Adapted from the novel by Qu Bo 曲波 Tracks in the Snowy Forest 林海雪原
Wang Xingbei 王星北 (adaptation); Luo Xing 罗兴 and Wang Yiqiu 王亦秋 (illustrations)
Translated by Julia Keblinska
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March 2022)
The second volume, “Troops Divide onto Three Roads,” tells the story of a small detachment of soldiers who capture the bandit Luan Ping and search out the “Vanguard Map” of Nipple Mountain’s Horse Cudgel Xu. They then divide into three groups and set out to trace the enemy’s tracks.
This volume follows Yang Zirong as he disguises himself as a bandit and, with only a horse for company, enters the bandit nest on Tiger Mountain to become a deputy colonel under Mountain Vulture. Meanwhile, we also learn how the small detachment mobilizes the masses at Jiapi Valley Village. They organize a civilian-army team, practice skiing, and enthusiastically prepare to annihilate the cruel bandits.
The next volume, “Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy,” recounts how Yang Zirong rejoins the small detachment and destroys Mountain Vulture’s bandit gang together with them.
(1) After Yang Zirong left the small detachment, he rode the speedy steed captured at Nipple Mountain. Following in the footsteps Big Chump had left in the snow, he traveled alone through the forest with only his horse for company. He now sported a full-faced beard and long hair; he looked just like a real bandit.
(2) Every five or six trees that he passed, Yang Zirong used a dagger to shave off a small piece of bark to mark his trail. On the morning of the fourth day, he realized there was a birch forest not too far ahead, and with that, he knew that he was closing in on Tiger Mountain.
(3) He found a small tree and cut out a bit of bark with his dagger. He dug out a hole and then put back the bark in the original spot without leaving a trace of his operation. Then, he took out a black stone from his waistband and placed it on the small tree’s branch as a secret signal for communicating with his comrades.
(4) He didn’t pull the horse through the birch trees till he had finished these arrangements. He fed the horse again by a small hill. He also pulled a steamed sorghum wrap as hard as a rock out of his bag for himself and started gnashing on it.
(5) Suddenly, his horse whinnied in terror. Yang Zirong threw down the wrap in his hands. He felt for his gun, hid behind a large tree, and looked around to investigate.
(6) All of the sudden, he heard a roar—a huge northeastern tiger, jaws stretched open and tail upright, pounced out of the brush toward his horse. It was the first time Yang Zirong had seen a living tiger, and he felt his heart pounding madly. The gun in his hand trembled along with his heart.
(7) He flattened against the tree trunk. He forcefully stabbed his dagger into the tree and rested the gun on the blade to steady it. Then, he aimed at the tiger’s head and pulled the trigger with confidence. Who could have guessed that the bullet would be a dud and the gun wouldn’t fire!
(8) The tiger didn’t notice his mishap and continued lunging toward the horse. Yang Zirong broke a cold sweat. He swiftly pulled out his Mauser pistol and boomed out the whole clip, but with each shot, he missed. Startled, the tiger rolled on the ground.
(9) The tiger pressed his front paws into the ground and leapt ahead. Yang Zirong banged once more and hit the tiger’s front leg. It roared wildly, opening its jaws, and bounded forward. In that instant, Yang Zirong aimed the muzzle at the tiger’s mouth and shot again.
(10) The bullet passed through the tiger’s mouth and exited through its skull. For a moment, fresh blood spurted out of that northeastern tiger. It fell onto the snow, its tail thrashed wildly one more time, and then it died.
(11) Yang Zirong let out a breath. He was thinking of burying the tiger’s body when five bandits suddenly walked out of the forest ahead. Deployed in a line, they approached a spot not far from Yang Zirong. From among them, a big and tall pockmarked man spoke in secret bandit lingo. SPEECH BUBBLE: “Who goes there?”
(12) As soon as he heard their question, Yang Zirong thought, “How perfect!” He then answered in their secret language: “I’m looking for some colleagues.” Big Pockmark asked again, “Who directed you here?” “A Daoist monk,” Yang Zirong replied. Upon hearing this, the five bandits were no longer suspicious.
