Death: The single binding force that brings all people to the same place in the same condition. We may rise to tower over our peers in life, but in the end there is nothing to distinguish us from each other. In the interim we live in a pleasant state of forgetfulness, as if the deaths might never rear their ugly heads to claim us. It’s in that space that we pretend we are so different from one another.

When I first learned that I was to be exiled into the Nanten, I knew that it was the beginning of a slow death. It changes everything to know you are going to die. No one looks at you the same.

Perhaps I’m attributing too much of the stigma I suffered to this fact, and not enough to my conviction as a murderer, but I believe the effect was the same. It doesn’t matter how high you rise, once you’re walking dead the vultures will circle. People pity you or they turn against you. I was hated; though, again, much of that hatred was due to murdering Lystra.

Lystra. She proves my case in a single point. The daughter of the second-highest ranking official in the Old Empire, and she’s now no better off than any village tragedy. If the two were to meet in the next life, how would you tell them apart? Lystra no longer has servants, soldiers, or wealth. Her jewels and her weapons no longer hang from her. All the things that gave her what status she held are beyond her reach.

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That’s not entirely fair to Lystra. She was a striking figure in her own right, with a strength of personality that I would argue was unparalleled in Sterling. She burned brightly. But all things that burn must go out.

I wish I wasn’t the one to do the extinguishing. I wish I wasn’t an equalizer of men.

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These Latala are much the same as we are, though they certainly operate by a different code. Still, we all kill for our own reasons and find ourselves justified in them as we do. The KoraKora taught me that if they taught me nothing else. Right or wrong, we all kill, and the result is the same: We bring people low. We return them to the status from which they were born.

I would rather build men up than tear them down. Perhaps we can find a way to do just that in the Nanten. The question is, who?

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