The Rebel: Chapter 6
Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-07
It rained suddenly on the day that Lin Nansheng was discharged from the hospital. Autumn in Hong Kong was just like its summers - it was never clear whether it would be rain or shine, and the air was filled with the tang of the sea. Holding an umbrella, the military doctor Suzuki Masao sent him off. Along the way, neither of them spoke. Over the course of these endless eight months, the two of them had already become friends. They would frequently play Go or drink tea together in the activity room provided for injured soldiers. Sometimes, they'd also discuss literature in English, but more often, they would learn Chinese and Japanese from each other.
When they walked past the hospital entrance, Lin Nansheng glanced at the guards standing upright in their rubber raincoats before suddenly asking in Japanese, "How many Chinese people have you killed?"
Suzuki Masao was taken aback. He responded in Chinese. "I'm a doctor. I only save people."
Lin Nansheng took the leather suitcase that he handed over. "All right. Goodbye."
Suzuki Masao handed over the umbrella in his hand and earnestly said, "Pang-san, it's a miracle that you're able to walk out of here on your own two legs."
With a smile, Lin Nansheng turned around and climbed onto a pedicab under Suzuki Masao's watchful gaze. To the driver, he said three words: "Public Square Street."
Th residence that Gu Shenyan had left him was located on this street at number 373, on the second floor. Its windows faced a public square, which would fill up with street performers, fortune tellers, and street vendors every evening. The first time Lin Nansheng came here, he'd only just started to walk independently without his wheelchair. Zuo Qiuming had driven him over in his car and pointed to the window above, saying, "I'll wait for you in the car."
It took a great deal of effort for Lin Nansheng to climb up to the second floor. The moment he opened the door and saw Gu Shenyan, he immediately thought of Zhu Yizhen. After thinking it over for a quite a while, he still decided to ask: "What happened to the person I was with that day?"
Gu Shenyan leaned back against the rattan chair, one hand holding a cigar between his fingers, and the other hand cooling himself with a folding fan. He stared at Lin Nansheng for a long time before speaking. "You shouldn't ask this question."
Lin Nansheng lowered his head. "I want to know."
Gu Shenyan thought it over. "Forgetting is the best way to cherish this memory."
After an extended silence, Lin Nansheng raised his head. "Then let me go back to Shanghai with you."
Gu Shenyan shook his head and got out of his rattan chair to stand by the window. Pushing aside the curtains, he looked down at the public square below before letting out a bitter laugh. He suddenly asked, "Would you betray your country?"
This gave Lin Nansheng a great fright.
Yet Gu Shenyan didn't wait for an answer. He continued as though speaking to the transparent window pane. "A traitor is someone who will never be trusted."
Several days ago, he'd said this same sentence to himself when he received the telegram from headquarters ordering him to return to Chongqing. After Gu Shenyan finished arranging everything in Shanghai, he decided to take a detour through Hong Kong to Guangxi before circling back to Chongqing via Nanning. It wasn't actually to visit this student of his who'd just escaped from calamity. He only wanted to see a person so he could send out the order that they'd both been waiting for these many years.
When Gu Shenyan saw Lin Nansheng off to the door, he took the keys from the table and handed them over. "You should stay in Hong Kong. I've already arranged everything for you."
With that, he supported himself on the door frame like an old man and watched as Lin Nansheng struggled his way down the stairs. Afterward, he closed the door, lay back on the rattan chair, and stayed there until noon. It was only then that he got up, retrieved a leather suitcase from the wardrobe, and left the apartment.
Gu Shenyan arrived at Blake Pier in Central, boarded a fishing boat, and just like that, the boat sailed off.
Meng Annan was setting out food and wine on the short table in the cabin. Yet from beginning to end, Gu Shenyan's gaze remained on his thin, dark face. It was only when he was pouring wine into the two glasses that Gu Shenyan finally spoke up. "It's been ten years, hasn't it?"
Meng Annan nodded. "Time has almost made me forget who I am."
Back when Gu Shenyan had taken Meng Annan in, he had been a not yet 20-year-old youngster who was interning at the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi. Gu Shenyan, who had served as a military attaché there for four years, had groomed him into an operative, and had also given him the name Meng Annan. However, when it came time to bring him back to China, Gu Shenyan left him behind in Hong Kong.
Now, Meng Annan was the editor of current affairs for the Ta Kung Pao, as well as the director of the Hong Kong Seamen's Union. But a more concealed identity was his membership in the Indochinese Communist Party.
This time, the assignment Gu Shenyan gave him was to think of a way to go to Northern Jiangsu and infiltrate the core of the New Fourth Army.
Putting down his wineglass, Gu Shenyan said, "Right now, you already meet the qualifications."
Meng Annan muttered to himself for a bit before speaking. "The Rectification Movement has been ongoing in Ya'an for a while now, and this wind has long since reached Northern Jiangsu."
