"I'm not afraid of dying. No, I'm not afraid of dying."
"Then prove it to me."
I stared at him straight-on, and he didn't blink either. Two sets of eyes met each other.
"Ahahaha, how would I do that?"
"I don't know." His eyes shifted. "That's your business."
"A short, sharp, shot?" I mocked.
"Yes, that's a sure way of doing it."
"The coward's way out."
Cyanide, prussic acid. I don't know what they call it now. That's how those bastards always escape.
I raised my eyes to the ceiling. "Rope?"
"No. Too much irony."
He had blond hair. Some of those worms called him the Beast. 666, as he drove by—like he was the Antichrist, or something. A fair few centuries too short. He thought it flattering.
"One would have to test it, I suppose. To see how much weight it could hold."
He settled his hat on his head. A grey, peaked cap.
"Just shoot yourself."
The Eagle on the crown of his hat matched the one on my breast.
"I don't want to take the easy way out."
"Then you are a coward."
Honor. Duty. Courage. Those were precepts that had been instilled in him long ago. Engrained. Yes, honor and courage had done so much more than sympathy ever could.
"I have nothing to prove to you."
"What is the point? Of lingering on this earth a moment longer than you have to."
"Many die too late, and some die too early. Yet strange sounds the precept: 'Die at the right time!'"
"Die at the right time. So teaches Zarathustra."
The revolver lay on the table between us. Scattered amongst some papers—the Orders—a mess from last night. Still.
"You think now is the right time?"
"To be sure, he who never lives at the right time—how could he ever die at the right time?"
I picked it up.
"Would that he were never born! Thus I advise the superfluous ones."
"I still have many more things," I toyed with the revolver, "that I would like to do."
I held it for a moment. It weighed down my hand. Heavier than usual.
He watched me, his eyes emotionless—and yet so calm.
And yet he was not so old. Young. Handsome, even.
"Careful. You know what they say about guns."
I looked down at it.
"I would like to have a son."
"You are young, and desire a child and marriage. But I ask you—are you a man entitled to desire a child? Art thou the victorious one, the self-conqueror, the ruler of thy passions, the master of thy virtues? Thus do I ask thee."
I put it back on the desk. It clinked faintly.
"No. You are still afraid."
I began to straighten out my uniform. To my annoyance, I noticed that I had placed several of the decorations incorrectly.
"You do not mean to slay until the animal hath bowed his head?"
In my haste I pricked my finger; swore softly, under my breath.
"The pale criminal hath bowed his head. Lo! Out of his eye speaketh the great contempt."
Several minutes passed. It was very quiet in the room around us.
"I like not your cold Justice," I whispered, "out of her eye always gleams the executioner and his cold steel."
"Why do you keep it with you then?"
I didn't answer. He laughed.
"Resistance—that is the distinction of the slave. Let your distinction be obedience. Let your commanding itself be obeying!"
My hands paused; fell to my sides of their own will.
"To the good warrior sounds 'thou shalt' pleasanter than 'I will'. And all that is dear to you, you shall have commanded unto you."
After a moment they steadied. I picked up the gun.
"So live your life of obedience and War! What matter about long life?"
I slowly raised my head.
He stared back. Two sets of eyes locked with each other.
"What warrior wishes to be spared?"
I aimed the gun and shot the mirror through.