Chapter 40 – Toad Gu Slumbering Within the Purple Gold Rock
The further one walked, the more flourishing and prosperous it was. Small street vendors lessened while large tents increased in number.
There were all sorts of large tents to be seen – red, blue, green, yellow, in different shapes and sizes, several being a cylindrical shape. Some erected two door pillars at the entrance of their tents, while others hung large red lanterns instead. Inside, some tents had vibrants lights, whereas others were dim and dark.
Fang Yuan observed his surroundings as he walked, finally stopping near a grey-coloured tent.
“It’s here,” he evaluated while looking at the tent; it had two pillars at the entrance, and there were carvings on the pillars, two lines of antithetical couplet(1).
The left side wrote, “Small display of courage, obtain good fortune during the four seasons.”
The right side wrote, “ Large display of skills, obtain good prosperity in all four directions.”
In the middle there was still another line: “Luck changes with time.”
That’s right, this is a gambling den.
This gambling den took around one mu(2) of land; it was considered a large-sized tent.
Fang Yuan walked inside. Inside of the tent, there was three rows of counters on a side. On the counter were pieces of amber or fossils. Some were as big as a palm, others were as big as a face. There were also others which were even bigger; those were as tall as a person. It obviously could not fit on the counter, thus it was directly placed on the ground.
Different from the other tent shops, it was silent in here.
Several Gu masters stood before the counters, some meticulously observing rocks on the display counter while others took the fossils and rubbed it in their hand to get a feel of it. There were some that were discussing quietly with their companions, and some were discussing the price with their shop clerks.
But no matter what they discussed, they spoke softly, doing their best not to disturb others.
This was a rock gambling den.
In the Gu world, there were all types of Gu, coming with different shapes and sizes and all sorts of effects. Gu worms have their respective food to consume. Without food, they can only last a short amount of time before dying.
But nature, towards lifeforms, was both uncaring and benevolent.
If they lacked food, the Gu worms still have a chance of survival. That was to hibernate, undergoing self-sealing.
For example, if the Moonlight Gu did not have Moon Orchid petals to consume, it may undergo self-sealing. It will try to maximise the conservation of its strength, like winter hibernation, falling into a deep slumber. At this time, not only would the blue glow on its body dissipate, it would also turn from a transparent crystal state into a grey rock, covered in a layer of rock shell. Eventually, the rock crust will get thicker and turn into a boulder.
Or for example the Liquor Worm, if it underwent self-sealing, it would form a white cocoon around it, curling its body and falling into a deep sleep within the cocoon.
Of course this situation of sealing and hibernating may not happen to every Gu worm. It has a small chance of occurrence, and in most cases, the Gu worm will not fall into hibernation but instead starve to death. Only a small number of Gu worms may, under specific situations, undergo self-sealing.
A few Gu Masters who accidentally obtain these sealed Gu worms’ rocks or cocoons would awaken the Gu worms that were slumbering within. Thus they would have a stroke of fortune. Some of the Gu masters became successful due to this, it being a turning point in their lives. These situations happen frequently in the Gu Master world, often being fake or real rumors, giving people hopes and dreams.
The source of the idea behind this rock gambling den originated from these rumours. Of course, these rocks all looked alike on the outside. Only after opening them can one determine if there really is a Gu worm hidden inside.
“In a small-sized rock gambling den like this, nine out of ten rocks are solid core, having no Gu worms inside. Even if there are Gu worms inside the rock, they may not be living worms, most of them are dead Gu. But once someone hits the jackpot of a live Gu, under most situations, one would be able to earn a huge fortune. If the Gu worm is a rare species, they either become a successful person in life or get murdered and robbed of their fortune.”
Fang Yuan was clear about this in his heart, being very familiar with the situation beyond these doors.
In his past life, he had participated in a merchant caravan before, being a clerk in the rock gambling den. Some time later, he even operated his own rock gambling den, even larger than this one; it was a medium-sized rock gambling den. He managed to con some gamblers, and also misjudged at times, allowing other gamblers to win a precious Gu worm.
Fang Yuan stood at the door for a while, taking a glance around him before slowly walking to the counter on the left side.
Behind the counter, there was a shop assistant every few metres, both males and females. On their waist hung a green coloured belt, showing that they were not ordinary people but Rank one Gu masters. Most were initial stages, while a selected few were middle stages.
Seeing Fang Yuan before a counter, a female Gu Master who was nearest by walked towards him and smiled, softly saying, “Young master, what Gu worm do you need? Every rock on this counter is sold at ten primeval stones each. If this is your first try, just for the sake of it, why don’t you go to the right counter, the rocks there are sold at only five primeval stones. If you are seeking thrills, you can go to the high-end counter at the middle, the rocks sold there are at twenty primeval stones each.”
This was an experienced female Gu Master, having worked at the rock gambling den for quite some time already.