Gu Shenyan nodded. "Headquarters once sent over a large group of people in 1939. Now, pretty much all of them have already been eliminated. So, this is a onetime opportunity."
He looked into Meng Annan's eyes. "You should know that you're different from those people. After living here for ten years, you've already been dyed red. Not only that, but once you arrive in Northern Jiangsu, there won't be anyone above or below you. You'll be an idle and isolated chess piece."
With that, he took off the Meihua-brand wristwatch with its second hand missing and placed it on the table. "If there comes a day when you see another watch with its second hand missing, then that's the person I sent to find you."
"Since I'm meant to be an isolated chess piece, then there's no need for a third person to know."
"What if this is our last goodbye?" asked Gu Shenyan. "I don't want you to become a kite with its strings cut."
Meng Anna lowered his head and stared at the half-finished glass of wine on the table. "I've been a kite with its strings cut ever since my parents died."
Lin Nansheng returned to his old profession once more. Every day, he carried a briefcase to and from work, taking the intelligence that had been received before sorting, analyzing and classifying them. Then, he transferred them to international waters using a fishing boat before sending them out using an on-board transmitter set up by the Americans.
Out of consideration for his health, his superiors sent someone to place a leather reclining chair in his office. However, Lin Nansheng never used it. Each day, he would rather sit at his office desk until the numbness spread from his spine to his entire body, and it felt like his blood had congealed. Many times, he even hoped that he would simply fall onto the table like this and head slowly to his death.
Once, when he went to the hospital for a follow-up consultation, he'd asked Suzuki Masao, "If a person can no longer feel anything, then what's the difference between them and the dead?"
Suzuki Masao had said, "At least your eyes can still see and your brain can think."
"As long as I'm still alive, then that day will eventually arrive." Lin Nansheng suddenly smiled. "I'll be like an alcoholic who had too much to drink."
Right now, he spent many late nights in the bars on Queen's Road, mixing with the prostitutes, gamblers, and opium dealers and drinking illegally-brewed rum made with sugar cane. After that, he would drunkenly stagger home and lay in bed nursing a splitting headache. This was the only way he could still allow himself to feel pain.
However, one night on his way home, Lin Nansheng found that he was being followed. That person wore a cap and followed him at an unhurried pace, as though deliberately wanting to be discovered.
Lin Nansheng suddenly awoke from his drunken stupor and quickly stepped into an alley. Seemingly unworried, that person continued to follow him nonchalantly. And when Lin Nansheng popped out from behind him, his face showed no trace of surprise.
The one who was shocked turned out to be Lin Nansheng. He stared with a fixed gaze as the man slowly turned around.
Ji Zhongyuan took off his hat. "Mr. Lin, we shouldn't be strangers, right?"
As it turned out, Ji Zhongyuan wasn't dead. That day, he'd triggered the first grenade the moment he'd discovered that the calligraphy shop was under surveillance. It had been the most effective way to broadcast the fact that their cover had been blown. Then, once the agents from No. 76 had rushed inside, he'd triggered the second grenade before taking advantage of the chaos to escape through a hole that had been blasted in the wall.
After inviting Lin Nansheng into a car that had been parked by the street, he said, "I didn't think I'd escape alive."
"Dying requires courage," said Lin Nansheng indifferently.
"I will only die if it's necessary for my work. Similarly, I'm alive right now because that's what my work needs."
Lin Nansheng let out a cold chuckle. "You only faked your death so you could give her enough room to draw me in."
"However, she didn't completely carry out my orders." Ji Zhongyuan's voice suddenly turned hoarse. He turned to stare at the empty streets outside the car windows. "I've been married to her for two years, and there hasn't been a single day when she didn't think of you."
"Then you shouldn't have married her."
"It's the two of you who shouldn't have had your past." Ji Zhongyuan turned back, his gaze flickering in the darkness. "All of us are in the same line of work. You know better than I do that not even our lives belong to us."
After a long silence, Lin Nansheng looked up and said evenly, "Where is her body buried?"
"According to the intelligence I received, two coffins were transported out of Yan Chai Hospital that night," said Ji Zhongyuan.
"What does that mean?" Lin Nansheng opened his eyes wide and glared. "Tell me. What are you trying to imply?"
"I'm only passing along a piece of intelligence I received."
"You went through all this effort just to tell me this?"asked Lin Nansheng.
Ji Zhongyuan shook his head. "We need to know the Japanese army's movements in Guangzhouwan and Leizhou Peninsula… You should be able to accomplish this."
"Without orders from my superiors, I won't give you any kind of intelligence."
"The invaders won't wait for your superiors' orders."
"I'm a soldier," said Lin Nansheng. He reached out to open the car door, thought for a bit, then said, "I only follow my superiors' orders."
Ji Zhongyuan immediately grabbed him and looked directly into his eyes with a threatening expression. "Your information can save many people's lives."