The Rebel: Chapter 8

Translated by qikiqtarjuaq
Posted on 2020-09-08

Summers in Chongqing were extremely hot and difficult to bear, turning the NBIS Military Academy in Geleshan into a giant steam cooker. Every day, Lin Nansheng taught the students information exchange and communications intelligence, intelligence analysis and classification, as well as operational methodologies. Sometimes, he would also act as a translator for the American instructors. Of all the instructors in charge of training, he was the only Chinese instructor there. Wearing an American military uniform, he spent his nights with the American officers at the guest lodgings for foreigners, drinking, dancing, and singing English country songs.

Lin Nansheng seemed to have become light-hearted and carefree, even forgetting about the bullet lodged in his spine that could take his life at any moment.

On this day, Director Hu from the Headquarters Supervisory Office came to the Military Academy. He picked Lin Nansheng up in his car and drove him to a ferry terminal by Jialing River. The two of them took a long walk along the stone steps before going to the second floor of a residential building.

Director Hu pushed open the windows and pointed at a small courtyard on the opposite side of the street. "Do you know what this place is?"

Of course Lin Nansheng knew. Gu Shenyan had been put under house arrest in that place not long after he arrived in Chongqing. Some people said that this was his punishment for setting the Xianghu Building on fire. Some other people said that he was only a scapegoat for the NBIS to cover up its crushing defeat in Shanghai. However, most of the people believed that he ended up where he was today because he'd disobeyed Boss Dai's orders.

At this time, Director Hu spoke. "He's your teacher. Why haven't you come to see him?"

"I have to avoid suspicion," said Lin Nansheng. "This is Chongqing."

Director Hu smiled. "Mr. Gu's students are as widespread as the peach and plum trees in every corner of the world. Even Boss Dai has studied under him. What suspicion is there for you to avoid?"

However, Lin Nansheng only replied in earnest, "If Director Hu has any instructions, please don't hesitate to state them clearly."

"Taking into account your past as teacher and student, you should visit him more often and take better care of him. You should also study and analyze him."

As Director Hu spoke, the smile on his face began to fade. His eyes peered out at Lin Nansheng through the lenses of his glasses. Then, he changed the topic. He brought up the underground information network that Gu Shenyan had set up anew, and the documents that had been filed with headquarters. After they had been screened, it had been discovered that the majority of the names, codes used by organizations, and contact methods provided in the documents did not exist.

Director Hu fixed his gaze on Lin Nansheng again. "We want to know: What did he want to accomplish? Where did all those real, living people go?"

However, Lin Nansheng still didn't believe that this was the ultimate reason headquarters had transferred him back to Chongqing. He chose an afternoon over the weekend to visit Gu Shenyan. That day, it looked as though it would rain at any moment. A dense mass of dark clouds gathered over Jialing River, giving people a suffocating feeling.

Gu Shenyan was setting up a Go board on the porch, one hand holding a Song-dynasty edition of the Worry-Free Leisure Collection, and the other hand holding a stone. When he saw the old servant bring Lin Nansheng in, a smile appeared on his face, as though he'd been waiting for a long time already. Pointing to the Go board, he said, "Black goes first."

Lin Nansheng spent the entire afternoon playing Go with Gu Shenyan while listening to the rain. One board after another, they tested their skills until it was almost dusk. Suddenly, Gu Shenyan dropped his white stone in its bowl and stood up. He turned to the old servant who was on standby and said, "You should go and find an umbrella, then send Instructor Lin off."

With that, he went back into the house without looking back.

When Lin Nansheng returned to Geleshan with the umbrella, he was already drenched. The next day, Director Hu sent a car to take him to the Headquarters Supervisory Office.

The moment he saw Lin Nansheng, he said, "I was waiting for you yesterday evening."

"I thought that old servant would have reported to you," said Lin Nansheng.

Director Hu paused, then suddenly smiled. "What else did you discover?"

Lin Nansheng had long since discovered that other than this small building being a fixed surveillance point, every street corner also had mobile sentries. In addition, the grocery store concealed a few field agents as well. This was the NBIS' highest level of surveillance. In Chongqing, it would normally only used against the Eighth Route Army at No. 50 Zengjiayan. After he gave it some thought, he said, "I believe that if he wanted to leave, there's no place that could hold him."