(13) Big Pockmark stared at the dead tiger on the ground. He laughed and said, “You’re a good shot, old pal.” Yang Zirong answered, “Takes one to know one, pal! If you don’t find it too meager a gift, I’d like to offer you the tiger as a tribute, brother.” The five bandits extended a thumbs up and laughed wildly, proclaiming, “A friend indeed!”
(14) Big Pockmark faced Yang Zirong and blinked his eyes shut; Yang Zirong caught on to the meaning of the gesture and pulled out a black cloth from his waistband. He blindfolded himself securely.
(15) Pockmark used his dagger to strip a branch off of a tree. He gave one end to Yang Zirong and gripped the other himself. Following the path that the bandits had come by, he led Yang Zirong up to Tiger Mountain.
(16) Upon being led into the big camp at Tiger Mountain, Yang Zirong took off the blindfold that had masked their route and looked up. He could only see the bandit leader Mountain Vulture sitting in a large chair in the middle of the room. His Eight Guardians flanked him, four sitting on each side. Each man gripped a dagger and light danced menacingly on their blades.
(17) Mountain Vulture’s eerie, round eyes stared at Yang Zirong. For three minutes, he said nothing. Yang Zirong felt like he was enduring a punishment, but he did his best to withstand the scrutiny.
(18) After quite a while, Mountain Vulture suddenly addressed him with the most secret phrase in the bandit language, “You’re quite daring! Brave enough to come here and anger your ancestors!” Yang Zirong leisurely replied in bandit slang, “If that’s the case, go on and throw me down the mountain to my death! Drop me in the river so I drown!”
(19) Mountain Vulture pressed on, “You’re an expert, an old hand?” Yang Zirong answered, “I’m not just blowing hot air, I did break through a huge battalion.” Vulture saw that Yang’s response was smooth and unhurried. He grunted and released a breath. He leaned back and rested on his chair.
(20) The Eight Guardians questioned Yang in turn in their common lingo. He replied smoothly, without tripping over a single word. What he had learned of their language from the mouths of captured bandits, however, was running low, and he was getting anxious.
(21) Just at that moment, Mountain Vulture suddenly got up from his seat and waved his hand—the Eight Guardians stopped their inquisition. Mountain Vulture said, “So, you’re one of Brigadier Xu’s men?” Hearing that the bandit jargon had stopped, Yang Zirong relaxed and nodded in answer. SPEECH BUBBLE: “I’m Brigadier Xu’s cavalry adjutant, Hu Biao.”
(22) Mountain Vulture asked, “What are you looking to do here?” Yang Zirong answered, “I’m here to seek shelter with you, master.” Vulture responded, “You’re at the end of your rope—have you got a housewarming present?” Yang Zirong smiled slyly, “Owing to your prestige, my master, a tiger leapt right into the barrel of my gun.”
(23) Mountain Vulture was pleased. He shot a glance to one of the Eight Guardians, Big Pockmark, who quickly pulled a bowl of liquor from behind him and passed it to Yang Zirong. Yang Zirong knew that he’d passed and the test was over. He took the liquor and drank it down in one gulp.
(24) As Yang Zirong finished the wine, he decided to hold off in presenting his gift so as to make the biggest impression. He said, “Master, I’ve been with Brigadier Xu for many years. After being destroyed by the communist army on Nipple Mountain, I travelled for over a month before I got here.”
(25) Mountain Vulture was anxious to know the whereabouts of the “Vanguard Map,” so he cut off Yang Zirong and said, “Where’s Captain Luan gone to?” Yang Zirong saw through the bandit’s question. He sighed dramatically and said, “Don’t ask about that!”
(26) Mountain Vulture hastily asked, “Have you seen him or not?!” Yang Zirong replied, “I’ve seen him alright!” Mountain Vulture continued, “What’s his plan?” Yang Zirong realized they’d gotten to the heart of the matter, so he struck a pose and said, “Damnit! It’s hard to explain briefly, let’s have it out slowly over another drink.”
