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Breman—wait, it should be Breiya now– was currently seated in a manner I would’ve never expected of her, while her eyes stared at her embarrassed opponent with a relaxed expression on her face.
The man grimaced as he tossed her a pouch of metallic coins before disappearing into the crowd with his shoulders hunched.
That was the fourth challenger of the night and also the fourth loser.
Breiya casually waved her hands and beckoned for me to approach her, yet this simple gesture caused the surrounding gamblers to tremble in fear.
I didn’t really understand the significance of the title “Cold Wind Empress” in this country’s casinos but judging from their reaction, it wasn’t a friendly title.
As I wasn’t familiar with gambling, I didn’t immediately connect Breiya to the ‘Cold Wind Empress’ One’day High mentioned while they were previously gambling.
However, at the very least, I now knew that her gambling skills was more than just “top-notch”.
Breiya: Aye~, what’s our earnings for today?
Hearing the word earnings, I pretended to flip through my accounts book as we had planned before answering her.
Di Qi Ju: Hundred and sixteen thousand, Missus.
Breiya: One hundred and ten thousand huh…that’s still not enough.
Breiya: Hiring Naphier alone cost me 500,000 Wish, let alone the other expenses.
Breiya: If I can’t even recoup my losses from this casino, then this isn’t really making him “pay”.
Di Qi Ju: Ah hahaha…
With the departure of those four losers, no one dared to approach her for a gamble for the next few minutes. Even so, the crowd did not shrink and instead grew larger. At this point, even moving to a different table was hard.
Breiya: —no one wants to play a round with me?
Breiya: Sigh, in that case should I start charging people for watching?
Hearing that, the crowd backed away several steps however none of them left.
Looks like these gamblers are pretty smart themselves. With those four potatoes as an example, no one was dumb enough to challenge such a formidable foe.
Casino Waiter: Make way, please make way…
In the midst of the crowd, a waiter could be seen parting through.
A middle aged man dressed in a simple yet elegant suit walked down the parted road and into the crowd. He was the plaintiff from yesterday’s trial, Ferdila.
I had known that this was his casino so seeing him here didn’t really surprise me. Instead, I focused on trying to act the part of a bookkeeper.
Ferdila: –Cold Wing Empress, I welcome you to my humble establishment.
Breiya: Ah, you’re too kind, you are?
Acting as if this was their first meeting, Breiya replied as the gambler, Cold Wind Empress.
Ferdila: I’m the owner of this casino, you may call me Ferdila.
Breiya: Ah, so may I know the purpose of this visit, Master Ferdila?
Ferdila: Haha…while we might not have seen each other before, you are after all the famous “Cold Wind Empress”, your reputation precedes you.
Breiya: Fame is a fickle thing especially in gambling, I thought that my name would’ve long been forgotten by now. Should I be happy that everyone remembers me?
Di Qi Ju: …
It was as if I was watching two people perform Taiji, was this how the nobility socialized?
Ferdila: So what have you been doing in those few years you disappeared from the gambling scene?
Breiya: Disappeared? I merely graduated from school and went back home to be a normal maiden waiting to get married.
Breiya: Where did all this talk of “disappeared” come from?
Ferdila: So that’s what happened. What you don’t know is that recently in the countries south of the Divine Hall, there has been a slew of celebrity disappearances. Your name was on that list as well.
Breiya: There’s such a thing? May I know which celebrities has disappeared?
Ferdila: For example… the dual champion of the Battle of Righteousness and Death two years ago, “Sword Soul” Savile Kuine.
Breiya: Savile Kuine…
Breiya: My home country is pretty far from Skills so I haven’t heard of this name.
Ferdila: Ah…I’ve bored you with a banal topic, I apologize. You’re here today to play so let’s talk about more entertaining matters.
Breiya: Yea yea, I specially made this trip back to my alma mater’s home country in order to partake in the festivities of the Three Battles, and also to play.
Breiya: —let’s cut to the chase, Master Ferdila. What should we play?
Ferdila: Hah, it’s an honor to be able to play a round with the legendary Cold Wind Empress. How about we play the recently trending card game, “Snatch Four”.
