Eyes of the departed

Eyes of the departed

Lorenzo Chim won our Summer Story competition with this tale of a deadly Mong Kok duel

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Summer Story Lorenzo Chim_L
Illustration: Sarene Chan

"Warning! Security breach detected on the perimeters of Kowloon District Epsilon Twenty."

A cool, male voice filled with trained military efficiency was rattling amid much static from the radio clipped to the officer's shoulder.

"Relevant units please assist in the evacuation of civilians."

Yet the man could not respond. Sprawled face down on the filthy floor of the roof, he was unconscious. His revolver was a few metres away from his outstretched fingers, with an empty magazine and twisted barrel.

I stood over the motionless form, cautiously examining my victim for any sign of a feigned faint, but he was still, save for the slight rise and fall of his back indicating he was still breathing.

"That was easy." I spun away, satisfied with my seamless work.

"Benedict, didn't I tell you not to overdo things?" scolded my companion and colleague, a pious clergyman named Giovanni Vespucci. He was as angry with me as he was at his failure to stop me.

"Do not worry, Giovanni. I do what a worthy man of the Inquisition should do. They are all stunned and traumatised - but alive," I said, referring to the many bodies littering the rooftop.

My name is Benedict, as in Saint Benedict. It was a spiritual name given to me by my Order.

"I never approve of our ways," my benign friend mumbled in an undertone audible only to me.

"I know."

He glanced up at me with imploring eyes, "Do not go too far next time, pray. This is not the way things are supposed to go."

The eyes he fixed upon mine seemed to possess a frightfully hypnotic power under which I swayed as one under the vulture-gaze of his interrogator. I hastily turned aside, drawing up the hood of my jacket as a shield, but the pressure of his glance persisted, silently tormenting my soul. At last I mustered what mental strength I had left and managed a feeble voice:

"Look, friend, I will not exceed my mandate and do anything beyond what is meant. Once I have annihilated the chief of heresies in this city I shall depart."

"I understand," said Giovanni, retracting his lethal glance with a paternal, sorrowful tenderness. "That is your choice, of course. For your soul I would have begged once that you abort the mission, but now I can pray only for your redemption."

"Yes, pray," I repeated, absent mindedly nodding as I plotted the routes needed to take my objectives.

Hong Kong was the combination of ceaseless labours and rapturous ecstasy. Others would describe her as a gemstone that adorned the top of Asia's crown, day or night. Yet I, even as a foreigner from Italy, realised it was the night which defined the Pearl of the Orient.

As I, a skilled assassin of the past, sprang lightly from roof to roof, I saw beneath my feet on the streets below, flanked by weathered squat blocks, life flowing strong and thick. "Ah, Mong Kok, Mong Kok," I mused. "Many things shall be changed by the end of this fateful day."

In the midst of my aerial shortcut I paused, struck suddenly by a brilliant idea to remove Giovanni from the scene and deliver myself from his relentless bombardment of condemnations - but this thought was not without consequence.

The heels of my shoes had just touched the rims of the next roof when I lost my balance. The instant reflex of a somersault rescued me from a gruesome fall that would have shattered my spine and left me crippled for life.

"An ill omen I'd call this - were I a gypsy infidel," I jested, despite the unsettling tremor ascending the length of my backbone. I fished from my waist pocket a mobile phone and dialled my colleague's device.

"Buonasera, Ser Giovanni [Good evening, Sir John]. I'm right over the target's flat."

As I reported, I crossed the platform to the opposite end overlooking a curtained window behind a barbed spiked fence. I tracked, as a predator, the grey silhouettes flitting in the light - a group of men assembled for an occult ritual.

"What is the situation on your side?" I asked.

"One block away. Don't wait for me. I'll join you in time."

My heart leapt, exhilarated by this idea which fitted into my scheme. The drumming excitement subsided as he continued.

"Finish this job swiftly. Meddling with the most extreme of sins is unhealthy for your soul."

Even through the distance of a solid block of concrete I could sense the huge weight of his stare.

"And if you wish to abort ..."

"No," I snapped determinedly. "I will not. It's too late now to ..."

Something I glimpsed at the windows forced me to stop and hurled my mind into chaos. The assembly was dispersing! How could this be? The ritual could not possibly be over. It had not even begun!

I whipped round as a hunted creature, desperately seeking for shelter but, unlike the prey doomed to perish in the jaws of its hunter, my search was not in vain. Stuck to the very spot I had avoided toppling from were several sheets of paper, thin as napkins, dyed bright yellow and drawn in the middle with symbols of Chinese sorcery.

"Deus meus [My God]!" I exclaimed in realisation. "This is a trap! I repeat - a trap! Do not come here. They have been eavesdropping on us since our arrival. The whole place is covered with their devilry."

Without warning, a howling gust tore the phone from my grip and - instead of Giovanni's familiar voice - a brutal laughter filled my ears.

