Book 22 Chapter 9 - Making Threats and Promises
Dong Jingzhen was brought inside the tent.
Kou Zhong rose up to meet him, "Quickly untie Dong Shuai [Commander]!"
The guard who brought him in was dumbstruck. It was only after Kou Zhong repeated his order that he drew his dagger and cut the ox-tendon rope binding Dong Jingzhen.
After ordering his men to leave the tent, Kou Zhong spoke cheerfully, "Dong Da Jiangjun [great general], please sit down."
Dong Jingzhen swept his gaze across the command tent, which originally was his own. Sighing dejectedly, he said, "Just kill me. I, Dong Jingzhen, will never bow to a kid like you, whose smell of your mother's milk not yet dried."
Kou Zhong did not take offense at all; still smiling amiably, he said, "I know that Dong Da Jiangjun cannot accept your defeat. But since it's the fact, I am helpless to change it. Don't Dong Da Jiangjun agree with me?"
Dong Jingzhen still repeat the same sentence, "Just kill me!"
Were it not for his internal injury was rather heavy, he would have attempted to seize the opportunity to break the siege.
Kou Zhong remained indifferent and at ease; he said, "I do not intend for you to surrender to our side at all. Your entire family, father and mother, wife and children, are all in Baling; if I forced you to surrender, or even made a claim that you have surrendered to us, and thus helped us to break the other two strongholds, wouldn't I bring your entire family to their death? This is not the kind of thing that I, Kou Zhong, do."
Hearing the last few sentences, Dong Jingzhen's face immediately lost its color, because he knew that it was not an empty threat at all. This move was more sinister than threatening to kill him. Dejected, he said, "You are so cruel! Speak up then!"
Kou Zhong's eyes flashed with cold rays, he said, "I want to make a deal with you. As long as you agree, you can take approximately two thousand of your men who fell into our hands to immediately take the boat to return to Yiling, to the right via Ye Lu. I am sure Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong will not let you off, because they believed it was you who attacked them."
Dong Jingzhen appeared to have aged several years; dejectedly he slumped back into is chair.
It was only then did Kou Zhong sit into Dong Jingzhen's commander chair. He said, "I want to know the actual troops deployment that Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong are going to use to attack Yuan'an and Dangyang."
Frowning, Dong Jingzhen said, "How could they be willing to let me know that kind of military intelligence? Aren't you just forcing me into a corner? Why don't you simply kill me?"
Kou Zhong's tiger-eyes shone with terrifying strange light enveloping Dong Jingzhen. Slowly he pulled the Moon in the Well, and lay it down on the small table by his side. He spoke heavily, "I treated Da Jiangjun in good faith, but Da Jiangjun treats me, Kou Zhong, like an idiot. Perhaps I would really behead Da Jiangjun's head, and then behead all Da Jiangjun's men. Don't blame me for not giving you a very clear warning."
Dong Jingzhen's countenance changed. He said, "A warrior can be killed, but cannot be disgraced. You want to kill me, you want to cut my flesh, Ol' Dong will not knit half my brow. But you can't insult me …"
Kou Zhong 'sighed' loudly to cut him off; shaking his head, he said, "Da Jiangjun better not finish whatever it is you wanted to say. What kind of man Xiao Xian is, you and I are very clear about it. After sweeping away the Flying Horse Ranch and us, he is going to deal with Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong. Now that you have such a chance of cooperation, how could Dong Da Jiangjun not seize the opportunity to spy their two armies' actual situation without too much extra effort?"
Dong Jingzhen averted his gaze; hanging his head low, he said, "This is simply 'gauging the heart of a gentlemen with one's own mean measure'!"
Kou Zhong knew that he had struck Dong Jingzhen's vital point, and he knew that this man was not like the rather-die-than-submit façade he was putting on, otherwise last night he would not have surrendered under the sword blade, to go with them to deceive the gate and break the stronghold. Rising to his full height, Kou Zhong said, "Since that's the case, there is no point in us continuing to talk. I wonder if Dong Da Jiangjun has any interest in watching your brethren's heads fall to the ground one by one?"
Grieved, Dong Jingzhen said, "You win!"
Upright and unafraid, Kou Zhong walked out of the tent, toward Xu Ziling, Luo Fang, Xuan Yong and Bai Wenyuan, who were waiting for his good news, and made a sign of victory.
Xuan Yong gestured with his chin toward the command tent, asking for instructions on how to handle Dong Jingzhen.
Kou Zhong smiled and said, "Naturally we treat him with due respect; how could I, Kou Zhong, be a cruel murderer? We will release all prisoners immediately, let them depart by boat, but they are not allowed to bring any weapon or horses. Give them enough provision for two days."
Xuan Yong accepted the order and left.
While walking toward the stronghold's gate, Kou Zhong, who was accompanied by Xu Ziling, Luo Fang, and Bai Wenyuan, said, "Now Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong must be thinking that Xiao Xian is conspiring to murder them. How do you think they will react?"
Skeptical, Luo Fang said, "Do you think Dong Jingzhen might lie?"
Having a card up his sleeve, Kou Zhong said, "We have Bai Xiong here, who has deep knowledge of Zhu Can's actual situation, as well as certain understanding of Cao Yinglong's, so he simply cannot speak out crazy and unfounded ravings. He is just a fellow who is greedy for life, afraid of death. In order to keep his life, he might even sell out his old Die, much less Zhu Can, who are the enemy and not friends at all, and Cao Yinglong, that leader of the thieves?"
Thinking deeply, Xu Ziling said, "The question is whether Zhu Can and Cao Yinglong really believe that Xiao Xian betrayed their alliance, and that because of Zhu Mei's pitfall Bai Xiong has realigned his allegiance to Xiao Xian."
Bai Wenyuan resolutely said, "Cao Yinglong, I do not dare to guarantee, but Zhu Can has a violent temper; in his distress over the disastrous casualties of his elite troops, his trusted lieutenant Wen Liang died in battle, he will definitely vent all his resentments on Xiao Xian, and will lose all reasons."
Proud of himself, Kou Zhong said, "The most brilliant is that Zhu Can will never guess that I may come from the Great River, and thus slash at least three days of travel. This is the black pot Dong Jingzhen has to carry on his back."