The lad marched with a steady pace, hemmed in between the escort. The four guards encircled him from every direction, leading him down the hall. They had almost no facial expressions, besides the occasional evil glare. The only human characteristic they retained were the heartbeat and a need for air. The lights were dim, and there were no windows which made the corridor feel humid and hot. The wooden floor creaked every few steps, but the door at the end lingered in the distance like it had no intention of moving closer.
The worn-out wooden doors at the end of the hall opened to reveal an extravagant room. One of the soldiers nodded, letting him inside. Everything shook.
A thick, elaborate carpet covered the floor, and in the corner was a tiny table with all sorts of drinks. In the far back hung a huge picture of the ruler, and right below it was a desk. The painting had a mighty figure on horseback, leading merciless armies to war. The ruler’s eyes were vigilante and stoic. He had a chiseled face, and broad shoulders. He held his blade passionately in his hand and appeared to be impervious to anything the enemy might throw at him.
Behind the desk sat a personification of the towering individual imortalized in the painting, but much more human. Gone was the fervent aura of a godly ruler, and in its place was a normal human being, not unlike Michael.
“You’re free to sit down.” The man said without looking, writing.
Michael hesitantly walked to the chair close by, but something made him freeze in place. He was uncomfortable, and doubted his previous impeccable resolution. Mustering more strength, he relaxed as he leaned into the armchair. He waited until he was permitted to speak.
“It’s not always that I allow a meeting with someone like you to take place. And you probably had no experience meeting a person, a ruler, such as myself, no?” The man behind the desk still kept his eyes on the work he was doing. He was correct. Ordinary folks do not get to meet the ruler face to face. It just didn’t happen. The only time when something like this takes place was in the face of public unrest. That’s when a journalist is allowed a private audience.
“I’m afraid you are correct, but that is beside the point. We are here to address a myth, sir.”
The man chuckled, lifting his eyes to look up. “Sir? Really? Looks like you’ve got not an ounce of politeness within you. Work on your manners and show respect for your ruler.”
“I apologize, Overseer Archer. It’s just that…sometimes I forget myself.”
The ordeal seemed to have no influence on the ruler, who brushed off the comment.
“I write for the local newspaper, and I’m sure that people would like you to shed some light on the rumors that are going about, especially the…name.”
“Master of Peace, huh?”
“Exactly. It’s been years since you assumed control, and you seemed unfazed by whatever is going on. That’s what got you that name. How do you do it?” Michael took out his notepad.
“You see, this whole place isn’t what it seems. I’m not a godly being, and sooner or later, my time will come. That thought alone could ruin a person. Just think about it for a second.” The overseer stared deeply into Michael’s eyes. He was trying to evaluate him and get to know him.
“Excuse me.” Michael feigned unawareness.
“That’s right. Think about it. Shouldn’t you fear for your life? I mean, most people wouldn’t dare to come here, let alone dare to ask me to explain myself. What are you doing here? Answer!”
The scream came over Michael like a sickness. He lost his composure, but not because he was timid. The scream certainly echoed with anger, but there was something very peculiar and frightening. The overseer seemed stoic and relaxed. He chose to raise his voice, but it wasn’t an act of anger. He manipulated his emotions to use them to his advantage. He wasn’t being used by the world. He wasn’t at the mercy of his emotions, rather they were his servants.
“Relax,” The overseer said in a normal, almost cordial tone. “This is why I am here, and you are not. Dealing with tough manners requires skill – a finesse in dealing with emotions.”
Michael took a breath. “A few days ago, you gave the order to execute four villagers because there was no way of knowing who committed a crime. How are you unfazed in the face of such atrocity, an atrocity that you committed?”
“A week ago, someone got murdered. The only people in the vicinity of the scene were those four, however not one of them wanted to confess. Thus, we couldn’t just let them go. One of them was the culprit for sure. All had to go to secure the safety of the citizens. Pure and simple.”
“Tell me, did those four men die because the victim of the crime was related to you?”
“First time I heard such a claim.”
“How can you be so peaceful?”
“Not this again. I really don’t have an answer. In fact, there is no answer. You are just looking for something that doesn’t exist.”
“What if you found out that you sacrificed four men for nothing, that they were all innocent? Wouldn’t you hate yourself?”
“What if you found out you can’t leave ever?”
“Answer me.” Michael demanded.
“I would…continue searching.”
Michaels eyed the rulers who was still staring deep into his eyes. They said not a words. For the moment, everything was quiet.
“I’ll make it simple,” Michael said, “The man that did it all is standing right before you.”
Like a dose of failure, the riposte shook the overseer slightly. He grew pale and couldn’t find an adequate reply. He wasn’t prepared for such a blunder. He looked at the doors. He wanted to call the guards.
Michael leaped from his chair, circled around the desk, and quickly clenched his hand into a fist. The ruler started calling upon his guards. Michael’s fist slammed into the ruler’s jaw, sending him down onto the desk. He smashed his head, blood gushing from his forehead. What started like a strong call turned into a faint shriek which was barely heard on the other side. A pair of guards rammed through the door with their weapons in hand. Even if they charged in, there was no way they could save their ruler who was at the mercy of the assailant. Michael held the ruler with the blade hugging his neck. More of them charged in.
Michael demanded. “Tell them what your secret is.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why are you called the Master of Peace? How do you remain stoic in the face of tragedies and atrocities?”
“I don’t care about anything. I don’t care about the people, nor the country we live in. No matter what happens, it makes no difference.”
The overseer’s confession enfeebled the guards who were dedicated to his cause. They had doubt in their eyes, which was feasting on all their previous convictions. Michael finished his duty. Leaving the overseer to the guards, he walked out of the room.
That same soldier nodded in admiration.
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