He was impressively tall and lean, clad in a conspicuously green robe fashioned after the style of ancient China. A black beard of astonishing length streamed from his chin, caressed by a worn hand.

His visage was carmine red and, in one hand he clutched an elongated staff of iron, which was attached to a curved blade at the skyward end. It gleamed coldly under the new moon. My eyes narrowed under the shadow of my hood. "I believe you know the name of this weapon, honourable guest and Inquisitor."

"Yes. Green Dragon Crescent Blade, my beloved adversary and infidel."

"Yes, and to reward you for being right ..." The pseudo Guan Yu swung the blade in an arc and unleashed another gale capable of slicing through flesh and bone. But I was prepared this time.

A steel handle slid into my palm and extended to its full length as a sleek black sword.

The screaming blasts of air split under my slashing blade and I charged straight at my foe. Our blades clashed in a cascading shower of amber sparks, but my slender weapon could not withstand the destructive power of the Crescent Blade. The impact of the collision tossed me back and I flew into a rack of clothes.

The rusted metal skeleton squealed and collapsed, burying me in a miniature hill of yellowing garments. Biting down sternly on my bodily agonies, I struggled to rise on shuddering knees, but finally emerged from the stinking pile.

At this moment Giovanni appeared at the threshold of the fire exit shouting: "Stop! There are other ways to deal with sinners!"

Yet I never had the chance to learn who it was he addressed for the Imitator had raised his blade and a horrible red light shone out from many hidden places where the spells had been stuck on.

The ground shook under the power of the infidel. The floor under Giovanni exploded, bringing down the entire emergency exit, engulfing him in a cloud of dust and debris.

"Giovanni!" I yelled at the fresh mound when the clouds faded. But there was no answer.

The heretic was again barking with that despicable, hoarse voice, deriding me and my slain friend with hideous phrases of his native tongue.

"Rejoice in life, my moronic visitor! Your partner is dead, but you are still alive! Rejoice!"

"No, I shall relish only in your death."

"Oh, scary," chuckled my enemy, taunting me. "Very well, if thou insist on dying, then the mighty Lord Guan Yu shall grant thy wish!"

Without waiting for his blow I lunged and cast aside all fear of death or torture - except a mistake that could undo all Giovanni had endeavoured to build.

A delirious Yu gave a deafening bellow of battle, and dashed forth to confront me in one decisive duel.

I dodged as the Crescent Blade came swinging for my decapitation; it only harmlessly knocked off my hood and cut a few strands of my hair. I thrust my sabre at his abdomen, spotting a lack of defence there, but the pole of his weapon intercepted my assault. Wielding the strong staff as a club, he splintered the steel blade as if it was no more than the toy. My hands erupted into searing pain as his blow struck.

The eyes of the man widened till they appeared close to rolling out. "Yes, impossible," he roared.

I grinned at his loathsome countenance, which was deformed by a dread that did not belong to the true Guan Yu. "But here's the thing: you are not Warlord Guan - only a duplicate."

I shoved the pole back towards his broad, unprotected chest. "May you find truth in your passing - excipiat peccatores increpat [Sinners shall bear the blunt of blames]!"

I threw the hood over to its original position and folded my arms, witnessing the downfall of an infidel staggering over the edge and vanishing into the night.

Neglecting the thud, screams and commotion that were exploding downstairs, I hurried to the grey-white stack that marked the death of Giovanni Vespucci. A pallid hand that protruded from the surface filled me with childish hope. To my relief, the fingers twitched and revived, tightening around mine. Soon Giovanni's crumbled form was pulled from the mound of death.

His eyes were transfixed on me, but now I found no need for courage or bravery to endure them, for they were again gleaming with paternal, sorrowful tenderness. Police sirens were blaring less than a block away and I whispered urgently, "Come, I must bear you away."

Giovanni mildly shook his head and replied, "The angels will. Go."

Tears welled. "I should have listened to you. I'm sorry."

"Don't be. Youth means recklessness. Besides, your life is more precious than mine. Go." And so he expired.

I wiped away the bitter lines that leaked from the brims of my eyes. For the first and last time I looked into those benevolent eyes with reverence and slid the lids over them, shutting them forever from mortal view.


Read the other entries to our 2012 Summer Story competition.

- Don't Mess with the Old by 13 year old Justin Yu
- I Should Have Listened to My Friends by 13 year old Charlotte Chan
- All's Fair in Life and War by 15 year old Brandon Mok
- Dreams of fame turn to tragedy by 15 year old Chaang Vi Ka
- A love to remain forever unspoken by 15 year old Lorraine Ho
- The sad tale of a drowned ghost by 16 year old Gene Lin
- A prank goes out of control by 8 year old Anoushka Hemnani
- It will be spring by the time you awake by 15 year old Emily Archibald

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