Everyone held their breath.
They forgot the cigars between their fingers, the champagne in their hands; they forgot to walk, and even to make small talk.
They stood on the second floor, looking down upon the lobby with a superior attitude.
They watched as the ‘wild dog’ climbed to the top of the hill.
A wild dog lived at the bottom of the world as a being that anyone could step on.
Inside of the magnificent lobby, a dealer stood expressionlessly behind a long table. The dealer was dressed neatly in his uniform, and had a pair of fine, smooth hands; his fingers were both slender and flexible. This pair of hands had earned a lot of money for NEKING. He was also the most popular dealer at NEKING. Both managers and customers who planned on playing a hand or two would pick him first. His dealing was both accurate and fast, like a machine.
But right now, his dealing hand was shaking.
Although he tried to hide it, he couldn’t stop his palms from sweating copiously.
What was he going to do…
He was very nervous.
What was he going to do…
He quickly told himself that he couldn’t exert any more pressure with his hands. If the cards were creased, he wouldn’t be able to handle the responsibility.
What was he going to do!?
To cheat or…
This gambling event was high profile. He wouldn’t dare to make a move while dealing the starting hand. There were many experts amongst the second floor’s denizens. If he was caught, NEKING would have his life. And yet… he’d played cards for ten years., and had been a dealer at NEKING for over three years. Thus, he had a feel for the cards. And right now, this well-polished instinct was telling him over and over again—
That he must not flip over the next card. He absolutely must not flip it-
His eyes darted around. When he saw the figure of the person to the right of the long table, his pupils dilated.
It was that wild dog draped in human skin!
He was covered in dirt, wore a shabby, musky, black leather jacket, and his hair was a bit messy. His eyes were bloodshot from two continuous nights of bitter competition. He was like a hungover tramp in the street; he was in dire straits.
Who could have imagined that, in just two days’ time, this dog that had squeezed into NEKING by begging and eliciting pity yesterday while only carrying $20,000 in his pocket, had already beaten seventy representatives sent by the manager? They were all beaten despite whether or not they’d cheated… In the end, he forced the manager to have to pitifully ask for help from the upper levels because he’d run out of alternatives.
No one could have expected that the person who came out to meet him head on would actually be NEKING’s big shot—The Emperor.
Thinking of this, the dealer’s palm became soaked with even more cold sweat.
He’d heard countless stories about the Emperor—the ‘God’ of gambling that had come from the darkness. Stories of his glory, his success, and even his world-shaking defeat. That bloody game of chance had already become a legend.
Today, he was sitting on the left side of the long table.
The dealer couldn’t even dare to look at his face.
It’s that wild dog again! Why won’t you go die?!
That wasn’t the dog’s voice….
The dealer turned his head. The man to the left of the long table held a cigar between his fingers. Most of his sharp features were obscured by a hazy layer of smoke, thus he wasn’t able to see him clearly. However, the dealer distinctly heard him say—
The dealer turned his head and saw the wild dog looking at him with droopy eyelids.
Go to Hell.
That dog smiled softly, as if responding to him.
“Lucky day, isn’t it?”
No one had ever been to the top floor of NEKING before. It was the tallest place in this sleepless city. Just the room they were in right now had a ten-plus meter high ceiling. If one looked out the glass windows, they’d see a river of stars with a single glance. A delicate, cushioned chair sat next to the large French window, in which a person sat facing the shimmering city lights.
As before, he held a lit cigar in his fingers. However, the strong odor dissipated quickly due to the huge room’s size.
Small noises echoed out as a person walked out of the bathroom. He was barefoot and wore a bathrobe as he dried his hair with the towel in his hands. He continued to dry his hair as he walked over to the window. He grabbed a bottle of red wine from a wine rack next to the cushioned chair.
He held the wine bottle, looked around, and asked without reservation, “Can I drink this?”
The man in the cushioned chair didn’t even spare him a glance as he responded in a low, deep voice, “It’s up to you.”
He picked up a bottle opener, opened the bottle of red wine, and picked up a wine glass without hesitation.
“Are you going to drink or not?”
The man shook his head.
He put down the cup and proceeded to drink directly from the bottle.
The man leaned his head to the side and gave him a look, but didn’t say anything.
When he’d had enough, he threw the bottle to the side, walked around to the front of the cushioned chair, and braced his hands against the chair’s arms.
His face was only a finger’s breadth away from the man’s. The man’s fingers that held the lit cigar were currently next to his left cheek. He could even feel the heated sparks from the cigar.
The man didn’t display any other emotions on his face. When he moved close to him, he didn’t move at all. He examined the man’s distinct features—his high nose, his deep eye sockets, and his firm, squared jaw.
The man slowly released, and then proceeded to inhale, a lungful of smoke.
He said to the man, “Will NEKING still support you, even though you’ve been defeated?”
The man seemed amused at his words. He leaned back in the chair and replied unhurriedly, “Only generals can be replaced after a defeat. Haven’t you heard what they call me?”
His eyelids were still droopy; even a shower hadn’t invigorated him.
“I thought the defeat would make you feel at least a bit discouraged.”
