Adree reached into her jacket and brought something out, tossing it thoughtfully in one hand. “So is this standard issue for banru?” She held it up; it was a knife in a plain scabbard with loops on it so it could be worn on a belt. With a hard tug, she pulled the blade free and held it up to take a look.

The weapon was a simple knife with a black hilt, wrapped in thick leather straps and sealed with lacquer, worn smooth. The balance was off – the knife was meant for throwing in preference to fighting hand-to-hand. Above the darkness of the hilt, the steel was brushed, clearly forged with care and attention. The flat of the blade was set with silver, swirling arabesques as if it had been stirred in.

She could feel him watching as she turned the blade over in her hands. “It’s good work,” she commented.

“I didn’t make it. I just helped - ”

“You didn’t answer me,” she said. “Is this a banru weapon?”

“We fight with what we can find,” Athellus replied. “I was given that blade because there was a need.”

“Huh.” Adree flipped the knife with a practiced hand, testing the weight. “Is this what you used to kill the officers at the river side outpost?”

Athellus took his time answering, finally telling her, quietly: “No. I used my sidearm. And for your information, they didn’t suffer. I made certain of that.”

She gave a hollow laugh. “Is that supposed to be comforting? Perhaps you’d like to tell that to their families? To their friends? I’m sure that would ease their pain.”

“Look,” he snarled, “don’t start holding up bodies in my face. I’m not going to sit here and justify myself to you.”

“Because you can’t?”

“Because I don’t give a shit about what you think of me,” Athellus retorted. “And, if you’d care to remember, the Evinthei aren’t exactly in any position to take the moral high ground. So if you think I’m going to plead for my life, forget it. You’re not going to get the satisfaction.”

Adree looked down at him for a long time, then shoved the blade back into the scabbard and tossed it away, carelessly, on the concrete.

“Time was, you cared what I thought of you,” she reminded him.

“Times change,” he told her. “So do people. You should know.”

She shook her head, in confusion. “They say everything has a soul. If that’s true, maybe the man you used to be is still in there. Which makes you all the more sickening.” She leaned in towards him. “You know what my father told me when he gave me this assignment? ‘You’re the best person for the job, Adree’. Because he knows that no one wanted to catch you more than me. That I’d die myself if it meant seeing you go first.”

Athellus matched her, stare for stare. “If that was really true, you’d have capped me the second I was in range. And you didn’t.”

 

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