a contemplation on different kinds of regrets
Even though he’s done it countless times by now, every time Tao finishes a hit, he still goes a little pale, a little cold underneath his skin. It is not death that bothers him because he knows death is inevitable - whether or not he is the one who kills them, eventually they will meet their end. It is what comes afterwards that makes him feel uneasy.
He rolls the corpse onto its back, taking a small, silver dagger from its sheath on his belt, and rips two diagonal lines into his skin. Blood spills from the body, still warm, and he smears it into a pattern on the floor, framing the body: two rudimentary wings, not angelic but jagged and rough. Above the head, he writes “E X O” in large, erratic block letters. When all is done, he stabs the dagger through the body’s spine, right in between the two crudely drawn wings, straight through until the hilt meets flesh.
Only then, after he’s marked the body with the sign of the dragon, is he finally allowed to leave.
When his master had taught him how to kill, he also taught Tao to respect death. every time he draws the sign, he can hear his master speaking softly into his ear, just out of sight, and it takes all his strength not to look back. He knows he will only regret it if he does.
It is well past midnight by the time he returns, but Wu Fan is always awake to greet his return. Xiumin is by his side too, as reliable a right hand man as ever. “You’re later than usual,” Wu Fan says. “And there’s blood on your face.”
“I’m sorry,” Tao replies. “It was... ah, never mind. I’ll try to do it quicker next time.”
“It’s fine. You wouldn’t take more time than you need to, I know.” There’s a pause, and Wu Fan touches Tao’s shoulder lightly. “Clean yourself up and get to sleep. You’ll be free for at least a few days before we’ll need you to go out again. Do what you need to in the meanwhile. Good night, Tao.”
“Yes, duizhang,” he says humbly, bowing as Wu Fan walks past to leave.
Xiumin, though, turns and places a hand on Tao’s arm. “It was hard, wasn’t it?” he says, and Tao is a little embarrassed that Xiumin heard the weariness in his voice so clearly. Xiumin, though, smiles and gives him a sympathetic pat. “You did well, Tao, I think Wu Fan was pleased. Go get some rest, alright? You deserve it.”
Tao feels somehow more ashamed when Xiumin is so kind than when Wu Fan is so distant.
After he cleans the blood off of his face and his hands, he changes his clothes and lies in bed. When he closes his eyes, he imagines his next kill and wonders when the guilt starts to go away.
description: Tao kills, marks, thinks. Originally posted here, edited.