Book 22 Chapter 3 - The Dragon Roams Everywhere
Several zhang outside the depth of the forest, the spy had his hands tied around a thick tree trunk on his back, his clothes were dyed with blood, his countenance pale, his age was about twenty, his facial features were ordinary.
Xuan Yong whispered, "We did according to what Shao Shuai ordered: setting up sentries all around the camp. This man came sneaking in, and I captured him with my own hands. This kid's martial art skill is quite solid, his technique is from Jiangnan school."
"What did he say?" Kou Zhong asked.
Xuan Yong replied firmly, "Naturally he claimed that he was just passing by. Humph! This place is the wilderness of a desolate mountain, even if he went hunting, he should have a reason to come here. From his accent, he sounds like a Zhejiang native, how did he come here alone?"
Frowning, Xu Ziling said, "Even if he is a spy, he should have some accomplice; did you find any other men?"
Xuan Yong shook his head and said, "I already send my men to search everywhere in the mountain and forest nearby, yet we have not found anybody else."
"Looks like we must resort to torture," Kou Zhong said, "Are you an expert?"
"Leave it to me," Xuan Yong replied.
He was about to step forward, Xu Ziling pulled him aside. He could not bear to torture the prisoner. "Before we ascertain his identity, using torture does not seem to be too good," he said.
Stunned, Xuan Yong said, "Since he is unwilling to speak out, how could we ascertain his identity without torture?"
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "The invisible pressure to the mind is the highest technique of torture. This is called 'using torture to cut down a scheme'. Come!"
The three walked over to the young, robust man. Waving to the guard to dismiss him, Kou Zhong noticed that the man was closing his eyes. He laughed and said, "He is unwilling to open his eyes, naturally he is unwilling to answer questions; we have no choice but to use torture to force confession. Take your time in torturing him, let this hero have the opportunity to consider his own situation, and then choose to make a smart choice."
The man flung open his eyes and spat out a thick saliva with traces of blood in it, shooting toward Kou Zhong.
Kou Zhong effortlessly turned his head sideways and thus the spittle hit an empty space.
The man revealed a surprised look; evidently he had never expected that Kou Zhong was capable of evading his attack. But then he quickly closed his eyes again.
Angered, Xuan Yong pulled his dagger and shouted, "Let me cut his flesh slice by slice.
Seeing the disdain look on the man's face, Kou Zhong praised him inwardly; turning to Xuan Yong, he laughed and said, "How can a dagger be better than a pair of pliers? Guard! Get me a pair of pliers!"
Immediately someone acknowledging the order from a distance.
Xuan Yong and Xu Ziling looked at Kou Zhong in bewilderment.
But Kou Zhong walked around to the back of the tree, to look at the man's tied hands. He laughed and said, "This Lao Ge's fingers are long, delicate and smooth. Ha!" Walking to the front again, he called out, "Guard! Take off his boots."
The man opened his eyes and spoke angrily, "You want to kill, you want to cut my flesh, go ahead and do it, why do you want to take off my boots?"
Kou Zhong raised his hand to stop his man who was about to take off his boots; he smiled and said, "Because I want to pull out your toe nails one by one, and I am going to do it slowly. People say that the pain on ten fingers goes through to the heart; I wonder where would the pain on the toes go to? I have no choice but to test it on Lao Xiong. Don't underestimate toenails. Without those, it is tantamount to crippling your martial art skill, and don't even think you can use your legs to report your findings here; we don't even need to kill you."
The man's face changed several times; finally he spoke in distress, "I practically do not know who you guys are, I took a shortcut this way because I wanted to hurry on toward Hefei [capital of Anhui Province] to participate in professional societies general assembly called together by Rong Fengxiang."
Hearing that, the three were emotionally moved.
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling exchanged eye signals, they both recalled that since Zuo Youxian also showed up at Hefei, presumably those two were ranked among the Eight Major Martial Art Masters of the Demonic Sects, perhaps they even had a friendly relationship between them, and now it was quite possible that the professional societies general assembly was arranged by Zuo Youxian.
Kou Zhong chuckled and roared into a laughter, "Turns out it's a misunderstanding," he said, "Guards! Release this Renxiong. The rain is getting heavier! Let us take shelter in the tent and change into dry clothes, and drink his mother's two cups of wine."
This time Xuan Yong and that man looked at each other in confusion; they did not understand why with just one sentence the man was rewarded with being released on the spot.
While Xu Ziling was untying the rope, Xuan Yong whispered in Kou Zhong's ear, "Shao Shuai has forgotten that you issued the strict order not to drink in this mission; we basically did not bring any wine."
Kou Zhong cleared his throat and said, "Then we'll drink a cup of water!"
