definitely give birth to children, lots of sons and daughters, for sure.”
In the end, Big Boss Tang couldn’t handle it any more, and cried out: “There is no enmity between us, why do you treat me like this?” she screamed. “Who are you? Why are you doing this? Tell me!”
Who could explain such a preposterous thing? Who could understand it?
Grand Miss Lei didn’t explain at all. Instead, she just said something incredibly unbelievable.
In a very happy voice, she said to Big Boss Tang: “Congratulations!”
** Her surname ‘Lei’ is also the word for thunder. Also, her title is hard to translate in English. It’s a title used with young women from powerful, rich families.
 Lan means orchid and fang means fragrant, or virtuous.