The Rebel: Chapter 2

Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-05

One year later, Lin Nansheng had mostly given up his work recruiting defectors, putting most of his energy into gathering and analyzing intelligence instead. International settlements always attracted a mixed crowd. Almost all the intelligence organizations in the world had an office here, not to mention the countless patrols of secret police and the eyes and ears of the underworld. All these people seemed to become much busier after Japan joined the Axis powers. Sometimes, when he looked out of his office windows, Lin Nansheng even suspected that every pedestrian in a hurry were on some kind of assignment.

Right now, Lin Nansheng's cover identity was a business assistant at Huaxing Foreign Firm. On the surface, this company specialized in silk and tea exports, while in reality, it was an intelligence hub for the NBIS in Shanghai. For this, Gu Shenyan rented the entire top floor of the Xianghu Building located on the busiest district on Nanjing Street. This was the commercial center of Shanghai, and the intelligence distribution center for the Pacific Ocean's west coast. Every day, all kinds of information fly from each channel like a flurry of snowflakes. After going through sorting, analysis, and classification, they flew back out like snowflakes once more. Lin Nansheng was so busy there didn't seem to be an end to his work. However, no matter how busy he was, he wouldn't forget to go to the Yaris Bar every week to meet a mixed race half-Russian man.

That man was a bartender at the bar, as well as an intelligence officer that the CCP assigned in Shanghai. Sitting in front of the bar counter, Lin Nansheng not only drank the cocktail that the man mixed but also sought opportunities to exchange information.

When Gu Shenyan gave him this assignment, he had said, "When it comes to intelligence work, you and I are inextricably tied together." At the same time, he'd also reminded Lin Nansheng that in the intelligence community, there was no such thing as permanent enemies, let alone permanent friends.

Yet often times, when Lin Nansheng drank those no-name mixed drinks, he found that he had a sort of mutual understanding with the bartender in front of him. That night, after the bartender made an exception and gave him a vodka on the house, he turned to look at the corner of the bar and said, "Tomorrow night, the person replacing me will sit over there. There will be a Bloody Mary on the table."

"Then what about you?" asked Lin Nansheng.

"I should be leaving," said the bartender. "I've stayed too long in one place."

The next night, Lin Nansheng came to the bar again, and discovered that the bartender's replacement was actually Zhu Yizhen. After six years without seeing each other, the biggest change was her head of beautiful hair - back then, she'd had a short bob cut, and now she had curled her hair into large, flowy waves.

Back in those days, Lin Nansheng had been an English teaching assistant at Hujiang University. At the same time, he'd been Zhu Yizhen's first love. They had concealed their teacher-student affair from the eyes of the university, but they couldn't conceal it from Zhu Yizhen's mother. One morning, she'd burst into the university president's office, telling him that having something like this happen in a Christian school was a disgrace to God. Before she left, she gave the young university president two choices: expel the English teaching assistant who had offended public morals, or she'd invite the newspaper reporter over tomorrow.

The night before he'd left the university, Lin Nansheng had waited in the small chapel behind the sports field until daybreak. He'd sat in the narrow, pitch-black prayer room - the meeting place for countless trysts between the two of them, where they had embraced, kissed, and made love under God's eyes. Lin Nansheng remembered that she'd once said, "If I'm yours for one day, then I'm yours for life."

But that night, Zhu Yizhen hadn't appeared. She'd been kept in her house, kneeling in front of the portrait of her deceased father to reflect on her actions.

After the two of them left the bar, Zhu Yizhen stood on the street and said, "If you want to request a replacement, I can bring it up to my superiors."

"I'm afraid that this might be your superiors' intentions," said Lin Nansheng indifferently.

Taken aback, Zhu Yizhen lowered her head and stared at her toes.

"Chongqing is suffering from air raids every day," said Lin Nansheng. "We need all the information on the Japanese Air Force's movements."

"You should know what we need as well." After saying this, Zhu Yizhen waved down a rickshaw. She didn't give Lin Nansheng another look. She let the driver loop around several different streets before changing to a new rickshaw to go back home.

Ji Zhongyuan currently sat under the light of the desk lamp engraving seals. He used to be a seal cutter for Duo Yunxuan, and now, he opened a calligraphy shop in a remote part of Fuyou Road. The sign hanging outside also had "seal engraving" written on it.

This was their home, as well as their intelligence dispatch station.

After Zhu Yizhen changed into a sweater in the back room, she walked back out and sat down next to Ji Zhongyuan's desk. She watched and waited until he raised his head before speaking. "This is why you asked me to replace the bartender?"

Ji Zhongyuan nodded.

Zhu Yizhen glanced at the locked drawer in the dressing table. "You snooped through my diary."

"Your photo albums too," said Ji Zhongyuan calmly. "You shouldn't keep these things."

"I didn't keep them for you to read."

"I need to understand you," said Ji Zhongyuan. "We are husband and wife."

Zhu Yizhen let out a bitter laugh. "Don't tell me that you want me to rekindle an old flame with a NBIS operative?"

Ji Zhongyuan's gaze began to darken. "I know that this person is very important to us."

"And me?"

"You're an intelligence officer," said Ji Zhongyuan. "You should understand that information must be placed above all else."

After an extended silence, Zhu Yizhen spoke. "I wish to report the current situation to our superiors."

"That's your prerogative," said Ji Zhongyuan. "But before we receive our superiors' answer, you must obey my orders."

A long while later, he pointed to the dressing table drawer. "These diaries, it's best to take care of them as soon as possible."

Lin Nansheng saw Zhu Yizhen for the second time at Didi's Cafe.

Lin Nansheng was the one who chose the location. He remembered that Zhu Yizhen liked to drink the hot chocolate here. However, this time, she ordered a cup of black coffee without sugar.

"Your tastes have changed," said Lin Nansheng with a smile.

Zhu Yizhen seemed not to have heard him. She put a copy of The Young Companion on the table. "This is the information about the garrison of the Third Japanese Air Division in Hankou. You should find it useful."

Lin Nansheng also pretended not to hear her. He looked at the marks on her ring finger and asked, "Why did you take it off?"

Zhu Yizhen curled her fingers into her palms. "You should give me something too, shouldn't you?"

"Are you two really married?" Lin Nansheng nonchalantly shook his head. "I don't believe that you'd marry a seal cutter who opened a calligraphy shop."

When he saw Zhu Yizhen about to stand up as he spoke, he quickly grabbed her hand.

"Let go," said Zhu Yizhen.

"He's your superior." Lin Nansheng's smile faded as he looked into her eyes. "Your assignment isn't only exchanging information."

"Please let go," said Zhu Yizhen.

Lin Nansheng slowly released her hand, then leaned back against his chair. Earnestly, he said, "Zhenzhen, this line of work, isn't something a woman should be involved in."

Zhu Yizhen paused momentarily. "You're the one who's unqualified for this work. You broke the rules between us."

After that, she stood up and left the cafe without a single backward glance.

This time, she didn't take the roundabout way, but directly returned to the calligraphy shop on Fuyou Road. The moment she came in, she spoke angrily to Ji Zhongyuan. "Damn! He not only followed me, but also discovered your real identity."

"This is within my expectations," said Ji Zhongyuan with a smile. "Didn't we also follow and investigate him?"

"That's not the same thing," said Zhu Yizhen. "He'll bring danger to us."

"We can bring danger to him as well." Still smiling, Ji Zhongyuan confidently said, "He understands this principle."

"You have a little too much faith in a NBIS agent from the Kuomintang." Zhu Yizhen's tone turned grave and stern. "Don't forget the Fourth Army Incident."

Ji Zhongyuan sat down on a chair and stared up at Zhu Yizhen for a long while before suddenly speaking. "Yizhen, you two used to be together. You two used to love each other."

Zhu Yizhen was taken aback, but quickly replied. "That was in the past."

"And now? Do you trust me?" Ji Zhongyuan continued to stare at her, not moving an inch. He stared at her until she looked down bit by bit and no longer spoke.

Early morning that day, Ji Zhongyuan gave Zhu Yizhen a folding fan made of mottled bamboo, telling her to deliver it to a Tathātā Temple outside the city. By the time she returned, it was already afternoon. Holding a box of vegetarian fried steam buns from the Tathātā Temple, she hadn't walked onto Fuyou Road for very long when she heard an explosion coming from the direction of the calligraphy shop. Her heart suddenly leapt into her throat. By the time she heard the second explosion, she was practically sprinting as she rushed towards the direction of her home.

Zhu Yizhen ran head-first into someone's embrace. That person wore a changshan and a bowler hat, and without any explanation, pushed her into a rickshaw that was stopped at the side of the road. It was only then that Zhu Yizhen saw Lin Nansheng's face under the brim of his hat.

"Let me down," she said.

Acting as though he didn't hear her, Lin Nansheng told the driver to leave quickly.

"Let go of me!"

Zhu Yizhen kept struggling and shouting to let her off, until Lin Nansheng took out a gun and pressed it against her waist. Her eyes widened as she stared at him. They were both breathing hard, their breaths hitting each other's faces.

A good while later, Lin Nansheng put his gun back and whispered in her ear, "You need to stay calm."

But Zhu Yizhen couldn't calm down. The grenade hidden at home kept appearing in front of her eyes. She remembered that it was a standard Type 97 grenade given to the Japanese infantry. Back when Ji Zhongyuan stored it in the hidden compartment with the transmitter, he had said that this grenade had enough power to blow the entire place up. He'd also said that it was something he was preparing for himself.

Lin Nansheng kept a tight hold on Zhu Yizhen's shoulder, only loosening his grip after they entered his apartment and closed the door. He told Zhu Yizhen, "It wasn't only the calligraphy shop on Fuyou Road that encountered misfortune today. There was also the rice shop on Baxian Bridge, the teahouse in Shiliupu, and the pawnshop by the Small Western Gate. If it wasn't a bombing, then it was people being shot dead by chaotic gunfire. These places should all be your contact points."

Finally, Lin Nansheng said, "Your problem comes from the top."

Zhu Yizhen stayed in a daze for a long time, before looking directly at him. "Then how did you end up there?"

"I received information that No. 76 was deploying surveillance to Fuyou Road, so I went to notify you," said Lin Nansheng. "Luckily, you weren't inside."

Zhu Yizhen didn't say another word after that. She sat on the sofa until the sky turned dark before suddenly standing up to go outside.

Lin Nansheng immediately grabbed her.

"Where are you going?"

Zhu Yizhen didn't respond.

Lin Nansheng forcefully pushed her back onto the sofa. "Right now, there's nowhere you can go."

Zhu Yizhen gritted her teeth, using all her strength to stand up.

Lin Nansheng pushed her down harder. "If you do this, you're throwing away your life. They're all waiting for you to jump into their trap."

"Then let me die!" Zhu Yizhen suddenly screamed.

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