The man’s powerful hands twisted the pungent cigar. Obscured by the hazy smoke, he responded in a low, deep voice, “It’s not like I haven’t lost before.”
“Oh… Indeed you have lost before.”
He brought his hand up and slowly traced it down the man’s chest—down his wide chest, his robust flesh, his rugged abdomen, and then…
There was no and then.
He said, “You’re like… a statue.”
Just like within an ancient Greek palace, after it had been worked on by those illustrious artists. Placed on the finest pedestal was—
He squeezed the man’s waist and said without a second thought, “Both of them were defeats, but surely that loss left a deeper impression on you.”
The man lazily leaned backward, “A loss is a loss; it will leave a deep impression on me no matter what.”
He straightened up, took the cigar from the man’s hand, and threw it to the side. The cigar rolled on the ground several revolutions before stopping in front of the glass window.
He put his arms underneath the man’s armpits in a half-embrace.
The man’s back was surprisingly firm and wide, causing him to pause for a moment, before he lifted the man onto the bed.
He ripped the man’s collar open. The white shirt within his suit was like him—well-behaved and smooth. Not even the trace of a wrinkle could be found.
He undid the shirt’s buttons one by one. The man quietly lay on the firm bed, not saying a word. The man lay there, simply displaying his well-built physique that extended from his chest to his waist.
He stopped and picked at his itchy ear.
“How can you be in such good shape?”
The man gazed upwards at the glass ceiling and replied softly, “It only looks that way.”
He lowered his gaze. The man bent his arm and, with one hand, pushed his body up; with the other hand, he pulled on his bathrobe, pulling him over.
The man’s body had a strong aroma—it was both stronger than perfume, and bolder than cigars. It was the aroma of champions. It was a majestic aroma.
He opened his eyes a little wider.
The man said, “Before we get started, I’d like to ask you something.”
The man lifted his head and gazed into his eyes.
“Why didn’t you want money? After that bout, you could’ve won more money than you could spend in a lifetime.”
Because of his whites-filled eyes, even when he laughed, he looked sloppy.
He replied, “Something as extravagant as ‘unable to spend it all’ doesn’t exist.”
The man gazed at him for a while, before letting go and laying back down on the bed.
He laid on top of the man.
The man closed his eyes and didn’t answer him. Instead, he simply said, “Go get me a smoke.”
He got up and returned no time.
After lighting it, he put the cigarette in the corner of the man’s mouth.
The man said, “I don’t smoke cigarettes.”
The man opened his eyes into slits. He finally displayed some emotion on his face. What would ordinarily be seen as ridicule became a bit like delight because of his sculpted face. “Why…. You’d probably never understand.”
He nodded and easily put the cigarette in his own mouth. Then, he tore off the man’s clothes.
“Oh…” He raised an eyebrow.
“As I thought.”
The man lowered his eyes, then woodenly looked up at him.
He blew out a mouthful of smoke, then said, “At that time, I was thinking that you’d had more than your legs ground up. Could it be possible that you only lost your legs?”
He bent down and blew out a mouthful of smoke onto the tattered mass of flesh.
“Sure enough, there’s nothing left.”
He stretched out a finger and gently touched the thin slit under the man’s sturdy body.
The man let out a sigh.
“At that time, I was only seventeen. I was the representative for an underground mahjong hall.” He crouched down next to the bed and stuck the grabbed the cigarette with his hand. He stuck out the tip of his tongue and licked the slender slit.
“That day I won big for the supervisor. The boss said he’d take me out to learn something and gain some experience…” With every word he said, he would use the tip of his tongue to pry open a small opening. The edges of the slit were very tight. Even the most nimble tongue wouldn’t be able to spread it open every time.
“I also remember old Mr. Huo and you… They all said that it was the game of the century.”
He’d used the tip of his tongue at this point. He stuck his entire tongue out and licked from the bottom up—from the very bottom of the narrow slit, all the way up to the stiff yet badly damaged black forest at his lower abdomen.
Finally, the man couldn’t stop himself from emitting a dull growl, and his narrow slit spasmed a few times.
He smelled the musky aroma from that area. This aroma caused him to close his eyes.
“Our platform was small. We could only watch from afar…” He was engrossed in licking. He couldn’t help but lift his hands up to rub back and forth on the knot of flesh near the man’s waist.
The man sucked in a deep breath, causing him to feel a slight tremor beneath his tongue. He took the time to lift his eyes up, “You don’t even have a butt anymore, yet you can still tremble?”
The man suddenly placed his hands on his head and pushed down hard. His face was pressed tightly against the man’s sticky crotch and his still-wet hair gathered along the thin slit into one long rope. He simply breathed, yet it made the man clench his jaw and forcefully inhale.
“I remember that it was raining that day.” He rubbed his face softly against the man’s body. “Those of us standing outside were soaked. Some left, but not me. I was waiting for your last card……”
The man seemed as if he was paying no heed to his words. He tightly gripped his head, releasing a muffled shout.
He turned his head, placing each of his thumbs on both sides of the thin slit.
“Did you know that, at the time, I was waiting for you to lose?”
