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A young woman lay on the floor, covered in blood. Her arm rested on the floor at an odd angle. Ragged pieces of linen, appearing to have been torn from her dress, were tied tightly around her wrists and ankles. Silky, raven hair caked with dried blood framed a once beautiful but now bruised and bloated face, and sightless eyes as black as the starless night. The silhouette of a tall man appeared, his face indistinguishable in the darkness of the room. He knelt beside the woman and stared at her for several long moments. He quietly reached over and gently closed her eyes. The man then whispered words in Vietnamese and kissed her tenderly on the lips. He stood up and walked out of the door without a backwards glance. Flames suddenly appeared and engulfed the corpse of the woman as sounds of a motorcycle could be heard tearing away from the street below.
South Vietnam, 1963
Amon Descartes entered a small café in the city of Saigon. He sat at a table near the window and looked out, casually watching the people passing by. Everyone had a wary, slightly hostile look on his or her faces, as if suspecting of being attacked at any second. He couldn’t exactly blame them, what with the army marching up and down the streets with their guns at the ready. Amon admired them as they continued to go about their everyday affairs normally, despite all of the violence and deaths that has been plaguing the city and the surrounding areas. It was both admirable and sad.
Amon was brought out of his reverie as Hope Dracul sat down across from him. She was his protégé and also one of his closest friends. They hadn’t seen each other in a few weeks and had decided to meet here to share information and to plan their next move. Her usually cheerful face was uncharacteristically grim, so Amon guessed that whatever she had learned while up in the mountains wasn’t good.
“So,” she asked, falsely cheerful, “how have things been?”
“Not very good. Did you happen to hear about that village near Mekong that was attacked?”
Shaking her head sadly, Hope replied, “Yeah, one hundred massacred and a third of the women kidnapped. Fifty-five soldiers dead and sixty-eight wounded. It’s horrible and it’s only going to get worse.”
Amon took a cigarette from his leather jacket, placed it between his full lips, took out a gold lighter and lit the cigarette all in one swift movement. Only after inhaling a deep lungful and releasing it towards the ceiling, did he reply, “Yeah, with what happened this year at AP BAC and then those monks torching themselves in the middle of streets earlier this year, I have no idea what Saigon and the U.S thinks they’re doing. With the way things are going now, Johnson and Diem haven’t got a chance to pull out before it all hits rock bottom.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Hope sighed deeply, running her hand through her curly, sable-colored hair, making the various cowlicks stand on end. She turned her bi-colored eyes onto the others in the café and said quietly, “Look, there’s something I have to tell you. Something I learned while passing through the villages near the delta. Just stay calm and don’t start blowing things up after I tell you, okay?”
“Fine, whatever, what is it?”
“Jien, he’s finally made an appearance.” She hesitated and returned her gaze back to Amon. His face was impassive, his body relaxed. But she saw that his eyes had suddenly turned cold, bleak.
“Go on” he said calmly.
“Well, apparently he’s a leader of some barbaric guerilla group. I heard that he is planning to attack the NLF, I don’t know why. I was thinking that we should go and help them. They’re rather busy and distracted right now, with all the fights and that blasted Agent Orange affecting their crops and destroying the trees in the jungles. They might be vulnerable and could use our help.”
“Okay, we should go now. We might make it before daybreak and not risk getting seen. If Jien defeats the NLF and gains more power, Vietnam is screwed. More importantly, this could be my chance to get that bastard. We’ve been playing this little cat-and-mouse game for almost a year, and it’s about time that he pays for what he did to Mai.”
Hope opened her mouth to say something to diffuse Amon’s anger, closed it, and then opened it again to say, “Good, then let’s go.”
They arrived at the NLF base at four in the morning, just before sunrise. Goh, a burly Vietnamese of about forty, was the commander of this particular NLF branch. For many years, he has been fighting for Vietnam’s independence and now for their unification. Goh, who both Hope and Amon had fought alongside of, greeted them with open arms. He and his team listened silently while Amon explained why they were here. Goh nodded and opened his mouth to say something when an arrow came out of the surrounding jungle and went right through his jugular. All hell broke loose. Hope and Amon simultaneously pulled out their guns along with the rest of the NLF and ran into the jungle, attacking the guerillas. Amon ran deep into the jungle, shooting two men in the leg, not killing them. He had the desire for taking only one life today, and that was Jien’s. The vicious man who made even Hitler seem like a saint. He moved through the jungle like a tiger, gliding along at preternatural speed, his feet barely touching the ground.
