The Rebel: Chapter 13
Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-12
Lin Nansheng waited in a hotel room until it was midnight, at which point he had an idea of tonight's outcome. All of a sudden, he fell back onto the bed as though he'd been drained of all his blood. Motionlessly, he stared blankly with his eyes open until morning arrived, his body curled up weakly as though he were dead.
However, when he entered the Orange Osmanthus Theater House in the afternoon, he had already recovered his normal composure. Only his eyes were still blood-shot.
In a box seat on the second level, Lin Nansheng waited until the play began. Amidst the clamor of gongs and drums, the waiter lifted the door curtains. Unexpectedly, the person who arrived was the Nanjing Defense Department's Combat General Rong. Both people were taken aback. More than once, they'd encountered each other in different situations before. All at once, Lin Nansheng understood that this was a meeting worth sacrificing a life for.
General Rong reached inside his pocket, where there was likely a loaded handgun.
"If this were a trap, then it would be no use even if you killed me," said Lin Nansheng indifferently.
Expressionlessly, General Rong pulled out a chair and sat down. He glanced at the newspaper placed on the table, which displayed news of Lao Pan's death with an accompanying picture of the crime scene.
"Lao Pan has been killed. I'm the person replacing him."
"He should know that I won't trust anyone," said General Rong.
"The reason he chose such a public place to die was so you could see the news of his death in the newspaper." Lin Nansheng turned to look at him. "You should also know that if he were still alive, he would never allow anyone else to come see you."
General Rong didn't say anything more. Sitting upright, he watched the performance on the stage downstairs.
Thus, after Lin Nansheng drank his tea, he began to recount the events starting from Lao Pan's unexpected capture to his departure from the Cathay Hotel.
"In order to see me, he sold himself out. In order to make people believe his defection, he did not hesitate to sacrifice two of his contacts." Having said this, Lin Nansheng suddenly thought of Miss Lan. He looked at General Rong. "You must believe me. And I must complete this assignment that he gave me."
General Rong didn't speak from beginning to end. He fixed his gaze on the performance on-stage and smoked one cigarette after another.
"We've likely already had our covers blown." Lin Nansheng paused. "We don't have much time."
General Rong extinguished his cigarette, then took out another one from his cigarette case. After lighting the cigarette and taking a deep drag from it, he directly looked at Lin Nansheng through the smoke he exhaled. "Lao Pan should have told you the most crucial matter."
Taken aback, Lin Nansheng went back over all the words that Lao Pan had said to him. "You two were from the same hometown, you two once worked together for the Nineteenth Route Army, and you both joined the War of Resistance against the Japanese in Shanghai… Back in his hometown, his name was Liu Zongming."
General Rong shook his head. "He must have told you. The fact that I still showed up in this box after the news of his death should be proof enough that the information I want to pass on is more important than our lives."
With that, General Rong extinguished his cigarette. Then, he turned around, lifted the curtain, and left without a second glance.
Lin Nansheng sat blankly in the box, taking a long time to recover his wits. It was only when he spotted the packet of cigarettes and matches General Rong had left behind on the table while he was on his way out that he let out a long breath of relief.
That evening, following the address written on the matchbox, Lin Nansheng arrived at the coffin home in Anfu County. After finding a paper bag on a corpse which was about to be cremated, he directly went to Zhu Yizhen's backup location.
Upon hearing his knock, Zhu Yizhen opened the door. Her face immediately turned pale. "You really are like a lingering spirit who won't leave."
"As long as I've found you, I won't let you out of my sight." Halfway through, Lin Nansheng already regretted his words. Thinking of Miss Lan once again, his chest felt stuffy, and he lowered his head. When Lin Nansheng looked back up again, he said, "I need your transmitter, and your cipher code."
"Dream on." Zhu Yizhen had just been making dinner and was still wearing an apron. Without looking back, she returned to the kitchen.