The man didn’t seem to care at all. Maybe it was because he was unhappy about him moving too slow. The man propped himself up on his elbow, opened his hand, and pushed against his head with all five of his fingers. He rocked his body back and forth and rubbed wetly against his face.
The man’s forearm was rock-solid, his fingers as unyielding as handcuffs; they pressed so hard that his face was in extreme pain.
“I stood in the rain, gazing at you from afar. I thought… why you…”
His face was suffused with the musky excretions from the rubbing, causing the two men’s unique body odors to mix. It was so strong that it was borderline rancid.
He looked up to see that the man had become completely absorbed. He snorted, struggled free from his hands, straightened himself, and arrogantly looked down at him.
He wiped his face with his hand, then placed it near his mouth and inhaled. Then, he leaned over to gaze at the man. He growled, “Hey! Are you a lady now?”
The man’s eyes glowed blood-red. He looked at him from below. Inside of the man’s deep-set eyes, a darkness grew. “Do you want to die?”
The man’s low, dark, husky voice made it impossible to tell if he was being sincere or if he was joking.
He was a bit dazzled as he kneaded the broken body beneath him.
“What were you feeling the moment that you lost?”
The man smiled gloomily.
“At that time, you didn’t have enough money, so you bet with this…” He backed up to take in the entire scene at once.
”To stand in the meat grinder for a minute.” He wiped his face, then shook the droplets of liquid from his hair. “You held onto the handrails, not letting go even when you were about to faint from the pain…”
The man’s smile grew even larger.
He continued. “I kept watching. Even when the venue had shut down, I didn’t leave.”
He finally removed his bathrobe. Compared to the man, his body was a bit frail. It even looked a bit malnourished. His back seemed unable to straighten all the way. He was hunchbacked, his hair was messy, and he had a jaundiced tone to his skin.
The man ridiculed him in a low voice, “You’re truly like a dog.”
“A lot of people say that about me.”
He kneeled down on the bed, propped up his body, and gazed down at the man beneath him.
He asked the man, “Do you know how I won?”
The man smiled mischievously.
“The wild dog bares its sharp teeth, but they think that you’re just smiling.”
He laughed. He pressed his lips next to the man’s ear. The man’s hair was dense and dark, completely unlike his.
“As expected, you’re still the best…”
“I’ve only ever waited for three things in my life…” He bit the man’s earlobe. “The first was for you to lose… The second is for you to die…”
The man looked out towards the bright sky that was full of stars.
“But I’m not dead.”
He made a sound of acknowledgment.
“And, third, I waited for today.”
The man was silent.
He stretched one of his hands out to touch the thin slit. The man had gone through several large operations, but he still had the scars from the grinding. His touch made him weak at the knees. His fingertips repeatedly traced the outline of the mouth of the man’s thin slit.
“That thing of yours is gone. Can you still feel something?”
As before, the man lazily said, “Do you have a deathwish?”
He lifted his head and leapt in.
It was still late at night as he got dressed.
That person sat atop the bed naked, except for a black robe draped across his body. The robe was bunched up at the sides. As the man lay there, the moonlight exuded a fine yet ice cold glow.
He held a cigar in his hand, took a drag, then slowly exhaled.
“With your skills, it’s only a matter of time before you become famous.”
He picked up his shoes then turned his head.
“You’re talking about my skills just now?”
The man let out a breath.
“Kid, you’re really foolhardy.”
He picked up his other shoe and stood up.
The man looked at the glowing ember at the edge of his cigar.
“Are you staying?”
He inclined his head.
The man said, “When faced with an unopened treasure chest, some people are willing to find the key, while others will start with an ax.”
He looked at the man. “And then?”
The man replied, “You’re not afraid.”
Two days later, he was utterly exhausted. He had black circles around his eyes, and it looked as if even his thoughts had become sluggish.
A long time passed before he suddenly asked—
“What’s your name?”
The man paused, then replied, “Lei Ya.”
“Lei Ya, that day the odds of success were so low; why did you still take the bet?”
The man silently gazed at him. After a long pause, he laughed. He hung the cigar from his mouth—
“Get out of here.”
He pushed open the door and left.
He left through NEKING’s main entrance. He tightened the leather jacket on his body. He plodded unsteadily through the deep snow in the dark night, alone. At the top level of the tall NEKING building, the shadow of a person could be seen at the window, silently smoking a cigar. —————————————-
In this preposterous world, I walk alone.
I’d never felt that anyone was like me, until I met you.
—That night, the odds of success were very low; why’d you still take the bet?.—
—Why did you dare to enter NEKING’s gambling house with only twenty thousand dollars?—
—At that time, the meat grinder was placed right next to you. Were you scared?—
—When you walk out that door, countless people will have their eyes on you. Are you scared?—
I want to gamble.
Because the odds of success aren’t zero.
I won’t be afraid.
Because the disciples of gambling don’t have a future.
Even if I become a corpse left rotting in the street, I won’t care.
Because all of… this.
In this world of winners and losers-
I reign over it all.
This is an analogy to say that the man simply has no legs; like a bust.
whites-filled eyes is referred to in Japanese as ‘sanpaku’. It stems from the Chinese term, but the direct translation in English is sanpaku eyes: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanpaku