The Rebel: Chapter 4

Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-07

On the day that Wang Jingwei's Regime published the List of Organizations and Names of Chongqing's Blue Shirts Society in the Shanghai District in the China Daily News, Gu Shenyan sent down an order to burn down the entire Huaxing Foreign Firm. Yet who would have know that this would lead to a disaster. The conflagration spread downward from the roof of the Xianghu Building, quickly engulfing all the upper floors. Amidst the sirens of the fire engines, he spent a very long time standing before the windowfront of the New World Hotel. The flames on the distant building danced endlessly in his eyes.

Gu Shenyan slowly turned around and spoke to the subordinates standing behind him. "All of you need to remember this day."

It was November 28th, 1941. All of the NBIS' ten departments, eight operational teams, and five intelligence teams in Shanghai had their identities blown. Yet after Gu Shenyan received the order that recalled them to Chongqing, he still chose to remain. He said to Lin Nansheng, "If we abandon Shanghai, then it would be like blinding us in one eye."

Lin Nansheng gently and cautiously reminded him, "Staying in Shanghai would mean disobeying Mr. Dai's orders."

"Have you thought about why we ended up in this predicament today?" Gu Shenyan looked at him before letting out a long sigh and continuing. "Once any organization takes loyalty to an individual or group as an ideal, then it becomes impossible to avoid today's tragedy."

For a while, Lin Nansheng didn't know what to say.

Then, Gu Shenyan put on the bowler hat he'd been clutching in his hand. He needed to go to both Hangzhou and Nanjing in order to recruit new people. His last words to Lin Nansheng were: "Your assignment is to wait for my return."

That night when Lin Nansheng barged into Zhu Yizhen's attic room, he was wearing the uniform of the Peacebuilding National Army. One of his arms was in a sling, hanging off the strap around his neck. It made him look like a young officer who'd slipped away from the army hospital to seek pleasure.

"You haven't thrown away all my clothes, have you?" asked Lin Nansheng with a smile. "I need to live here for a few days."

Zhu Yizhen couldn't force herself to smile. She'd been sitting in front of her embroidery table, staring at that issue of the China Daily News all night. But now, her gaze turned to Lin Nansheng's arm.

"It's nothing." Lin Nansheng continued to smile. He casually pulled the sling off while surveying his surroundings. "This looks much more like a home than it did before."

Zhu Yizhen still didn't reply. After taking out some pajamas she'd left in a drawer and putting them on the bed, she turned around and sat back down in front of the embroidery table. Then, she blew hot air on her hands that had gone stiff from the cold, picked up her needle and thread, and began to embroider on the piece of silk cloth again.

This was a peculiar night. Every now and then, the sound of police sirens from afar would come from outside the windows. However, inside the room, it was so quiet that there was only the sound of needle and thread piercing the silk cloth.

Lin Nansheng had only lay down on the bed for a while before he threw off the covers and stood barefoot on the floor.

Finally, Zhu Yizhen opened her mouth for the first time. Looking at the half-embroidered butterfly, she said, "You should have withdrawn instead of coming here."

Someone had to stay behind. Lin Nansheng hesitated for a bit, then walked over and put both hands on her shoulders, kneading them like a masseuse. "You can't sit here all night."

Zhu Yizhen lightly shrugged off his hands. "It's just one night. Tomorrow, I'll buy a bed and some bedsheets."

Lin Nansheng quietly went back to the bed. "I shouldn't have come."

Zhu Yizhen laughed. "Sleep well."

Several days later, the Japanese army took control of the entire settlement. At the first light of dawn, planes were already circling at low altitudes, countless pamphlets dropping from the skies like snowflakes. Yet the streets of the settlements were desolate and uncluttered, with only those Chinese police officers wearing leg wrappings patrolling them. When it was almost noon, Zhu Yizhen went out for a bit before quickly returning.

"Japan has declared war against the British Empire and the United States," said Zhu Yizhen as she walked in the door, a little out of breath. "This morning, they sank the HMS Peterel gunboat that had been anchored in Huangpu River."

Having finished speaking, she changed out of her Western clothes into a qipao. Swiftly, she faced the mirror and put up her hair.

Lin Nansheng leaned back next to the window, calmly watching her. "Can you leave Shanghai today?"

Zhu Yizhen paused. "Even if I can't leave, I still have to go."

Turning around, she wrung out a towel and washed the make-up off her face. "There's still half a piece of bread in the drawers."

Lin Nansheng stopped her just as she was about to pull open the door. "Let me go in your place."

Zhu Yizhen smiled. "That's not possible."

"Then I'll go with you."

"That's also not possible."

"What if I know of a way out of the city?"

Zhu Yizhen fell silent and carefully looked up at Lin Nansheng.

When they walked onto the streets, neither looked like they were in a rush to leave the city. Their unhurried footsteps made them look like a young military officer going for a stroll with his sweetheart. Once they reached a telephone booth, Lin Nansheng stepped inside to make a phone call. After he finished, he put his arm back around Zhu Yizhen's waist, and went to a sake restaurant by the street.

Every now and then, a military truck full of Japanese soldiers would speed over the streets, having entered Shanghai via Suzhou Creek.

Zhu Yizhen stared at the cups and plates on the table. "How long do you want me to wait here?"

Lin Nansheng didn't reply. Sip by sip, he drank his wine. Bite by bite, he ate his food. He waited until a black Nissan stopped outside the door, at which point he put down his chopsticks and stood up. "Let's go."

