Death Record #405: Heart of Steel, Heart of War.

"I saw that." I said, facing the woman before me. "Don't think that just because I am only bound to watch over the dead, I cannot watch the living as well."

"High and mighty words coming from you, mere pawn in the celestial game." She replied. Completely shrouded in darkness of her own creation, I could not discern a bit of her; I only knew that my partner in conversation was female, and that she did not want her identity disclosed.

"Of course, in one of the few lands where gods walk amongst men, the game exists." I said. "But what of outside? As you speak to me, you must be feeling your power slowly leaving you, do you not?" I asked.

The Death Record, this mansion-prison that had housed me for months now, was officially neutral territory, allowing all walks of life and existence to sustain their being. However, as I had recently learned, this was a privilege extended by the Watcher, rather than an ironclad right. A privilege I was currently denying to my visitor.

"Do you really think that I do not know what you are doing?" She asked, her voice practically dripping with condescension, the patronizing tone rolling right off her tongue, perfectly natural. "I have strength to waste; far more than maintaining myself in this pitiful excuse for a plane could ever require."

I merely held my gaze and said nothing. She continued.

"I have no more time to waste." And with that, she disappeared, the darkness consuming her and spiriting her away.

I shook my head. I would never get used to this.

Even though I was technically immortal, undying, and ever-young to boot, I would never understand why those with power acted as they did.

Perhaps old habits from the days when I was painfully, vulnerably alive died hard. I stood up and looked at the table in front of me.

"Well, despite her attitude, she knows how to enjoy being a guest." I said, eyeing the teacup I had placed before my guest at the beginning of our talk. All of the liquid had been sucked out of it, more perfect than any hard drinker could do, even by tipping the bottle upside-down and licking it clean. This was a complete absence of any sort of material besides the cup, which was inedible. It was as if instead of "eating", as it were, my guest had been "devouring anything that would give her sustenance". Of course, she could not take more than could be offered, as I had full control of this plane, but she had taken all that I had given, thoroughly and efficiently, with nothing left.

"Such is the wrath of a being that has not known relish." I said to myself. "This should be evidence enough."

I produced a crystal; a piece of crystallized energy that had recorded the previous meeting with my guest, every nuance, noise, and moment of it, and could fit in the palm of my hand. I headed over to the writing table, on which I had already prepared the heading of a letter.

I sat down at the work table, the familiar softness of the seat under me and the table that was at the perfect height for writing comforting me less than they usually did, and for one simple reason.

No matter how much I wanted to do things, it all came down to the boss. The boss who could be neither reasoned with nor threatened, the boss that held my existence in the palm of his or her hand.

The boss to whom I was writing now, enclosing the crystalline record of the meeting in a short summary of events.

On the Death Record past, a larger, equally crystalline copy of which I was sending along with the letter, about a size of a fist compared with the kernel of corn that was the previous meeting.

On what had happened after, the cheerful life and the people that fought to defend it.

On the things that had destroyed that idyll, and smashed the peaceful world that was already bathed in blood.

And on the ending of Death Record #405, the tale of a mercenary who found "the job", the one that mercenaries are willing to risk their lives for, the one that transcends money and power, the one that stirs their hearts and reminds them that they once fought for more than money.

I barely felt the time pass by as I put pen to paper, making sure not to miss a thing. My wrist ached, but my hand moved on its own.

Perhaps it was the desire to tell the story. Perhaps it was the desire to destroy the villain, the villain that yet lived to destroy the peace. Perhaps it was a desire to save the people, those whose stories I had read and those whom I had grown to care for.

Or perhaps it was simply my foolish belief that those I believed "evil" should receive their just desserts, and those I believed "good", a reprieve from the horrors and suffering that composed life itself.

I folded the letter into an envelope and sent it. There was no address; I was the only one who could send to that person anyway. I turned to the common room, which held the fireplace and a number of chintz sofas. I had made a habit of constantly changing the furnishings, as there wasn't much else to do in the downtime between Death Records, and home improvement with a homely bent seemed to help the guests get more comfortable with the fact that they were dead. As such, there was a chandelier above the sofas, giving off a warm, soft incandescent yellow light.

There sat my other guest, who was the victim of this tragedy.

"Are you ready, Felius?" I asked of my other guest, who was brooding on the chintz sofa in front of the fireplace. He was taller than me, his hair black, skin white, Caucasian-like, and his eyes brown and quite large.

He didn't respond. I clicked my tongue in mock reproach, although I knew what he was going through. It was my business to know, after all.

"Well, the letter's been sent. There's nothing more you can do." I said, sitting down next to him. That, at least, got some response out of him. He turned his head towards me, his eyes meeting mine.

"There's nothing more you can do." He repeated, looking right at me, his eyes staring into mine. "Usually, I'd be happy to hear those words, because it means either a paycheck or a load off my back." His voice was monotone, deep, slow, and brooding, that of a man who had gone before his time, a voice of regrets. In that same slow voice, he continued "Not today, though."

He turned away from me, and I sensed that this conversation was over. I knew the signs. He didn't want to face his disappearance just yet. He didn't want to die without knowing his mission was completed. Arguing with these types was usually less than worthless.

I stood up, sighed, and went back to my own room. The most recent Death Record, the one of his demise, was right there, the paper probably still warm from my frantic scribbling. On the cover, it simply said:

Death Record #405: Heart of Steel, Heart of War.

Well, there didn't seem to be a better way to pass the time. I took the book, lay down on my bed, opened it, and lazily began to read.

And as I did, it was as if Felius was telling the story again, every detail forming a picture in my head, like a play, only nobody had to project their voice for anyone else to hear.