Tansy held the last of his daily serving of soup over his heart, confronted finally with the marsh separating China and Korea, where President Cao was hiding. As Tansy did before the public’s request that monks participate in the effort for Cao’s capture, he prayed. Not only for his own peace and for China’s, but for President Cao’s. That even if it took generations, that he could find redemption for his bribes to assembly members and foreign leaders, bribes that signed the end of China’s economic prosperity.
By any means necessary was the order written on the leaflets littered across the country. Tansy was the last of his people to believe a spiritual pardon was possible. For this journey he was determined to keep his dagger in its sheath, ignoring the part of him that knew his country would not settle for anything less than a violent end for its wayward leader. Though bringing Cao alive would only delay his execution, the monk did not want to be the one valorized for the death of his fellow countrymen, no matter how corrupt.
Slowly Tansy submerged his ankles, knees, and torso into the river which snaked up the northern border. The mud on his face hardened and rubbed on his sunburns, but he considered this a stroke of fortune that this was all he suffered on his travels thus far. The dagger pressed on his hip as he moved.
He sensed the presence of a poorly trained assassin before he turned to see the grass shake behind him.
“Dirty gypsy!!” The assassin wore a blue cosmetic mask which stopped at his nose. Tansy could see the fear in the assassin’s eyes as he lunged toward him with his machete.
The assassin was graceless but strong, his body cut through the water with ease but he was slow to lift the steel machete. Tansy sidestepped each lunge and thought of how he could use the water to his advantage. The river splashed wildly around them but Tansy jumped to avoid any bloodshed. Then the grass behind him rustled again and the task at hand could no longer be avoided.
As the assassin’s machete landed back in the river Tansy sliced the arm which wielded the weapon, then pushed the dagger deep into the assassin’s side. Red ribbons flowed into the brown water where the assassin fell like a salmon in the mouth of a bear.
The second assassin wielded a pair of sais, showing more skill than his dead colleague. The blades were dull and discoloured. Tansy recognized the assassin’s wrist tattoo, a lotus with a straight line pierced through the bud, as a symbol of membership in Cao’s militia.
The assassin lunged forward with a sai in his left hand, striking Tansy with the one in his free hand. Tansy maneuvered around each blow, unable to get close enough to retaliate. If there was another assassin lurking in the marsh Tansy would have no choice but to surrender. He threw his dagger across the river and held his hands up to the soldier who advanced the monk with caution, tied his hands above his head, and pointed the tip of his blade towards the border.
Tansy broke the two miles of silence. “Cao knew I was coming.” His own relief surprised him. Maybe he would die without a weapon in his hand.
The assassin betrayed no emotion. “You are not the first to come this far. But you will be the last.”
Bribe in pocket, a lone soldier at Korea’s border nodded for the two to step into the newly reunified country. They shortly came to an old barn leftover from the Third World War. The assassin muttered a curse, his voice muffled from the cosmetic mask. A map, three pots, and an electric stove lay scattered, abandoned.
The assassin instructed Tansy to stand on a stool in front of a body trap. His body was then bound two feet off the floor. His toes seared when they brushed up against the walls, remnants from radiation.
Tansy stayed suspended into the night. The soldier slumped in his chair, snoring through his mask. Tansy swayed himself back and forth, relaxing his nerve endings as he prayed for momentum and strength. After some time he was able to wrap his legs around the soldier’s neck. Tansy squeezed the soldier’s neck with all he had, mouthing an apology as he stuck his foot in the soldier’s mouth. The assassin waved his sais but only cut the air. Finally he sunk and was held only by the grip of Tansy’s knees.
Body relaxed, Tansy freed himself from the trap, leaving the weapons, and carried the assassin’s rope. Cao’s tent was only metres from the assassin’s base. Despite the stench of funghi and forest a familiar metallic smell filled Tansy’s nose as he bent down to unzip the tent.
Cao lay on his back with a hole leaking blood from his forehad. Tansy ripped a page from a map and placed it over Cao’s face. He heard a car start behind him some yards away. Americans, off to celebrate Cao’s demise
Tansy carried Cao’s body back to the border. The monk was front page on every newspaper, a pacifist turned war hero to his country. When assembly members came to congratulate him for his effort, he pretended to take a vow of silence, and retreated back to his temple. In truth Tansy wanted to never speak of the order again.
Avelynne Kang is a writer studying Creative Writing and English at Concordia University. She has been published in Seafoam Mag, Witch Craft Mag, Depth Cues and others. She is a libra sun w/ a gemini moon + rising.
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