Bruce Wayne had ordered some wine, and it finally arrived. Actually, the waiter was very prompt with it, but, in the absence of conversation, it had seemed like an eternity. Dr. Sandra Villanova decided to use the wine's arrival as an opportunity to try to make conversation with her dinner companion.
"Did you hear about that prostitution ring that the Gotham Police broke up?"
Wayned slowly shook his head.
"They were taking young women off the streets, gang-raping them to break down their resistance, and getting them addicted to drugs, which they then supplied. All of this to force them into a life of prostitution, dependent on the pimps." She paused, a note of anger in her voice. "They treated these women worse than animals. They made them into drug-addicted sex slaves," Dr. Villanova said, venom in her voice. She shuddered -- with fear? anger? indignation? -- at the thought. "They'll spend some time in prison, assuming they get convicted." Dr. Villanova looked in the mirror, then looked back at Wayne. "Men like that should be killed," she opined. "I would gladly kill them myself," she added firmly.
Wayne looked in the mirror, lost in thought, lost in time. The incident described by Dr. Villanova happened here in Gotham City, but it reminded him of a hot day in a dark forest in Asia.
The Ancient was speaking.
"You will be tested again today, Mr. Wayne," the master translated, "but this time it will not be by us."
The Ancient spoke some more, then the master continued translating. "You have a good heart, a heart of light, but it is wrapped in a dark, armored package. Today you will meet your opposite."
Puzzled at what he was hearing, Wayne looked at The Ancient, then looked at himself in the mirror.
"What you will meet today," continued the master, "is someone wrapped in a package of shining armor, but beware: inside is darkness and evil. What lies to your right is on his left. He is your mirror-image, Mr. Wayne."
Returning to the present, Wayne looked away from the mirror and looked at his companion.
"Have you ever done that before, Dr. Villanova?" Wayne asked. "Kill someone, that is?"
She looked at him. He was addressing her formally, as he occasionally does when they are meeting in public on some kind of business.
"Even bad people, even evil people, they want to live," Wayne continued. "Bad people, good people, they all want to live, and they do what they can to survive. When confronted with death, they struggle to live." Wayne paused, looking out the window. "All except for those who try to commit suicide, and even most of them have reservations about death, and often repent of their efforts to take their own lives, and try to live at the last moment, until, horrified, they discover it is too late."
Wayne took a drink of his water, thoughtfully.
"Good people, bad people, all have the same needs, Doctor. They eat, they sleep, they drink.... But sometimes, when they look into the world, they don't see things the way you and I do. What they see is a mirror image of what we see. We see something as bad, but some people see that same thing as good. We turn right, but they turn the other way; their world is a mirror image of ours...."
Dr. Villanova listened silently.
"As long as they're alive, the possibility remains that they will repent of the evil they do, and perhaps find a way to make up for it."
Dr. Villanova thought of the Wayne Foundation, one of Gotham's most important charities, established to intervene in the lives of Gotham's youth, before they got involved in gangs, drugs and crime. Was that why Bruce Wayne had established it? Was he atoning for something he had done? Was Dr. Villanova hearing a confession from Bruce Wayne, the Prince of Gotham?
"Sometimes, though, like a person trying to commit suicide, they discover their mistake when it is already too late. They want to live again, and do what is right; they want to change, and fix the things that they broke. But they can't; it's too late, and nothing can stop their downfall. That's what death is like."
Wayne took another drink of his water, looking out the window. Dr. Villanova thought she saw a tear forming in his eye.
"When you kill someone, you make it too late for that person," Wayne continued slowly. "Instinctively, that person fights to survive, to preserve his life, even while you fight to take it. When you finally do take that life, when that person finally is overcome and dies, you take from that person any opportunity to grow, to learn, to change, to repent... to make up for past evils, to fix past mistakes. That person no longer has a chance; the evildoer is dead, but the evil lives on." Wayne paused. "No matter how evil that person was, there was someone who loved him. His mother, perhaps... mothers seem to love their children, despite their faults. When you kill someone, you take something from others as well; you take a child from a mother, a husband from a wife, a father from his kids, and a man from his dog...." Bruce Wayne's voice trailed off, as he thought about his parents and how they were murdered in that alleyway in front of him so many years ago.
Wayne put his water glass, now empty, down on the table. "Too many people don't realize what they're doing when they kill someone, and that's a big part of the reason why there's so much evil in the world." Wayne looked at Dr. Villanova. "No, Doctor, you've never done it, have you?"
She shook her head.
"It's not something that you want to do. It's not a feeling you want to experience." Wayne looked her in the eyes. "Not ever!"
They looked away from each other. Wayne looked at himself in the mirror, and Dr. Villanova looked down at Wayne's empty waterglass on the table.
"You have kind of a dark side, don't you, Bruce?" she asked.
"No darker than yours, Sandra," Wayne answered.
Dr. Villanova sipped her wine.
"No, but there is a difference." She looked at Wayne again. "You're speaking from experience."