Wai didn't want it to end this way. He was talkative and usually optimistic, but there was no denying that Man-Hin was dying. The Wolf, as he was better known, was lying on the bed, quiet and resigned to his fate.
He watch Man-Hin rest, as he always did, but this time it could be for his final night. He was half afraid that his friend would just stop breathing and it would be done with. Wai didn't want his companion to die like this. He wanted Man-Hin to go out in a blaze of glory, in a death worthy of his legendary status as the most feared assassin in China.
But Man-Hin, being Man-Hin, would never want that. Fung Man-Hin would want to go out in a peaceful way, no fanfare, no explosions, nothing. He would want to die as an ordinary Joe, in an unremarkable and quiet way. He would want to die just a man and nothing more.
What was he thinking about now? Was he dreaming of Wai-Yee? Was he dreaming of the bandits that had attacked the out-of-the-way village in China fifty years ago? He remembered Wai-Yee. He also remembered the look on Man-Hin's face when he had helped the other man from the cliff edge.
It had been pain, so much pain. It had shocked him to see that one man could have so much pain; had he remembered what he had been before coming to the Seven Saints Temple? Did he remember all of it, why he was there, who he was, exactly? Man-Hin had never told him, even though they had traveled together for the past five decades.
But Man-Hin was an old man. Wai was an old man too, but younger than Man-Hin. He had a few years left, but Man-Hin's time was quickly running out. He could tell as much.
He started when the other man shifted to roll over onto his back. Thank goodness, he was still alive — but for how long more?
Wai didn't want his friend to die at all. The wisdom that had been imparted to him over the years, the street sense and the sword skills, were all very important to him. Had he not followed Man-Hin as he left Wai-Yee and the village behind, he would most likely had ended up in a jail, serving time for crimes. Or he would have ended up on the streets, a beggar or maybe a junkie. He owed Man-Hin much; his whole life, in fact. Man-Hin was not just a man or a legendary superman to him. He was a friend and a teacher.
Man-Hin was smiling his sleep. His hand twitched, as if clutching someone's hand — Wai-Yee's? — but he stayed asleep. He was so still that the only indication he was alive, was the rise and fall of his chest.
He deserved his rest. He had toiled through the years with the memory of Wai-Yee held close to his heart. He had never told anyone else the story of how he had dealt with her killer; only Wai knew that he had gouged out the man's eyes with his bare hands. Without his eyes to guide him as he climbed up the cliff face, that man had been doomed to die. If he hadn't then he deserved to be part of the legends too. Which he was, to a certain extent, except that he had not been seven feet tall or the one last remaining scholar of some lost form of martial arts; legends had a way of evolving, and none as much as those that involved villains, love and a tragic hero.
Wai leaned back in his chair. It was lumpy and not the most comfortable he had chanced to find himself in, but it would do. He closed his eyes, tired but not daring to sleep. Man-Hin had begun slipping away in the weeks after the Ben incident, but only in the past few days did he really began to show signs that he was leaving this world for good.
It was a painful reminder of his humanity. After all, he was just that: a normal human man elevated to superhero status by wild rumors and exaggerated legends.
Something in Wai told him that his friend was going to go very soon, within the next hour. Or, more likely, within the next few minutes. He opened his eyes just as he heard Man-Hin whisper.
Fung Man-Hin drew in one last, shuddering breath. He stopped breathing after that, but there was a small smile on his face, as if telling Wai not to grieve, he was happy now in Heaven with Wai-Yee; they had been reunited at last. He was not the Wolf, or, as the legends claimed, an eight-foot-tall giant with lightning-fast reflexes and a war hammer that he used to routinely crush a man's skull (even if the part about the reflexes was true), or such a thin man that he could slip through any sort of crack in a door or wall.
No, the Wolf was just a man who had, after all these years, found peace.