Lin Nansheng followed her to the kitchen entrance. He took out the paper bag and watched her profile. "This is the plan that the Defense Department just authorized for troop deployment to the Liaoning-Shenyang area and reinforcements to Changchun."
Taken aback, Zhu Yizhen turned her head and asked, "Who are you, really?"
"I'm the person you took great pains to cultivate many years ago." As Lin Nansheng spoke, he walked over and placed the paper bag in front of her. "For this, Lao Pan has died, while my wife has gone missing, her fate unknown. You must send this information out."
However, Zhu Yizhen didn't look at him, nor did she look at the paper bag. Slowly, she put down the kitchen knife, untied her apron, and casually threw it onto the counter. Silently, she walked out of the kitchen and approached the window, where she looked out at the darkening skies. All of a sudden, she wanted to cry, and she wanted to scream.
When Meng Annan got back home, the skies had already completely darkened. There was no trace of shock on his face. Sitting down at the table, he ate his dinner while he listened to Lin Nansheng's explanation. Then, he went to the kitchen to brush his teeth before coming back out.
"I believe that all of this is real. However, I still need to report this to the organization," said Meng Annan as he watched Lin Nansheng. "This is procedure."
Lin Nansheng nodded. "Then how long do I need to wait here?"
"Wait until I come back." Meng Annan picked up his briefcase and hurried out the door.
Lin Nansheng waited by the dinner table until noon the next day. Just when his whole body began to turn stiff, Meng Annan pushed open the door and came in. He looked at Zhu Yizhen, who sat on the other end of the table, then turned back to Lin Nansheng. "We only confirmed Shizhi's identity. In 1941, he was recalled back to Northern Jiangsu along with the New Fourth Army. After he attended the Yan'an Counter-Japanese Military and Political University in 1942, we can't rule out the possibility that he was sent back to Shanghai. However, we couldn't find a single bit of information about you. You have to give me time."
"This won't wait for us."Lin Nansheng lifted the paper bag. "You must send this information out."
Meng Annan looked at Zhu Yizhen again, then nodded. "Let's do as he says. Send this to the East China Bureau, then ask them to transfer it to Xibaipo."
"There is no but. Our superiors will verify the truthfulness of the intelligence," said Meng Annan. He took the paper bag from Lin Nansheng and handed it over to Zhu Yizhen. "Hurry. This is an order."
After Zhu Yizhen left, Lin Nansheng let out of a long sigh of relief and leaned back against his chair. Looking at Meng Annan, he seemed to want to say something, but in the end, he didn't open his mouth.
Meng Annan smiled. He took a look at the leftovers on the table, then brought out half a bottle of foreign wine. "Have a drink, then go to sleep."
Lin Nansheng nodded obediently. Taking the wineglass, he drained it in one gulp. "Aren't you afraid that this is a trap?"
"I'm only doing what I should do," said Meng Annan. Suddenly, he smiled and scratched the back of his head. He looked at Lin Nansheng, but he seemed to be speaking to himself. "Trust is sometimes such a strange thing."
Taken aback, Lin Nansheng's blood-shot eyes widened. He remembered that Gu Shenyan once said those exact words to him in that Italian-owned brothel.
Late one night close to the Mid-Autumn Festival, Lin Nansheng finally left Shanghai. He had stayed in the living room of Zhu Yizhen's home for half a month. This had been done under Meng Annan's repeated warnings: "You already have a secret warrant for your arrest from the Counter-Intelligence Bureau. As long as you don't go out of this door, you'll be safe in Shanghai."
Lin Nansheng smiled, knowing full well that before those two pieces of intelligence were verified, he wouldn't be safe anywhere. He began drinking. At first, he had Zhu Yizhen buy them one or two bottles at a time. During the day, he would drink while sitting by the window. If he couldn't sleep at night, he would sit cross-legged in the living room and drink in the dark. Afterward, Zhu Yizhen directly had a helper from a sauce and pickle shop carry over a large jug of Shaoxing wine.
"We can't afford anything better," she said.
"It doesn't matter," said Lin Nansheng without even looking up.