(27) In order to suss out news about the bandit Luan, Mountain Vulture quickly had Big Pockmark ladle another bowl of wine. Yang Zirong took it and downed it in a gulp. He gave his mouth a wipe and started spinning his yarns. SPEECH BUBBLE: “As soon as I met with Old Luan, he dragged me off to throw in with High Commissioner Hou. I said better to come to throw in with you, master, but he said, ‘What’s the point in going to offer your respects to Mountain Vulture.’”
(28) Yang Zirong’s fibs were so vivid that Mountain Vulture’s breath got ragged with rage and he let out a heavy breath. SPEECH BUBBLE: “Old Luan pulled out the Vanguard Map and waved it in front of my eyes. He said, ‘Look Old Hu, we have this! If we go to Hou’s, even if we don’t make regimental commanders, we’ll at least get to be staff officers.’”
(29) Then Yang Zirong went on to explain how he schemed and how he stole the Vanguard Map from the grips of the bandit Luan. Hearing his story, Mountain Vulture and his Eight Guardians slapped their knees with joy and gave Yang Zirong thumbs up. SPEECH BUBBLE: “That little shit wanted me to give him Brigadier Xu’s horse. When I wouldn’t agree, he tried to ply me with wine and ride away with my horse. But I drank him under the table with eight bowls of wine—I nabbed the Vanguard Map and slipped away.” SPEECH BUBBLE: “Great! Old Hu, you’ve outdone yourself!”
(30) Yang Zirong laughed and flipped over his lapel. He used his dagger to cut the corner of the collar and took out the Vanguard Map. He flashed it at Mountain Vulture, “Master, take a look at what Old Hu has brought you!”
(31) Mountain Vulture was tickled pink and quickly got up to take it. He patted Yang Zirong on the shoulder saying, “Old Hu, you’re really something! I’m making you the Ninth Guardian of Tiger Mountain. Later on, when we’ve conquered more land, you’ll get a whole mountain to command!” SPEECH BUBBLE: “Hold your horses! We’re part of the KMT (Nationalist Army) so we have official ranks too—I’m making you an deputy commander of the Fifth Peace Preservation Brigade of the Central Vanguard Pacification Army.” SPEECH BUBBLE: “Thank you, master!”
(32) Upon saying that, Vulture scooped out a bowl of wine with his own hands and gave it to Yang Zirong, saying, “Come on, Ninth Guardian, cheers to your meritorious deeds and congratulations on your promotion to deputy commander!” The Eight Guardians followed with their own congratulations. Yang Zirong, struck by humility, took the wine and again drank it down in one gulp. SPEECH BUBBLE: “Ooh rah! Deputy Colonel Hu!”
(33) Meanwhile, back to Shao Jianbo’s story… Ever since Yang Zirong and Luan Chaojia left, Shao Jianbo had led the small detachment out of Black Bear Gulch by following a small railway that ran along the forest. They traveled overnight deep into the mountains to reach a small town—finally walking into Jiapi Valley Village.
(34) They arrived in Jiapi Valley Village as the sun was rising. All they could see was houses that were locked up tight. No trace of smoke rose from the chimneys. The streets were frostily quiet, not a soul in sight.
(35) Jianbo asked the troop members to find quarters while he went off with Gao Bo, entering one of the houses in the center of the village. Gao Bo gently addressed the owner, “Old Uncle, can we settle in in your house?” The man coldly replied, “Whatever, whatever you want is fine.”
(36) Gao Bo put on a smile and asked, “Where shall we settle in? Please show us and we’ll arrange it ourselves.” The owner still didn’t move. Gao Bo realized he was completely unwilling to quarter them, and so he retreated.
(37) Who would have thought that each house they tried would be equally wary. The rest of the soldiers met with the same situation. Jianbo thus ordered the whole unit to move into the small, dilapidated shacks at the train station and the mountain temple, cutting some grass on the mountain for their own bedding and chopping wood for their own cooking. With that, he started the work of convincing the masses of their cause. SPEECH BUBBLE: “The masses don’t understand the Communist Party or the People’s Liberation Army. The key right now is for the people to come to know us… If we don’t mobilize them, then we can’t even talk of putting our plans into action.”