Breiya: Hoh…I’ve never heard of this game, give me a quick rundown of the rules.
According to Ferdila, the rules of Snatch Four were roughly as follows:
There are a total of 12 cards within the deck namely, 1,2,3,5,6 and 7 with each number having two copies.
Each person would draw a card and look at it. Then, one person could choose to draw another card first while the other would choose between “plus” or “minus” modes.
The person who chose to draw first must lay down one of the two cards he currently had in his hands, revealing it as a “public card”.
The person who didn’t draw now had the choice of picking up the “public card” or drawing from the deck.
At any point should a player during the process of drawing a card, possess the required cards to form a “4” or any multiple of “4” either by addition or subtraction, that player can then reveal his hand and win.
Prior to winning, each player can only possess one card in their hand. After drawing a new card, the player who did so had to lay down one of their new cards as a “public card”. At the same time, a “public card” can’t be revealed multiple times after being drawn.
Should a person draw a “public card” and not win, he would inadvertently reveal what his other card was.
If the person who chose to draw last at the start decided to play with the “plus” mode, then the winning combinations are “1 and 3”, “1 and 7”, “2 and 6”, “3 and 5”, “2 and 2” and “6 and 6”.
If he chose “minus, then the combinations are “1 and 5”, “2 and 6”, “3 and 7”.
In both cases, “2 and 6” was a winning combination. Choosing “plus” resulted in a quicker game while “minus” resulted in a slower game.
Breiya: Hah…so it’s that kind of game.
Breiya: It seems pretty complicated but it’s basically just a game based on luck.
Ferdila: Well, you’ll know once we play a round.
Breiya: Sure, then for our first round, I’ll bet 500,000 Wish.
Ferdila: Whatever you wager, I’ll—
Ferdila: …what? How much did you say?
Seeing her signal, I took out a thick wad of notes we prepared prior to this. Even though the money wasn’t ‘money’, I still felt the pain in my heart as I laid it on the table.
Before making him feel the pain, I ended up being in pain instead!!
What if we end up losing?? That’s 500 grand, how long would I have to work in the expedition in order to make that much money!
In fact, I haven’t even been paid my wages yet…
The muscles in Ferdila’s face twitched slightly but quickly settled down.
Ferdila: As expected of the Cold Wind Empress, such an extravagant wager…
Ferdila: Don’t tell me you want me to return home naked on the first day of summer?
Breiya: Ah hahaha—no no…
Di Qi Ju: …
Your laughter says otherwise.
Breiya: One must always honor a bet. If you aren’t willing to bet, please leave.
Ferdila: Of course we’re betting, how could I disrespect you so?
Breiya: Alright then, deal the cards.
And so the game began. The crowd who had previously retreated immediately gathered around the table forming a tight circle around us. This was after all, a rare chance to witness a legend square off against two influential people in Skills. In fact, a number of the audience members had begun betting on who would prevail.
Standing at Breiya’s side, I saw the first card being dealt to both sides.
Breiya: Master Ferdila, this is my first time playing so why don’t you draw first, I’ll decide on minus. Is that alright with you?
Ferdila: Naturally, but this game tends to the favor the one who draws first.
Breiya: It’s fine.
Ferdila reached out and drew another card, bringing the two cards up to his eye level as he looked.
Breiya: How is it, Master Ferdila? Has heaven favored you with a “2 and 6”?
Ferdila: Haha, my luck isn’t that good…please choose the mode.
Breiya: In that case, as declared, I choose “minus”.
Ferdila’s eyes shrank slightly as he turned his gaze onto the cards in his hands. Several seconds of silence later, he revealed one of them.
It was a “3”
Breiya: Deal the card.
Ferdila: Oh? You haven’t even seen your card yet. If it’s a “7”…if you choose to call for a card, you will have to reveal one yourself.
Breiya: It’s merely a 20% chance of winning. While it might seem high, it’s still not enough.
Breiya: Deal the card.
A new card was dealt to her, yet instead of picking it up, she beckoned for me to step forth.
Breiya: Help me see if the new card is a “5”.
Di Qi Ju: …
Thank god!!!!….I’m so glad I learnt how to write down numbers from Lee Sole’shot.
