The Rebel: Chapter 10
Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-11
Before the cheers from their victory in the War of Resistance had died down, the operation to punish the traitors to the country already began. The sounds of sirens filled with the streets of Shanghai as police cars drove by. Many people were dragged out from their homes, and before they even arrived in their prison cells, their properties were already divided up. Not even their wives and daughters were excluded.
The winners had always celebrated their victories with plundering.
Lin Nansheng had yet to arrive in Shanghai, but his apartment had already been prepared. It was in Edinburgh Tower, next to the Jing'an Temple. This was a gift from his students and colleagues to congratulate him on his promotion to the Deputy of the Shanghai Anti-Treason Committee. However, a more important task for him was to help his superiors set up the Shanghai office of the SACO.
The one who picked Lin Nansheng up at the Hongqiao Airport was a student of his from special training, who had already become a Captain of the Loyal Righteous National Salvation Army. After inviting Lin Nansheng onto the car, he didn't immediately drive to Edinburgh Tower, instead heading to a small banquet hall at the Cathay Hotel. A welcome home dinner was being hosted for him there, but when Lin Nansheng stepped into the octagonal hall, he suddenly thought of Miss Lan.
After the banquet was over, Lin Nansheng stepped outside surrounded by the crowd. Still not heading back to Edinburgh Tower, he walked straight down Nanjing Street. Turning to his student who'd insisted on accompanying him, he said, "I'm more familiar with this area than you are. You can let me take a walk alone."
Lin Nansheng walked the streets of Shanghai for an entire night. When the sun came up, he took a rickshaw past the Suzhou Creek Bridge, and arrived at the small building where he'd once lived with Zhu Yizhen. Standing on the other side of the street, he gazed up at the window to the attic for a very long time.
These days, other than working, socializing, and sleeping, Lin Nansheng spent all his spare time sifting through the files left behind by the Japanese puppet regime, not even overlooking the medical records from Yan Chai Hospital. However, he simply couldn't find any records of what had happened to Zhu Yizhen during the Spring Festival in 1942, nor could he find any records of himself.
One month later, Lin Nansheng got in touch with his organization in Shanghai for the first time. This was the time and place that they'd agreed on earlier in Chongqing. Pushing open the door to a room in the Chunshen Hotel, he saw a man in sunglasses sitting by a coffee table, smiling at him.
Lin Nansheng closed the door. "I had to ensure both of our safety."
"My surname is Pan." The man stood up and offered his hand. "You can call me Lao Pan."
Lin Nansheng shook Lao Pan's hand. "I recognize you. You used to be Zhu Yizhen's superior."
Lao Pan was taken aback, but Lin Nansheng didn't wait for him to speak.
"Back then, I'd been tailing her," said Lin Nansheng with a smile.
"Let's not talk about the past." After pouring him a cup of water, Lao Pan began discussing the peace talks in Chongqing and the reorganization of the puppet army. He let out a long sigh. "The treaty will definitely be signed, but I'm still afraid that the curtains of war can't be brought down."
Lin Nansheng replied in a light, carefree tone. "When it comes to political battles, it's always been the old men happily chatting over glasses of wine while the children fought under the table."
"Working in intelligence is similar." Lao Pan deftly turned the subject to their work. From the handover method of their information exchanges, to their backup options, to the possible mishaps that could happen during the transmission of intelligence and how to handle them - after he explained every single item, he extended his hand again and smiled. "From now on, we're two grasshoppers tied to the same rope."
However, Lin Nansheng sat there without any intention to say goodbye. He looked up at Lao Pan. "You need to tell me what happened to Zhu Yizhen."
Lao Pan furrowed his brows and narrowed his eyes, as though he were trying to dig up a name from his memories. After a long time spent thinking, he said, "If she's still alive, she should be at our base of operations in Northern Jiangsu."
He looked at Lin Nansheng. "I only know this much, and this much is all I can tell you."
In truth, Zhu Yizhen was in Shanghai at this time, living in a building with an attic on Central Zhejiang Road. The person who lived with her was Meng Annan, who'd already changed his name to Li Yanwen and was working as an editor for a French Photo Agency. Every day, he went to work carrying his briefcase, while Zhu Yizhen went up to the attic. She had already transformed it into her embroidery room, covering it with colorful silk threads and embroidery. However, hidden beneath the windowsill was a transmitter.
Other than her identity as Mrs. Li, Zhu Yizhen's concealed identity was that of Meng Annan's telegraph operator. They had first met in a thatched cottage outside Funing County the night before they departed from their base in Northern Jiangsu.