(38) Following Jianbo’s orders, the soldiers delved into the lives of each household, carrying out surveys and interviews while promoting government policies. After listening to the villagers, the reason for the detachment’s cold welcome was finally out in the open.
(39) Originally, Jiapi Valley Village had been a big timberyard. All 500 families were woodcutters and railroad workers. After the Japanese surrender, the workers wrested away the Japanese devils’ guns and armed themselves to protect the motherland’s resources and their own homes. Who could have guessed that after being routed by the PLA, Mountain Vulture’s bandit gang would burrow its way into this region, seize the villagers’ weapons, and rob the town of everything?
(40) Now, the townsfolk didn’t have food to eat or clothing to wear. They didn’t understand what the PLA was and had transferred their deep hatred of Mountain Vulture onto the small detachment. When Jianbo and his comrades caught on to the situation, they pulled the shirts off of their backs to give to the villagers.
(41) At dusk, Jianbo searched out three men in the village: the locomotive driver Zhang Dashan, and the two stevedores Li Yongqi and Ma Tianwu, to come for a talk. Jianbo said, “Worker friends, I’m so sorry that we did not know of your troubles. Right now, we’re thinking of ways to get food and clothing.”
(42) As they heard this, all three men stared at Jianbo and asked, “Is that even possible?” Jianbo answered, “Jiapi Valley has enough lumber to build a pile as tall as a mountain. As long as we put in the effort, it’s possible!” He turned to Zhang Dashan again and asked, “Can we fix up the locomotive?” Zhang Dashan replied confidently, “Sure can!”
(43) The three men were overcome with excitement as they bid farewell and left. That same evening, the light of pine torches lit up Jiapi Valley. Soldiers, workers, elders, women, and even children, were so avidly chopping trunks and felling trees that their faces ran with sweat.
(44) At daybreak, two small locomotives pulling two rows full of lumber and track cleaning cars set out from the village. Gaobo sat on a track cleaning car, Jianbo’s letter in hand. He waved ecstatically at the jubilant, cheering crowd.
(45) On the fifth day, the small trains returned, rushing into the station to the joyful cries of the masses. Gaobo and a squad of train escort soldiers jumped off the train and ran to meet with Jianbo. They came to attention in front of him and Gaobo gave the regimental commander’s response to Jianbo. SPEECH BUBBLE: “Reporting that our task has been completed. The regimental commander sends his response—he’s sending a squad to us.”
(46) After thanking the locomotive driver Zhang Dashan and the others with a handshake, Jianbo tore open the regimental commander’s letter. He laughed as he read, “Great! Great! This really solves our problems!”
(47) He climbed on top of a platform car full of rice bags and loudly said, “Dear comrades, colleagues, and family members, the party and the government allocated 20,000 pounds of relief rations to us; the soldiers are also allocating 10,000 pounds of food they saved themselves. The higher ups decided the whole lot should be shared with you all.” SPEECH BUBBLE: “Long live the Communist Party! Long live the People’s Government! Long live the People’s Liberation Army!”
(48) Jianbo went on, “The government has also sent us 100 padded jackets, and 200 pairs of padded pants!” The square exploded with cheers again. The women and elderly couldn’t stop themselves from shedding hot tears. SPEECH BUBBLE: “The party and government have also sent us some New Year’s gifts to help ring in the coming year. Regardless of age or gender, everyone is getting five pounds of flour and seven pounds of rice, and that’s on top of the 30,000 pounds of food!”
(49) Jianbo stopped for a moment, then continued: “The KMT bandit gang Mountain Vulture stole our property hoping to starve us to death. Now the government has allocated food and saved us, not to mention the production route they’ve opened up. We must take care to protect this food and our production capacity.”
(50) The crowd excitedly demanded that they take up arms and attack Mountain Vulture. Li Yongqi said, “In the past, Vulture has had seven or eight thousand men. We couldn’t defeat him then. Now, however, there are only two hundred or so left. As long as we have guns, one of our villagers can surely take on three of those thugs!”