Di Qi Ju: It isn’t, it’s—
Breiya: —there’s no need to tell me, just reveal it.
Di Qi Ju: …alright.
I flipped the card revealing a “7”.
Breiya: Oh my, it seems the revealed cards have formed a “4” through subtraction. Too bad we aren’t able to grab both, right?
Ferdila: That’s correct, you can only draw one.
Ferdila: That seven is mine.
Ferdila reached for the “7” and revealed a “1”.
I suddenly understood why she asked me if it was a “5”, she actually knew that it was a “1” in his hand, didn’t she?
Come to think of it, with the “3” he revealed at the start, the “1” he just revealed was enough to form a “4” had Breiya chosen “plus”.
Di Qi Ju: What’s the plan now? We have to take away the “3” don’t we? If not, he’ll be able to win in the next round.
Furthermore, both sides would not be able to change cards anymore if she did that or they’ll lose. The remaining “3” or “7” would have to be drawn from the deck.
Breiya: That’s correct. Logically speaking, we would have to do that…
Breiya: It seems like the rest of the game is a matter of luck.
Ferdila: Truth be told, I don’t wish to win by luck either. But in a game of skill, I’m not your match.
Ferdila: At least in this game, we’re equally matched.
Ferdila: However your act of revealing your cards without looking at it seems a little arrogant doesn’t it?
Ferdila: Are you sure you should be squandering your luck on your first game?
Breiya: You’re right about that, Master Ferdila…
Breiya: If you’ve heard of me, you should already know about one critical fact.
Breiya: That’s the fact that…I’m a gambler that never relies on luck.
Breiya: Servant, fetch that “1” for me.
*bam* She flipped over the card she had never revealed up till now. It was a “5”!
Di Qi Ju: —won!!
He stood up immediately, his eyes revealing the shock in them.
Ferdila: But you’ve never even saw—
Breiya: That’s right, I didn’t see your cards but I’ve already seen my own.
Breiya: I’m not sure if whether it’s your staff that is incompetent, or whether he was showing it to a certain audience member behind me; but while he was dealing the cards, he raised the card ever so slightly revealing the card beneath.
Breiya: Just treat this as vigilance on my part; I got my servant to stand so close to me in order to prevent the cards from being seen while they are being dealt.
Breiya: Naturally, I saw that my card was a “5” right from the beginning.
Breiya: The moment I said “minus”, your face gave away the regret you felt in spite of your best efforts at concealing it.
Breiya: In that case, all I had to do was cheat out that “1”.
Breiya: This method is a lot safer than merely relying on the luck of the card draw.
Breiya: What I didn’t expect was to be able to cheat out that “1” so soon, I guess I was lucky in the end.
Breiya: Master Ferdila, I’ll be taking that welcoming gift of 500,000 Wish, if that’s alright with you?
Ferdila: Of course…with so many witnesses, how could I renege on my words.
Ah hahahahahaha—time to count the money! Speaking of which, my most important mission today was precisely this, counting the money.
As I stared at the wad of notes the waiter brought over, I started to understand why some gamblers were not able to extricate themselves from this vice.
This moment was even better than our previous four wins combined.
—-cough, cough…this won’t do. I mustn’t get into this habit, I don’t have the skill or luck for gambling.
Get a hold of yourself, Di Qi Ju, get a hold of yourself…
Ferdila: May I know if…this round is enough of a thrill for you, Cold Wind Empress?
Breiya: Oh? It seems like you have an even more exciting form of entertainment?
Ferdila: Of course, I guarantee that my casino has no lack of games that will make your heart pound.
Ferdila: Please follow me up to the second floor, I’ll be sure to entertain you even more in the “Blood Fireworks District”.
Breiya: “Blood Fireworks District” huh…
Breiya: Sounds dangerous.
Special thanks to Steve Granger, Kaung Thant Win Naing, and Antoine Thompson!!
Synopsis: Somewhere in the universe, there was an altar. On it, laid a bloody eye as big as the sun itself. It burst with light and bathed the entire star system in red.
"The aura of an ancestral artifact!" Someone's voice rose in surprise.
The Great Galactic Era had begun.