He heard the soft crack of a branch to his left and swiftly threw a three-point throwing star in that direction. He heard a soft grunt and knew he had hit his target. Amon walked over to the spot and saw Jien kneeling on the ground, clutching the star now lodged in his throat, the exact position where the arrow had struck Goh. “Did you truly think that you could run away from me, Jien?” asked Amon, his mesmerizing voice now cold and mocking. Jien moaned in despair and pain.
“Hm, maybe I shouldn’t have aimed for the throat. You’ll be dead before I have the proper amount of time to have some fun and make you suffer.”
“Please, are you really begging me to spare your life? After what you did to Mai, you really think that I would let you live. You scum. You tortured and raped her. Not just her, no doubt countless other women as well. You should be happy that you managed to live this long. Now it’s time for me to give you a fitting goodbye present, prepare you for what’s to come after you’re dead.”
But as Amon moved to stand beside the cowering Jien, he heard a slight noise, like the rustling of clothing behind him. He turned around just in time to catch the steel arrow headed towards his heart. Amon’s eyes widened in surprise and disbelief as he heard the sounds of a woman’s laughter. It was a soft, dusky laughter, a sound that he thought he’d never hear again.
“You’re reflexes are as remarkable as always, love.” A beautiful Vietnamese woman suddenly appeared. She was tall, with raven hair and matching eyes. She was leaning slightly on a tree a few feet away from Amon, a crossbow held limply at her side.
“What the-, what the hell is this?” Amon hissed, a burning rage quickly diminishing his surprise and disbelief. He had his left foot planted firmly on Jien’s arm, keeping him in place. His eyes, red with rage, burned into the onyx-colored eyes of the woman leaning nonchalantly on the tree.
“You think you’d be happy to see an old lover,” she replied calmly, flirtatiously. Sensing Amon’s rage, she had not moved from her position, rather she tensed up, readying herself to fight.
“Mai, you supposed to be dead. I saw you for myself. I burned your apartment so the police wouldn’t find out anything about you, Hope, and me. How is it that you’re alive, and why didn’t you come to me to tell me?”
“You’re right, I was dead. But I was brought back and given a second chance by a great man, my god. I didn’t tell you that I was alive because-,” her lips quivered slightly and her eyes lowered to the ground before she said, “because you are now my enemy.”
“What? Mai, what is this? Who brought you back? Who is this man that you now work for?”
“His name is Zaizen, and he is all that I have now. He is my salvation!”
“Zaizen!” Amon exclaimed in astonishment and anger. He walked swiftly to Mai and, grabbing her by the shoulders, said, “Are you insane? That man is a tyrant. He’s far worse than Jien. Do you really want to align yourself with a sadistic man who treats everyone, women in particular, like trash?”
“He’s not like that! He cares for me! He’s-”
“He is using you. His only desire is to see Vietnam and the U.S in ruins. He does nothing but leave disaster and pain in his wake.”
“It must crumble before it can be rebuilt.”
“What!” Amon released her and took a step back; looking at the woman that he had once thought himself in love with as if he has never seen her before. “Are you saying that you want to see Vietnam destroyed, but why?”
“Why?! Because I’m so tired of it all. First being oppressed by France and now this damn war. North and South. We’re fighting against each other and the U.S at the same time. It will never change. Violence and death will always be on our doorsteps.”
“So you want to bring forth more death and violence. You fool! What will that do? Absolutely nothing. That leech Zaizen has corrupted your mind. Don’t do this Mai, please. If you have any love for your people and your country at all, you will separate yourself from Zaizen and rejoin me and Hope.”
“No, you’re the one who is wrong. I am sorry that things have to turn out this way, but I made my decision. I’m going to fight alongside Zaizen no matter what you say; because that is what I believe is the right thing to do. I’m sorry.”
She pulled out a small black bag and threw it to the ground. A thick, black cloud engulfed Amon, blinding him. “No, Mai, MAI!” Amon suddenly heard a piercing scream, then silence. A few seconds later, the cloud dissipated. Amon looked around him and saw that Jien, (who he had completely forgotten), was dead, castrated, with a sword driven into his chest. He searched for Mai but knew that she was gone. He also knew that the next time they saw each other that they would be enemies, and that one of them will have to die.