Director Hu didn't reply. He took off his glasses, spending a long time wiping them clean with a handkerchief.

The next time Lin Nansheng visited Gu Shenyan, the old servant had turned tactful, always finding an excuse to leave the two of them alone, whether it was going to buy groceries or going inside to tidy up the house. However, the student and teacher pair still refused to talk about what had happened in Shanghai, nor did they discuss the current intelligence situation. Like two old men who had already entered their twilight years, Lin Nansheng would always sit with Gu Shenyan under the eaves or in the shade of the trees in the courtyard, spending most of the day in front of a Go board. Sometimes, Lin Nansheng would stay behind for dinner, just like he used to back during his days taking his specialized training classes. However, the moment he went out of the courtyard gate, he would be escorted by a plainclothes agent to the small building on the opposite side of the street. Then, in front of everyone, he would strip off every piece of clothing he wore and wait for them to be inspected before putting them back on again. After that, he would enter a different room, close the door, and sit in front of a recording device, repeating every sentence Gu Shenyan had uttered that day while also leaving behind his own analysis and conclusions about their conversations.

One day, Lin Nansheng stared at the board and suddenly spoke. "Sir, if you want to leave this place, I can provide support from outside."

Gu Shenyan smiled, took a deep drag of his cigar, and slowly exhaled the smoke. "If you help me leave, you'll be betraying your party and country."

"I'm not afraid. I'm someone who could die at any moment." Lin Nansheng smiled as well, looking up at Gu Shenyan. "There are some things that we need to do."

"Don't you think that this is a test for you as well?" Gu Shenyan's expression suddenly turned stern. However, in the next instant, he smiled again and pointed at the window of the building opposite them. "If I've guessed correctly, there should be a lip reader standing in front of that window who's using binoculars to look at your mouth right now."

Keeping his composure, Lin Nansheng looked into Gu Shenyan's unfathomable eyes, watching as Gu Shenyan let out a long puff of smoke. He no longer spoke. However, this was the first time that the game between them became a thrilling contest.

On August 23rd, 1943, fifty four Japanese planes flew out from Wuhan and bombarded Chongqing for the last time. After the diving planes finished dropping their bombs and left amidst the smoke and fire, the old servant discovered that Gu Shenyan had long since disappeared.

That evening, Lin Nansheng was called to the courtyard. Director Hu was already waiting for him when he went inside. Neither of them spoke. Following several plainclothes agents, they silently searched the interiors and exteriors of the house before standing together on the steps.

Director Hu looked at Lin Nansheng. "If he went to Yan'an or Nanjing, then we're both finished."

"I'm only worried he won't go anywhere." Lin Nansheng's gaze finally fell on the end-game setup of the Go board. Picking up the Worry-Free Leisure Collection from the chair, he flipped to one of the pages and compared it to the pieces on the board for a long time. Then, he turned to the old servant and said, "This collection consists of three books. Go and find the other two."

The old servant didn't dare to move. Only after Director Hu signaled him with his eyes did he hurry into the room.

Director Hu clearly didn't understand the game of Go, and he understood game records even less. Taking the Worry-Free Leisure Collection from Lin Nansheng's hands, he asked, "What's this? The key to a book cipher?"

Lin Nansheng looked at the black and white stones on the board and said, "This should be a simple Morse code message encoded using the layout of the board."

With that, he pulled a chair over and sat down. Grabbing a handful of black stones, he began to put them on the board.

Two days later in the morning, except for the destroyed buildings, no traces of the bombings could be found in Chongqing. Lin Nansheng arrived at the Chaotianmen dock on foot and mixed in with the crowd. After looking over his surroundings, he turned around and entered a busy teahouse.

Inside a private room overlooking the river was Gu Shenyan, who wore a clean, white changshan. When he saw Lin Nansheng enter, he smiled, turned up a teacup on the table and poured tea into it. Then, he retrieved a small silver box from his inner pocket, opened it, and took out the pill inside, which he swallowed with the tea. After that, he lifted his sleeve and checked his wristwatch. "We have about half an hour."

