Chapter 1- A doted child gambler
In a certain restaurant in china town, a lot of people gathered but they didn’t come just to eat. Four people were surrounding two chess players who were concentrating in a game of chess while the rest were sitting on chairs while they ate dumplings. There were almost 30 people in the restaurant and it was only 4 in the afternoon. At first, there were a lot teasing and joking but as the game went on the people became silent. Seeing someone winning in a chess game is normal but seeing an innocent looking 13 year old girl win while wearing a mischievous smile the whole time isn’t.
The girl’s delicate hands reach for the pawn. She looked at her opponent and her gray eyes twinkled in delight. She picked it up and placed it in the board. Her voice was playful but clear as she said, “Checkmate.”
Li groaned as the audience cheered. The tense atmosphere immediately dissipated. The crowd immediately congratulated the little winner. Money was passed around.
“Well done Lilia. Even I did not expect that move.”
“I should have bet on Lilia. Now my wife is going to kill me!”
“Who would have thought of that turnaround? I think I just lost 3 years of my life!”
“Damn it Li! I just bet this month’s salary on you!”
All of them were laughing good-naturally. Some ruffled the hair of the child. She protested but was still enjoying the praises.
“I can’t believe you made your queen as bait.” Li said with a frown.
“Yep!” Lilian grinned, exposing perfectly straight white teeth. “Uncle Li was in a hurry to finish the game so I took that strategy.”
“That means the next match is mine!” Shan said confidently, “How about a game of poker Lilia?”
One delicate eyebrow lifted. “Didn’t I beat uncle Shan in a poker game before?”
“You did but I’m feeling lucky today. I just might recover my losses.”
She shrugged, “I don’t mind but you have a terrible poker face uncle. I can practically guess whenever you have a bad hand.”
“Don’t worry Lilia! We all can!”
All of the men guffawed even Shan was holding his belly as he laughed. Li took a couple of bills from his wallet and handed it to Lilian. She took the money and raised it over her head in triumph. All of the men clapped their hands while they look at her affectionately.
Usually they wouldn’t bet with a child but Lilia had real skills. Whether it was chess, shogi, poker or mahjong, she was someone who can rival the gamblers in china town.
She first came here when she was 5 year old, her only intention being to watch the old men play those games. A small child visiting them every time she arrived from school made their hearts soften against their will. Even when they were being scolded by their wives and children, they still taught her how to play the games. All of them adored her and treated her like their granddaughter or daughter.
One of the men sighed, “Lilia dear, why don’t you marry my grandson. At least I can be sure that my granddaughter-in-law will be someone smart and beautiful.”
“Ha!” one of them interjected. “Our Lilia will not choose your good-for-nothing grandson. With her brains, she will be someone important someday. Maybe a doctor!”
“I think a lawyer would be better.” One of them mused. “With her penchant of outwitting people, she would leave her opponents in the dust.”
“I prefer a job where people have to follow what I say.” Lilia murmured nonchalantly while she placed her winnings in a well-worn purse. “Whether it’s barking like a dog or jumping over a cliff I-ah!”
She stopped as she realized something. She looked at her watch. “It’s almost 5, I have to go now.” She said as she tied her hair in a ponytail, wore her scarf and parka then took her backpack. “I have to help grandpa Po’s shop. He said a shipment will come today. Bye!”
Lilia practically ran as she left and the door closed with a ‘ding’. Everyone just looked through the shop window as Lilia crossed the street. When nobody could see her anymore somebody finally spoke.
“She was joking, right? About the dog?”
“I was more surprised about the cliff. I can’t believe a statement like that came from our cute little Lilia.”
Li burst into laughter as he replied. “Who knows? She does have a habit in games where she would play with us, making us believe we’re in control of the game, when all of a sudden we realize we were in the palm of her hand after all.
Everybody murmured in agreement.
Lilia spent almost of her free time in this restaurant winning money from them. As she no longer had parents, this half Chinese girl worked part-time in various shops including Po’s antique shop and gambled for pocket money. Everybody in the china town made a decision to help Lilia. Especially Li’s group who regarded Lilia as their own flesh and blood relative with his group’s backing, Lilia had a better life than most orphans.
“Base on what she said, wouldn’t being an army general suit her?” Shen asked. “Unlike today, generals of the ancient times had direct command of the army. She can make them dance, charge under fire of hundreds of arrows or even roll over on the floor like a dog and they wouldn’t complain.”
Everyone then excitedly joined in the conversation.
“And from we can see, she has a knack for strategies, she might be the most successful general China has ever seen.”
“There is a difference between a game of chess or shogi from real life battle, you know?”
“It’s just a matter of experience. If she can transfer her ideas from board games to real life battles, she might be unbeatable.”
“That’s just a hypothesis! Being smart in a game doesn’t mean you will become a heaven sent strategist or something!”
“Doesn’t she need to be a martial expert too? Isn’t P.E. her weakest subject?”
“What a general needs is calm judgement and the ability to think one move ahead of their opponent.”
“Wouldn’t being a strategist be better? All she has to do is assist the general in handling the troops.”
“There’s no way a random guy is going to boss around my little Lilia!”
“I think were forgetting women aren’t exactly welcome in a battlefield in ancie-“
“Alright! Alright! Alright! Everybody- ENOUGH!” Li finally shouted. His kind smiling face changed into a cold sharp expression. “We still have a job to do.”
“Right!” Shan said as he placed a couple of secretly taken pictures of people. “These men are our targets.”
“Take care of them and make sure there aren’t any witnesses. We don’t want the same thing to happen again. We were lucky it was only Lilia that time.”
The rest of them men nodded in affirmation. Gone were the doting grandpas and uncles, only merciless mafia men were left.