The Rebel: Chapter 14
Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-12
The news of Shanghai's liberation spread from the mouths of a group of defeated soldiers from the National Army. After they finished robbing the village's rice shop, butcher's shop, pastries store, and clothing store, they shouted a few words about engaging in guerrilla warfare in the mountains before leaving in a hurry, disappearing down the criss-crossed network of rivers.
Xietang Village quickly recovered its peace, seemingly no different from its former days at all. As usual, Lin Nansheng went to work every day at St. Aloysius Middle School. Right now, he was the most popular teacher there, teaching history and English. Like many of the men and women who had drifted towards this village, they all treated this place as their home.
On this day, the principal suddenly barged into his classroom. "The comrades from the task force are here. They're waiting for you in the office."
The two people looking for Lin Nansheng wore yellow military uniforms and service caps, and weren't much older than Lin Nansheng's students. They were here to re-register people for the census. Once they saw him, one of them asked, "Name?"
"Date of birth?"
"November 19th, 1912."
"Place of birth?"
"Fuyang County, Zhejiang."
"How did you come here?"
"As a refugee."
"Now that we've been liberated, why haven't you gone back home?"
"My home is no longer there," said Lin Nansheng. "It was destroyed during the 1937 bombings."
The young soldiers slowed down their questions. "Marital status."
Lin Nansheng looked at the other teachers in the office and lowered his gaze. "Widowed."
In fact, over the past year, it wasn't as though no one had tried to play matchmaker for him. The biggest group of people left behind by the war were the orphans and the widows. However, Lin Nansheng had politely turned each and every one of them down. He had said the same thing to every person - "Living like this is pretty good. I won't go and become a burden to someone else."
All the people in Xietang Village had thought that it was because Lin Nansheng had high standards, and that he wasn't interested in uneducated women. However, Lin Nansheng was the only one who knew that his days on this earth were numbered. He could no longer feel the heat during the summer, nor could he feel the cold during the winter.
The day before the New Year, there was no wind or snow, but it was so unusually cold that the water tanks at home were covered in a thick layer of ice. Just as Lin Nansheng climbed up onto a bamboo ladder to help the janitor hang a red lantern on the school gate, he saw a military jeep kick up a trail of dust, speeding towards him.
Two hours later, this jeep sped away from Xietang Village leaving a trail of dust behind, carrying Lin Nansheng with it. After driving for half a day on the road, they entered downtown Shanghai at nightfall.
When Lin Nansheng saw Ji Zhongyuan in an office at the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, he asked indifferently, "Why did you waste so much effort to find me?"
Ji Zhongyuan wore a yellow military uniform now, but no matter how Lin Nansheng looked, Ji Zhongyuan still seemed like that seal cutter from years ago.
"We've been searching for you for almost two years," said Ji Zhongyuan with a smile.
"And you couldn't pretend that I've died?" asked Lin Nansheng.
Ji Zhongyuan shook his head. Opening the folder, he let Lin Nansheng take a look for himself. These weren't reports from subordinates to their superiors. All of them were records of Lin Nansheng's every move in Xietang Village. As it turned out, Lin Nansheng had already been put under surveillance over half a year ago. The one who reported him was a village baozhang. He'd once been a peripheral staff for the Counter-Intelligence Bureau and had once seen Lin Nansheng in Shanghai from afar. The local Ministry of Public Security had firmly believed that a high-ranked secret agent hiding in a small village must be part of a larger conspiracy. They'd wanted to let out the fishing line to reel in the big fish.
"I only received these materials recently," said Ji Zhongyuan. "We need you to come back."
"I've been under surveillance for more than half a year without realizing it. I'm no longer a secret agent," said Lin Nansheng.
"But we won't forget your contributions," said Ji Zhongyuan. "You shouldn't be living in a small village as a teacher."
"I used to be a teacher originally. And my dream is to be a teacher as well." Lin Nansheng turned his head and watched the burning flames in the fireplace. An image of Zhu Yizhen wearing her school uniform appeared before him in his mind's eye. Back then, she'd had her hair in a short bob cut.