(51) Jianbo was very happy. He replied, “Fellow workers, I believe in you! We’ve decided to give you weapons now. For one, you can fight wild beasts, and on top of that, you can beat the KMT bandit gang. Li Yongqi at once led the crowd to the front of the designated train car to pick up their guns.
(52) That night, Zhang Dashan and Ma Tianwu established a production committee. Li Yongqi also took the lead and set up a 58-man strong militia. The cooking pots in Jiapi Valley were opened and the chimneys puffed out smoke. The whole village was joyous.
(53) Every day before daybreak, Jianbo took his small unit to practice skiing. Liu Xuncang and Li Yongqi coached them. Jianbo considered mastering this skill crucial to annihilating the bandits of the forests and snowy plains. He ordered ten days of diligent practice.
(54) In the first three days, the soldiers wiped out countless times during practice. It wasn’t until the fourth day that they grasped the technique and stopped falling so frequently. They picked up speed and put these small initial obstacles behind them.
(55) The soldiers shuttled back and forth, practicing hard. Every hour, they had a five-minute meeting to discuss skiing essentials and their practice experiences. In so doing, they discovered the secret to success—one had to have grit to get the knack of it and getting the knack of it built up grit.
(56) Back at the bandit camp, Yang Zirong had already served as a deputy commander for ten days. Over the course of those ten days, it seemed that Mountain Vulture didn’t suspect him one bit, but Yang Zirong was extremely cautious. He made sure to stick close to Mountain Vulture all day, leaving him only when the latter slept.
(57) That day, Yang Zirong took advantage of his rotation as a day duty official, making the rounds in the front and back of the mountains and inspecting the battle formations. In front of Tiger Mountain, five small hills stood in a cross-shaped formation. Each hill was built up with nine bunkers arranged in groups of three to create crossfire. FLAG: “Day duty.”
(58) Between each bunker, there were connecting secret passages. Tiger Hall was located at the foot of the middle hill. It was surrounded by four more bunkers equipped with light machine guns. The defenses blocking the path between the mountains were incredibly tight.
(59) Having seen the battle positions, Yang Zirong’s mind was heavy. He didn’t sleep a wink that night. Pretending to be in deep slumber, he kept turning ideas over in his head, “The bandit’s battle formations are really excellent. What happens if it’s too strong to break through? Can our little unit do it?”
(60) The next morning, Yang Zirong felt a little dizzy. When he went to meet Mountain Vulture with the Eight Guardians, he noticed that Vulture’s eyes suddenly flashed at him twice.
(61) Yang was startled and thought to himself, “This is no good! My worries are written on my face and have likely aroused the old bandit’s suspicions. What can I do?!” Right at that moment, Mountain Vulture’s eyes once again shot to Yang Zirong’s face.
(62) Yang deliberately turned his face to the door. He slowly drew in two breaths of cold air through his nose. A shiver and an “achoo” were followed by a round of sneezes. He leaned on a pillar dumbly—now he really appeared to be sick.
(63) Big Pockmark saw him and asked, “How are you feeling? Old Nine, have you caught a cold?” The other seven guardians asked him the same thing. Only Mountain Vulture’s demeanor remained a bit odd. Yang Zirong replied meaningfully, “No cause to worry, it’s just a small thing, won’t knock me flat!”
(64) At breakfast, Yang only drank a couple bowls of vegetable soup. At that time, Mountain Vulture was not sure if he was pretending or not and had their cook fix up two bowls of ginger tea for Yang Zirong. Yang drank it all down in one gulp.
(65) After drinking the ginger tea, he said to Mountain Vulture, “Master, I’m turning in to sweat out my fever.” Vulture enjoined him to rest with a few more words. Yang Zirong flipped off his large fur hat and ran off to his room.
(66) Back in this room, Yang Zirong covered up with his quilt and lay down on the bed. He nervously mulled over how to exterminate this bandits’ nest. After a moment, he hid inside his blankets and used a pencil to scratch and scribble on a piece of birch bark.