Sitting opposite each other with a lantern between them, Meng Annan spent quite a while giving her a searching look.
"You're familiar with Shanghai, and you have experience posing as one half of a married couple, so you should be the most appropriate person for this role." When he saw that Zhu Yizhen had lowered her head without speaking, he continued. "Of course, you can refuse. I can understand your feelings."
"I will follow my orders," said Zhu Yizhen, lifting her head.
"That's good." Meng Annan closed the folder in his hand. "You can go back to make your preparations. We'll leave tomorrow."
"Yes." Zhu Yizhen stood up to leave, then suddenly turned around at the door. "I want to know whose wife I'll be."
"Mine," said Meng Annan.
Zhu Yizhen gave him one last look before leaving the thatched cottage. She walked along a small road in the pitch-black darkness until she reached the edge of the village, before losing all strength to move even one step more. Leaning against the edge of a dried-up well, she slowly sat herself down on the ground. The place on her chest where the bullet had once penetrated her ached dully once again.
To this day, Zhu Yizhen still didn't know how she managed to leave Shanghai after being shot. By the time she woke up, she was already in a German clinic in Jiaxing. The person who had looked after her there was an old woman, who was both the owner of the clinic and its only nurse. During her three months there, she had more than once asked the woman, "Who brought me here?"
And every time, the old nurse would shake her head full of graying hair, and respond in fluent Chinese. "It was God, my child."
Thus, after Zhu Yizhen recovered from her injuries, she became the clinic's second nurse. Then, on a late midsummer night, she quietly left. Taking a ship transporting yarn, she arrived at the Shiliupu Docks and returned to Shanghai once more. Like a downtrodden woman who'd failed in her search for her family, she spent her time in the lowest grade hotels in Zhabei, mixing with the refugees, the fortune tellers, the swindlers, and the street peddlers. Zhu Yizhen spent all the money she had on her to publish notices looking for someone - it was the only method she knew to contact her organization.
Finally, after more than a month's worth of waiting and searching, she met Lao Pan at the back entrance of Jessfield Park.
However, the moment they saw each other, Lao Pan said, "According to our regulations, you shouldn't have gone looking for me everywhere. You've already disappeared for more than half a year."
"I wasn't looking for you. I was looking for our organization," said Zhu Yizhen as she looked at the newsstand on the opposite side of the road.
"According to our regulations, I shouldn't have come to meet you either." Lao Pan sighed. Taking out a few pieces of Fabi, he stuffed it in her hands. "Let's find another place to meet some other day."
Two days later when they met again, Lao Pan quietly listened to the story of her experiences for the past half year. Then, he pushed a brown envelope in front of her. "Take this money. After you leave Shanghai, you can find a place to settle down."
"I don't want money," said Zhu Yizhen with her head lowered. "I'm not doing this line of work for money."
"But you should know that this line of work has regulations. You've lost contact for far too long," said Lao Pan. "For these past six months, we've looked for you through every possible means and couldn't find a single clue."
"So you now suspect that I've betrayed the organization."
"If you've betrayed the organization, the person you're meeting today wouldn't be me."
"Would it be the anti-treason team?" Zhu Yizhen directly met his gaze and said word by word, "Task failed, mission terminated, identity exposed - I must return to my home base. That was the order I received from the organization before I came to Shanghai."
Lao Pan lowered his head and remained silent for a long time before speaking. "I can arrange for you to go back, but once you've reached the base of operations, you'll be subject to a rigorous investigation."
"Only an investigation will prove my innocence."
"It might cost you your life."
Zhu Yizhen paused. "I'm not afraid. I've already died once."
Lao Pan didn't say anything more. Half a month later, Zhu Yizhen arrived at the base and was immediately imprisoned. In a wood shed that had been converted to an interrogation room, she said to the two New Fourth Army comrades interrogating her, "I won't tell you anything. According to our organization's regulations, I can only do so if you are my direct superior."
"Don't be too stubborn. This is an operation, we're here to rescue you."
Zhu Yizhen shook her head. Looking at the ray of sunlight shining through the window, she no longer spoke. It wasn't until spring two years later that she was finally released. The senior official who came for her took a long stride forward and grabbed her hand. He opened his mouth for a long time, but no words came out. It was as though he was the one who'd been imprisoned for so long.
Zhu Yizhen was exceptionally calm, only her body was a bit weak. In a hoarse voice, she asked, "Senior, can I return to work now?"
The senior official nodded vehemently. "I'm here to take you back."
Afterward, he looked at Zhu Yizhen and spoke again. "This is nothing. For the revolution, a bit of suffering is nothing."