Lin Nansheng nodded and sat down across from him.

At this moment, Gu Shenyan spoke with a smile. "Looks like I've still got it. I'm not so old that I needed your help to escape."

Then, he picked up the cigar resting on the ashtray and cheerfully took a puff. Looking out the window at the river, he seemed to be looking back on his life, the smile quickly disappearing from the depths of his eyes.

When he'd been twenty years old, Gu Shenyan traveled across the ocean to study in France, where he joined the Young Communist Party of China in Europe. After he returned to China, he joined the Whampoa Military Academy and took part in two expeditions to the east and the north. When the 1927 Purge happened, he made the most important decision of his life - to leave the Chinese Communist Party and follow Dai Li to the Blue Shirts Society. These personal details were all documented in the records of the NBIS. What wasn't recorded was the fact that when he'd passed through Guangxi, he had gone to Nanning prison and visited a person he shouldn't have. That person was a Vietnamese citizen that he'd met while studying abroad in France, whose names included: Nguyễn Ái Quốc, Li Duan, Hu Guang, Qiu Weng, and whose current name was Hồ Chí Minh. Afterward, the first thing he did upon his return to Chongqing was to deliver this piece of intelligence to No. 50 Zengjiayan.

Boss Dai flew into a rage because of this and reprimanded Gu Shenyan in his office for the first time. He said, "You are betraying your party and country."

"I only wanted to let him go home faster, so he could organize Vietnam's resistance effort against the Japanese. With their military strength restraining the Japanese army, the pressure on our expeditionary forces at the Burma India battlefield would be reduced."

After he finished telling his story, he glanced at his watch again. Then, he carefully extinguished his cigar, looked at Lin Nansheng, and suddenly smiled. "My life has been a lifetime of disappointment."

For a long time, Lin Nansheng stayed silent. Then he looked at Gu Shenyan. "You can make a new choice."

Gu Shenyan shook his head and pressed his lips tightly together. He gently pushed a copy of the Selected Poems of Baudelaire in front of Lin Nansheng and patted it lightly. "Maybe this can help you free yourself from your current predicament. But who can help those of us who are concealed deep in enemy territory?"

At that, Gu Shenyan smiled bitterly. He tried to take off his wristwatch, but his fingers refused to listen to him. Immediately, Lin Nansheng stood up and helped him take it off.

Looking at this Meihua-brand watch that was missing its second hand, Gu Shenyan said, "I was originally going to leave this to you. But now that I've thought it through. I want to leave him a way out."

After saying all this, Gu Shenyan was already on the brink of collapse from exhaustion. However, he still used what strength he had to open the window and throw the watch into the river below. As though he'd just accomplished his last wish, he leaned against his chair and let out a long breath. It was then that blood trickled out of his nose, dripping onto his white jacket. Even when the blood blossomed as red as fresh spring flowers on his chest, he seemed completely oblivious.

Lin Nansheng's eyes widened as he suddenly remembered. "You still haven't told me. Where did the second coffin that came out of Yan Chai Hospital end up?"

However, Gu Shenyan would never speak again. The candy-wrapped pill had already taken his life.

When Director Hu finally lost his patience standing guard downstairs and broke down their door with his team, Lin Nansheng was still sitting across from Gu Shenyan, unmoving, with a cup of tea in his hand.

Two weeks later, Lin Nansheng followed the notes in the Selected Poems of Baudelaire, and with Worry-Free Leisure Collection as the cipher key, he broke the code to gain access to the list of intelligence agents in Shanghai and the method to contact them. This earned him a commendation from headquarters. In fact, the list had never left the safe in the archives of the NBIS. Gu Shenyan had cleverly hidden the personnel list between the lines of the documents he'd submitted.

When Lin Nansheng handed the decoded documents to Director Hu, he said, "Every additional person who knows about this brings more danger to these people."

Director Hu shook his head. "The highest level of danger comes from betrayal."

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Chapter 9 is up! Updates will be a bit slow going on weekdays due to work, but I plan to finish the full translation this Saturday or Sunday.