Out of nowhere one day, shortly after Zhu Yizhen left the house, Lin Nansheng put down his wineglass and went into their room, which he quickly searched through. Finally, he found a Meihua brand watch with a missing second hand at the bottom of a locked suitcase.
The next day, after Zhu Yizhen returned from hanging their clothes up to dry on the roof and sat down in front of her embroidery table, Lin Nansheng suddenly spoke.
"You two are a fake couple."
Zhu Yizhen paused and straightened her back. "You don't miss your wife anymore?"
Lin Nansheng seemed as though he'd suddenly been stabbed by a needle. However, he still continued. "Do you know what kind of person he is?"
Without moving, Zhu Yizhen gazed at the sunlight outside the window. "Is she beautiful?"
There were many things that Lin Nansheng wanted to say, but in the end, he couldn't say a single word out loud. Instead, he shut his mouth and poured a glass of wine from the wine jug in the kitchen. After coming out, he drank half the glass in one gulp, then went back to refill his glass again.
However, before he saw the bottom of that jug of wine, the telegram verifying Lin Nansheng's identity arrived. When Zhu Yizhen was copying the message, she unexpectedly felt her eyes brim over with hot tears. She hurriedly ran upstairs and stared at Lin Nansheng for quite a while before spitting out one sentence: "The base has sent a telegram… summoning you back."
Sitting by the window, Lin Nansheng didn't look up, nor did he make a sound. He picked up a wineglass from the windowsill and slowly finished that half glass of Shaoxing wine.
Two days later, Meng Annan personally sent Lin Nansheng all the way to the boundary of Jiangsu Province in a police car. By then, the skies had already brightened. He parked the car at the side of the road, looked at his watch, and said, "We've arrived too early."
Then, he took out a gun from his inner pockets. "Take this. For self-defense on the road."
He continued, "Hopefully you won't have to use this on your trip."
Having accepted the gun, Lin Nansheng inspected it with practiced movements. Then, after loading it with bullets, he aimed the gun at Meng Annan's temple.
Meng Annan was taken back. "There are troops up ahead. The gunshot will alert them."
Using his other hand, Lin Nansheng pulled out the Meihua brand watch with a missing second hand. "You're a sparrow hawk that Gu Shenyan released?"
Meng Annan nodded. "I know you're his student, but you don't know that I'm his adopted son."
He reached out and took the watch, looking it over. "Only, we both chose our own paths."
Facing the muzzle of the gun, Meng Annan told Lin Nansheng that from the time he followed Gu Shenyan from Vietnam to Hong Kong, he'd already spent almost sixteen years in this land called China. Although he carried the title of an NBIS operative, he'd never done a single task for them. Quite the opposite, the work that he'd done every day was the unfinished business his parents had left behind.
Meng Annan's parents had been loyal followers of Hồ Chí Minh. They'd studied abroad in France together, where they met Gu Shenyan. However, when he'd turned ten, his parents had both died in a French prison in Saigon. Back then, Meng Annan's name had been Ruan Zhizhong.
Having finished telling his story, he turned his head so that the muzzle was aimed at his forehead. Watching Lin Nansheng, he said, "When you reach the base, you can go to the political office of the East China Bureau. They have my records there, which contain my complete history."
However, in reality, Lin Nansheng never reached the base. When he was passing through the blockade line, the sampan he was sitting in was sunk by a bullet from a pillbox bunker. At the same time, the liaison escorting him had been struck dead by a bullet as well. Lin Nansheng swam through the water until he was completely worn out. When he woke up, he found himself lying on the deck of a ship.
The person who saved him was a rice shop owner who was going to the countryside to collect rent. He took Lin Nansheng to a small village on the outskirts of Shanghai and stood on the pier where three rivers converged. "If you take the boat east, you'll arrive in Shanghai. South is Zhejiang Province, and north is Jiangsu."
"What's this place?" asked Lin Nansheng.
"This place is called Xietang Village."