"What if this were an order?" asked Ji Zhongyuan. Standing up, he retrieved a letter of appointment and handed it to Lin Nansheng. "Although the revolution was successful, our battles are far from over."
He gazed at Lin Nansheng solemnly. "This is the trust that our organization has placed in you."
Now, Lin Nansheng's daily work consisted of sorting through the leftover records from those years in the past. From those records, he discovered those broken trails of clues, which finally led to him finding that person, then discovering and confirming their identities. Lin Nansheng began drinking again. After he left work and returned home, the first thing he would do was pour himself a strong drink. Then, one mouthful after another, he would drink until he felt drowsy.
This was the only way he knew to make himself fall asleep now.
One day in May, the only thing hotter than the weather was the passion of the people raising money for the volunteer army. The streets of Shanghai were filled with slogans and posters about the War of Resistance against the U.S. to aid Korea. However, at that moment, Lin Nansheng suddenly fell over in the crowded trolleybus.
When he woke up again, he could no longer move. The pitch-black hospital room was silent, without any other patients. It was like lying in his own grave. This was an outcome he'd envisioned countless times before. In the darkness, Lin Nansheng calmly looked back on his life, and discovered that in this world, he didn't any friends, nor did he have any family. The only things left were the memories in his head.
On the morning of the third day, after Ji Zhongyuan visited Lin Nansheng, he dropped by a store on the way to his office. He picked up the phone on the counter, dialed a number, and said, "Get me the Jing'an District Committee."
That afternoon, Zhu Yizhen entered his hospital room, carrying a bag of apples. This was the first time they'd seen each other since Lin Nansheng returned to Shanghai, although they both knew they worked only a few blocks away from each other. Zhu Yizhen worked at the Jing'an District Committee, and lived in the municipal government's single dormitory. Many times, during those nights when not even the alcohol could help him sleep, Lin Nansheng had left his home and walked to the front of her dormitory building. After standing there for a bit and watching that brightly lit window, he would go back home and continue drinking.
Zhu Yizhen sat by the hospital, silently peeling an apple, then feeding it slice by slice into Lin Nansheng's mouth.
"Where's your husband? Why haven't you come together?" Lin Nansheng looked at the paring knife in her hand and suddenly smiled. "This might be the last time we see each other."
Zhu Yizhen didn't respond. She only lowered her gaze while also looking at the paring knife.
Not long after Shanghai's liberation, Meng Annan had submitted a report to the organization, asking for permission to return home and take part in the war against France led by Hồ Chí Minh. However, the answer he'd received came in the form of an order to march alongside the Third Field Army towards the front lines in Fujian. The night before he departed, he'd asked Zhu Yizhen, "It doesn't matter if you don't want to marry me. But shouldn't you at least let me know the reason?"
Zhu Yizhen had calmly looked into his pair of deep-set eyes, not replying for a long time. Finally, she'd said, "I have a husband who came back from the dead, and I also have a lover who's currently hovering between life and death. Why don't you tell me how I can marry you?"
Meng Annan had said nothing more. He'd watched as Zhu Yizhen went back into her room and gently closed her door. All night, he'd sat outside her door, leaning against his soldier's pack. When dawn had arrived, he'd stood up and quietly left.
Zhu Yizhen had been a little distracted from the very start. When she folded up the paring knife, she suddenly laughed for no reason and looked up at Lin Nansheng. "We really are foolish."
Lin Nansheng wanted to sit up, but his muscles refused to obey him. He could only gaze straight at the woman in front of him. After thinking it over, he said, "Fortunately, I still ended up being able to see you."
And that's the conclusion to this novella! I know quite a few people were curious about the plot to the upcoming drama 'The Rebel' which is based on this novella, so I hope this translation and its footnotes helped you get an idea of what it will be about. I'd love to know what people thought of the characters and the story!