(67) In the afternoon, the table in Tiger Hall was set with ceremonial wine. Mountain Vulture and his Eight Guardians were eating and drinking as a minor bandit came in and reported: “Some bandits out there got caught up in something!” Mountain Vulture’s face turned steely with rage. He yelled, “Bring those wastrels in!”
(68) Presently, five bandits came in. Some had their belts holding up their broken arms, others were hobbled… They trembled in front of Mountain Vulture and exchanged glances. Not one dared to utter a sound.
(69) An emaciated bandit spilled out, “Master River Calmers of the River God Temple told us that the Jiapi Valley railway is working and pulled in more than a few supplies. We traveled half the night in hopes of stealing some loot to bring back. Who could have guessed that two to three hundred men in the village would raise the alarm and take down four of us with a round of rifle fire.”
(70) Mountain Vulture was frightened, “Two to three hundred men? Did they drop down from the sky?” His glared mutely with his creepy eyes. Yang Zirong was secretly happy. Not only had the bandits struck out, the 36 men of the little unit appeared as two or three hundred men, meaning that the bandits wouldn’t dare provoke Jiapi Valley.
(71) Big Pockmark looked at them askance, “The ‘Hundred Chicken Feast’ for the New Year is within sight, we want to properly celebrate the master’s sixtieth birthday, but instead, wouldn’t you know, these losers have disgraced our mountain’s prestige. Master, it’s still seven days before the new year. Why don’t I go down for a turn and get my hands on them?”
(72) Mountain Vulture nodded, “But we can’t go to Jiapi Valley; for now, we must preserve our forces. We’ll can use our might on the railway.” That evening, Big Pockmark took some thirty men with him down the mountain. Upon seeing this, Yang Zirong grew quite anxious, but then again, there was nothing he could do.
(73) As he lay in bed, Yang Zirong wished he could send the plan copied onto the birch to a rendezvous point. If he made contact, the unit would be able to prepare defenses against Big Pockmark. But Mountain Vulture had surely sent men to surveil him in the dark. He spent the whole night fruitlessly thinking about what to do.
(74) At daybreak, he was dazed and falling asleep when the sharp sound of two gunshots rang from the northeast hill. A mad slew of yells followed. Yang Zirong and seven of the Guardians leapt up in surprise.
(75) As they went out, they saw Mountain Vulture standing by the door. People outside were yelling, “The enemy is here!” Yang Zirong was more than a little surprised to hear that. He wondered, “How is that? The little unit’s attacked? What can I do? Should I take Mountain Vulture out now…?”
(76) He carefully evaluated the situation and realized the gunshots were coming from very far away and the bullets were flying high off the ground. He also heard some indistinct shouts. He thought back to when the little unit went to war; they didn’t make so much noise and they didn’t shoot to the sky. He reckoned that this must be yet another of the old bandits’ tests of his loyalty, and so he said, “Master, I’ll go and command the men!”
(77) He finished speaking and bolted to the northeastern hill, where he hid behind a tree. He looked ahead with the rays of the rising sun. He could only see several dark shadows shooting over there. Looking at the way they moved about, these were not men from his little unit. He thus confirmed that his initial judgement was right.
(78) He thought, “What a good opportunity to kill some bandits while getting in good with the old bandit.” He pulled out his Mauser pistol, cocked it, and let off two shots. He flipped the fire rate switch and dudududu… he fired off a whole clip. The bullets rained around the dark shadows.
(79) Having fired off a clip, he reloaded another. Just as he was about to shoot, a hand rested on his shoulder. He turned around and saw that it was Mountain Vulture and Drop Nose, one of the Eight Guardians. Mountain Vulture laughed and said, “Old Ninth, don’t shoot! This is a practice raid I planned.”
(80) Yang Zirong feigned wide-eyed concern, saying “Master, that’s so dangerous! If you hadn’t come in time, this round would have hit its mark, taking a few of them with it.” On that, he took on a grumbly tone again and said, “You were planning a practice raid, master? How is it that you didn’t mention a thing to me? Do you take me for an outsider?”