The man shook his hands, which were numbed from being bound with ox-tendon rope. "You are really willing to let me go?" he asked in suspicion.
Kou Zhong shrugged his shoulders and said, "We are not utterly-vicious-extremely-evil people; since knowing that this is just a misunderstanding, other than offering an apology, what else can we do?"
The man's spirit greatly aroused, he asked, "Friend's honorable surname and great given name?"
Smiling, Kou Zhong pointed to Xuan Yong and said, "He is called Xuan Yong."
Before he had any chance to introduce Xu Ziling, the man said in shock, "In that case you must be Shao Shuai Kou Zhong, and the other gentleman must be Xu Ziling!"
Xuan Yong nodded and said, "Your guess is spot on. What's friend's honorable name and surname?"
The man was a lot friendlier; he replied readily, "I am the son of Longyou Bang's [lit. roaming dragon (the title of this chapter) gang] Bangzhu Ze Tianwen, Ze Yue."
Hearing that, Kou Zhong, three men looked at each other, simply because they had never heard the name Longyou Bang; they could not even utter conventional greeting such as 'I've long looked forward to meeting you' or something like that.
Trying to smooth things over, Kou Zhong said, "Let's get out of this rain and talk further in the tent. Fortunately Ze Xiong only suffers minor injuries, otherwise we will feel even more guilty."
Ze Yue laughed aloud and said, "Being able to make three Xiongtai's acquaintance, a little bit of injury is not worth mentioning."
Turned out the reason Longyou Bang was not known in Jianghu was simply because it was a business oriented organization, with Longyou County in Dongyang Region [in Zhejiang Province] as the center of professional society. The organization was quite tight, they had buying-low, selling-high operations in all parts of the country, therefore, they enjoyed the good reputation as 'The Dragon Roams Everywhere'.
After introducing the Longyou Bang, Ze Yue cheerfully said, "The region bordering our hometown has more mountains but less farmlands. The flow of most needed commodity to sustain live for the mountain people is only by carrying it on shoulder pole. Sailing boats and driving carts, engaging in buying and selling have become a way to seek livelihood. My Die started his business by trading wood, and now, using our Gang's good reputation, we have at least ten thousand people doing business for us in all parts of the country. But the number of men who are really under our Longyou Bang's banner is only a few hundred. They are the real backbone of our Gang."
And then he took out a bronze medal [i.e. bronze plaque bearing a business name or logo, etc.]. One side was cast in dragon pattern, the other side had four characters 'Long You Bian Di' [The Dragon Roams Everywhere].
Outside the rain was getting heavier, crisp and clear breeze was rolling in from the tent's opening.
Greatly interested, Kou Zhong asked, "What is your main business?"
Ze Yue replied, "It is called 'not familiar, not doing'. We mainly trade local specialty of the mountain area for local necessities. Bamboo, wood, paper, tea, bamboo shoot, oil, herbal medicine; the seven main industries. And we buy things that the mountain area is lacking; for instance, rice grain, cooking salt, silk cloth, cotton sloth, et cetera, forming a circulation network. All the professional societies in various regions, big and small, always give us a bit of face."
And then he happily said, "To be able to know two gentlemen is indeed the blessing of three lifetimes. That day when you routed Li Mi, I was hurrying from Guanzhong toward Luoyang. Among a number of heroes today, who can surpass Shao Shuai and Xu Ye?"
A little bit embarrassed, Xu Ziling changed the subject, "Right now fire beacon is everywhere [i.e. alarm signal over long distance], does it have any adverse effect to your business?"
Ze Yue laughed and said, "Peacetime has peacetime way of doing things, wartime also has a set of ways of doing things. Like just now, I was treated as a spy, definitely it was not uncommon. But usually as long as I flash the Longyou Bang's token of authority, everybody would give me a bit of face."
Kou Zhong awkwardly said, "Ze Xiong is accustomed to do business, your eloquence is indeed outstanding. Oh, right! Didn't you say that Rong Fengxiang is holding some his mother's professional societies general assembly at Hefei? What exactly is that?"
Ze Yue's countenance sank; he sighed and said, "That is actually a very troubling thing. Recently Rong Fengxiang ascended the Luoyang Bang's Longtou [big boss] throne, it already has great impact. And now he also assumes the position of Elder of the most-powerful-in-the-north Bai Ye She [Hundred Professional Societies], he is like a tiger that has grown wings. This time he came to Hefei, his objective is precisely to call on the professional societies and trade organizations north of the River to join Bai Ye She. On the surface he is calling all business communities to unite, but in my opinion, he must have another ambition."
Knitting his brows, Kou Zhong asked, "What exactly is Bai Ye She?"