Zhu Yizhen remembered this car and the mustached Japanese man sitting in the driver's seat. This time, however, the mustached man didn't immediately start the car when they entered the car. Using fluent Chinese, he said to Lin Nansheng, "We're done with each other. You said that we wouldn't see each other again."<

"Can't you help a friend out just this once?" asked Lin Nansheng with a smile.

"We're not friends." The mustached watched as a military truck drove past them. "I can kill the two of you right now."

"You can think of this as an extra business transaction." Lin Nansheng continued to smile as he took out a small key. From the backseat, he put the key in the man's suit pocket. "There's a safe deposit box in Zhongchu Bank. If you help us leave the city, the contents of the box are yours."

The mustached man didn't move. The right hand he'd kept in his suit's inner pocket continued to grip his handgun.

Lin Nansheng didn't stop smiling as he patted the man's shoulders. "Mr. Kobayashi, murder is something that requires courage."

For a good while, Kobayashi Daisuke stared at Lin Nansheng's face through the rearview mirror. "Lin-san, if you get captured while wearing this military uniform, you'll be executed."

The smile on Lin Nansheng's face gradually froze. Closing his eyes, he leaned back in his seat and said indifferently, "Drive."

Kobayashi Daisuke was the Second Secretary at the Japanese Consulate in Shanghai. From the first time he sold information to Lin Nansheng, he already knew that he'd lost his country, just like he'd lost his dead wife and child. They had been killed in a car accident caused by a drunk marine corps second lieutenant. Several weeks later, the night after that second lieutenant had been released in court, he'd put a gun up against his jaw. However, he ultimately hadn't pulled the trigger.

After the black Nissan left the final checkpoint far behind, it stopped at the side of a small, remote road. Lin Nansheng watched Zhu Yizhen get out of the car, then took out his handgun and pressed it against the back of Kobayashi Daisuke's neck.

"You know I'm not afraid of death," said Kobayashi Daisuke evenly, his hands holding the steer wheel. "Life has long since lost its meaning to me."

Lin Nansheng sighed. "Get out of the car."

Kobayashi Daisuke complied and got off the car. He walked to the trunk of the car and popped it open on his own initiative, before turning to stare down the pitch-black muzzle of the gun. He fixed his gaze on Lin Nansheng and threw everything he carried that could identify him onto the ground by his feet, including that small key. Raising his head, he took one last look at the gloomy skies. Then, he climbed into the trunk and closed his eyes as though he were going to sleep. In the same instant he heard the gunshot, he saw his wife and his young son.

When Zhu Yizhen ran back to the car, Lin Nansheng was crouched on the ground, picking up Kobayashi Daisuke's wallet, ID documents, gun, watch, and ring, as well as that small key, which he put in his pocket.

"What did you come back for?" asked Lin Nansheng as he looked up at her. "If I'd been the one who died, you wouldn't have been able to escape."

"If he wanted to kill us, he didn't need to wait until we were out of the city."

"He would have acted sooner or later." Lin Nansheng stood up and handed the small key over to Zhu Yizhen, placing it in her hand. "Put this away. It's the key to one of your dresser drawers."

Zhu Yizhen immediately understood. There had never been a safe deposit box in the bank. Right now, he was only an intelligence officer who'd reached the end of his rope. After a slight hesitation, Zhu Yizhen pulled open the passenger side door and got in the car. Watching Lin Nansheng's face grow increasingly paler, she said, "You don't need to do so much to help me."

"I'm not helping you." Lin Nansheng turned to gaze out at the barren fields. "I'm doing this for myself."

When night fell, they parted ways in front of a rundown temple near a fork in the road. Scattered light snow suddenly started falling from the night skies. Zhu Yizhen went to find and deliver intelligence to her organization, while Lin Nansheng drove to the shores of the Taipu River. Opening the trunk of the car, he carefully examined the corpse one more time. Then, he dug out all the items he'd picked up from Kobayashi Daisuke. One by one, he threw the wallet, the ID documents, the gun, the watch, and the ring into the river. Finally, he shifted the car out of gear and forcefully pushed it into the river.

Lin Nansheng was both tired and hungry. It was midnight when he arrived back at the rundown temple, but unexpectedly, Zhu Yizhen hadn't been waiting inside. It wasn't until noon the next day that she was spotted walking down the small road with a bundle in her hands. Her overcoat and qipao had been exchanged for a short jacket.

Zhu Yizhen handed the bundle over to Lin Nansheng. Inside were two pieces of rice cakes, as well as a men's style padded cotton jacket.

"You can change into this after you finish eating," she said. "What you're wearing right now is too conspicuous."

That night, on their way back to Shanghai, they checked into an inn. Like an old married couple, they washed up without a word and climbed into bed without a word. This was the first time in six years that they slept side by side under the covers together, both of them cautious and solemn. It was the same when they made love later, both of them doing their best to control their breathing.

Afterward, Lin Nansheng whispered in her ear. "Tell me, how did you spend your days in these six years?"

Zhu Yizhen didn't speak, tightly gritting her teeth in the dark. It wasn't until Lin Nansheng nudged open her lips with his tongue that she sighed into his mouth.

Early next morning, Zhu Yizhen suddenly said, "I have a husband."

Lin Nansheng's eyes widened. However, he quickly found the answer in her gaze. "But he's already dead."

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