(81) Mountain Vulture replied, “Old Ninth, don’t worry too much. I didn’t tell anyone about this practice raid.” Yang Zirong laughed to himself and after thinking a moment said, “Master, if we’re practicing, we shouldn’t just focus on defense but also conduct some pursue and attack exercises. What do you reckon?” “Good plan,” Mountain Vulture replied, “You lead them on a practice pursuit, Old Ninth.”
(82) Yang Zirong accpeted the order and shouted loudly, “Brothers, the enemy is retreating! Pursue!” Having said it, he waved his Mauser pistol and charged down the mountain with fifty bandits.
(83) Yang Zirong led the bandits to the area where he’d created a rendezvous point. He brandished his pistol and loudly yelled, “The target is in the hills straight ahead! Charge!” The bandits roared in acknowledgement and charged ahead together.
(84) Yang Zirong quickly took the scroll of birch bark out from a secret pocket in his tobacco pouch. He put it in the hole he himself had carved out of the tree earlier. Then he covered it up with bark.
(85) When he’d finished putting it away, he saw that there were no traces of his handiwork. He dodged out of the woods, and with an urgent sprint, he caught up to the bandits practicing their charge.
(86) Now back to Sun Dade as he carries out Shao Jianbo’s orders: followed the tracks carved out by Yang Zirong, in the vast expanse of the snowy plains, he trudged arduously through knee-high snow.
(87) At one point, both of his legs were trapped in the snow, and he couldn’t pull them out. He struggled for a bit and then lay face down on the snow. Then, he rolled sideways and was able to roll out.
(88) The daylight was slowly fading, but the signs Yang Zirong had left on the trees were nowhere near their end. Sun Dade was very anxious, “I only have three days left before I must finish this mission.”
(89) He walked to the edge of a small hill and suddenly noticed that a small tree ahead of him had something lodged in the crook between two branches. He jumped for joy, momentarily overcome, but quickly regained his composure and squatted down under the tree. He took a careful look all around.
(90) When he was sure there were no enemy fighters lying in ambush, he ran up to take down the black stone lodged in the branches. He hurriedly felt around the trunk of the tree, but perhaps on account of his impatience, he was unable to find what he was looking for at first.
(91) All of a sudden, he noticed a spot on the tree that looked a little odd. He reached out to press it and the bark came to life. He was very pleased. He quickly took out his dagger and used the tip of the blade to gently pick at the spot. A piece of tree bark about the size of a cigarette box fell out.
(92) He pulled out the small roll of birch bark that Yang Zirong had hidden in the notch and carefully hid it in his bosom. The sky had fallen dark, but his legs were tired, and taking even one step was extremely difficult.
(93) Sun Dade wanted to lie down and rest for a moment, but Shao Jianbo’s face suddenly floated up in front of his eyes. It seemed to say, “Comrade Dade, I only gave you six days. If you don’t finish within that time, we’ll lose any advantageous opportunity we could have had.”
(94) Sun Dade got up vigorously and grabbed two fistfuls of snow. He wiped them on his face, pulled out a lunch tin and swallowed a few mouthfuls of food, took a big step, and headed back the way he came.
 This translation was done with reference to Sidney Shapiro’s 1962 Foreign Languages Press translation of the novel. It is the third volume of a six-volume comic book set published by the Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House in 1959 (I used the version of this comic reprinted in 1978). The first 10 panels of this translation were first published in susurrus, a zine of translations edited by Dinah Lensing-Sharp and Yvonne Lin published through the UC Berkeley Townsend Center Translation Studies Working Group in 2021. I thank Yvonne and Dinah as well as the working group members with whom I workshopped the translation for their efforts in helping me polish this draft.
 Shapiro translates this rank in the novel Tracks in the Snowy Forest as “deputy regimental commander of a full colonel in the Fifth Peace Preservation Brigade of the Eastern Heilungkiang Region” (209). I have not been able to find more detailed information about this position and suspect the hyperbolic length is a satirical touch.