She looked at Fang Yuan who entered, and determined that he was a student from his appearance, age and height etc.
Those that came to gamble were all Gu Masters. Students were only considered second-rate Gu Masters, just starting their cultivation. Because they’re often tight on finance due to feeding their Gu worms, where would they find the money to come and gamble rocks?
Students like this, normally they just came to take a look and to get an eye-opening experience, satisfying their curiosity. Most were only window shoppers, though if some had well to do families, they might attempt to buy one to try. But most only bought the cheapest fossil.
Thus, the female Gu Master had no expectations towards how many rocks Fang Yuan could buy.
“Let me look around first.” Fang Yuan nodded at her expressionlessly, then started to look seriously into the pile.
In his memory, it should be at this counter in this particular rock gambling den.
But it had been 500 years, it’s been too long. Many things were vague to him already, especially when 500 years of memory was a huge capacity, so to be honest Fang Yuan could not remember distinctly.
He could only vaguely recall, that during this year on the first night the caravan arrived, a lucky bird spent ten primeval stones to buy a fossil with purple gold lustre.
After he opened it on the spot, he obtained a Mudskin Toad. Afterwards this toad Gu was bought by another person, thus causing him to earn a small fortune of primeval stones.
Fang Yuan frowned after observing for a while.
On this counter, fossils with a purple gold glow numbered up to twenty. In which rock was there a hidden Mudskin Toad?
Every rock here was sold at ten primeval stones each. Right now Fang Yuan had ninety-eight primeval stones with him, and he could buy up to a maximum of nine pieces.
But realistically, he could not count like this.
In any sort of risk and gamble, one had to consider the consequences.
Fang Yuan was no longer a greenhorn, like those gamblers who thought they were blessed by heaven. Those who thought they were blessed by fate were usually those who fell under the mischief of fate itself.
“I am alone, with no relatives or friends that can help me. I have to save some primeval stones to survive, as well as to buy food for my Gu worms.” He counted and under the most basic reservation, he could buy at most seven pieces of fossils.
“This rock, the purple gold is dotted like the stars, but it’s flat as a pancake, there’s definitely no mudskin toad inside.”
“This piece has striking purple gold colour, but it is only fist sized. if there really is a mudskin toad inside, the rock should be at least 30% larger.”
“This purple gold fossil, well it’s big, but the surface is extremely smooth, while the mudskin toad’s skin is supposed to be rough and uneven, this is evidently not the one……”
Fang Yuan continued to observe and evaluate, using the method of cancellation.
When Gu worms hibernate after self sealing, they would form into a natural fossil, being undetectable from most of the world’s detection methods. The remaining detecting methods were too rough, and once used, it would instantly kill the Gu worm within that is barely alive.
Thus, when Gu Masters choose rocks, they could only rely on their guessing, experience and luck, sometimes relying on a little bit of instinct.
Otherwise, this would not be called gambling.
Of course, in this wide wide world, there are countless wonders, and one cannot exclude the fact that a detection method which is extremely gentle exists, allowing a Gu Master to know if the rock contains a Gu worm.
Fang Yuan had heard of such rumors in his past life, but after experimenting, found that it was all lies.
Fang Yuan assumed privately, “If such a method really exists, it has to be a hidden legacy, controlled in the hands of a small number of mysterious people, having no impact on the gambling business.”
It was still tame around the Qing Mao mountain region, but the more one moves east, the more prosperous gambling dens become. At the Bai Tou(3) mountain region, every family village had its own gambling den. In some large-sized forts, there were even large-sized gambling dens built. The three villages that were famous for their rock gambling were Pan Shi (4) Village, Gu Mu (5) Village and Cang Jing (6) Village, where there were even mega-sized gambling dens.
These three mega-sized gambling dens each had a thousand years of history. Currently, their business was still blooming, with an endless number of gamblers. There had never been a situation of clean sweep by anyone.
Currently, the tent that Fang Yuan was in can only be barely qualified as a small-sized gambling den.
If it was any other 15 year old who came, they would definitely be confused by all the different fossils, and even if they chose it, it would be by random guessing.
But Fang Yuan was different.
Firstly, he already knew a portion of the answer from the start, thus his search range shrunk to less than thirty pieces.
Of course, to find that one rock out of these twenty odd pieces was extremely difficult as well. But using his five hundred years of experience as backing, with such a rich pool of information he picked out six pieces of purple gold fossils that best fit the criteria after observing for a while.
He had an 80% chance of confidence that the mudskin toad was hibernating within one of these six fossils!
(1) Antithetical couplet: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antithetical_couplet
(2) Mu (亩): 1 Mu is 666 ⅔ meters²
(3) Bai Tou directly means White Head,(4)Pan Shi is Monolith, (5)Gu Mu means Ancient Grave and (6)Cang Jing is Pale Whale. To be honest most of these mountains will never appear again, so you don’t have to remember them.