Aaron blinked, keeping his face a passive mask. What type of questions was that? Where had he got the pistol? There were dozens of revolvers similar in make to his, though none as unique. The only thing special about it was that it was cursed. A curse that was his burden to bare.
Aaron thought about the question for a moment. He’d gotten it from Headquarters. They’d given it to him during his final months of training, before he’d been sent out into the field.
“It was given to me…” he said simply. It was the truth.
Van met his gaze. “By who?”
Aaron shook his head in a very slight motion. It had been given to him by his superiors. Now that he thought about it, he really couldn’t remember who they were. He doubted he’d ever known, or questioned who they were.
“It was a while ago…”
Van frowned. “I didn’t ask how long you’ve had it. I asked who gave it to you.”
Aaron sighed, a frown creasing his face as well. “The people I used to work for. I don’t know,” he answered truthfully.
“Fine.” Van hefted the pistol in his hand as if feeling the weight of it. “Grab a seat please.”
Aaron shook his head. “I’ll stand.”
Van kept his gaze steady on Aaron. “Fine, but we’re going to be a while and I’m sure your legs are getting tired. Especially after that fight.”
It was true. Aaron could feel the fatigue creeping up his legs. He still hadn’t recovered from his fight fully and his legs were feeling it the most since he’d been running and leaping about during the short skirmish. But he held true to his words and stood where he was. If he needed to react, he would be quicker on his feet.
“Do you know what this is?” asked Van, his voice taking on a lecturing tone.
“It’s a heavy-pistol. Seven shot, custom make,” answered Aaron automatically. He’d memorized the specs of the pistol long ago.
Van shook his head. “That’s all well and good but do you know the material that it’s made of?”
Aaron was about to speak but stopped. He actually didn’t know. That was the one thing that he hadn’t been told about the pistol. He studied it in Van’s hand. It’ was a metal as black at night, though that could have just been a finish to it. It was heavy… yet strong.
“It’s Soul Steel,” said Van catching Aaron’s quizzical gaze.
Soul Steel? thought Aaron. It wasn’t a metal that he’d ever heard of. From his training he could recall the basic metals, but nothing that he would have called by that name. He has to be joking… Soul Steel?
Van placed the pistol gently back in the center of the table. “I can see that you’ve never heard of it before now. I can only assume that you are ignorant of it’s properties as well. Soul Steel is an exotic metal. It’s considered to be a near organic material, but that does not attribute to the full extend of it’s uniqueness.
“It has been said that Soul Steel takes the souls of those who wield it. Thus it is known as a cursed metal. Believe what you will. Soul Steel reflects the thoughts and feelings of those who forged it and those who wield it. It absorbs them and in turn makes a connection with the wielder.”
Van placed his hand over the pistol and slid it across the table toward Aaron. “You have a very dark weapon there. I am very curious as to how you came into contact with it and how you are able to withstand something so powerful.”
Aaron looked down at the pistol on the edge of the table. He could feel the presence of the curse tingling in the back of his mind.
The muscles around his eyes tightened as he stared at the weapon. Was that all it was, a hunk of living metal that reflected his own thoughts. No, there was more to this curse than that and he knew it. He could feel it every time he touched the cold metal of the weapon.
“Aaron Backer, take up your weapon.”
Aaron looked up startled. Van had grabbed his sword and was standing across the table from him, his gaze hard.
“I’ve seen the ID you carry in your wallet. Now take up your weapon.”
Aaron shook his head. “No.”
“We have a battle to finish,” declared Van quietly. “You have five shots remaining. Take up your pistol and use it.”
“No. I swore never to use that thing…” said Aaron defiantly, his voice rising.
“And yet you have used it. You nearly killed a number of people today with it. If you swore you would never use it, then why did you? Why do you have it in your possession?”
“That wasn’t my choice. It was brought back to me,” argued Aaron.
Van shook his head, drawing his sword from it’s sheath in one motion. “I don’t care if it was or wasn’t a choice you made. Take up your weapon and face me. We have a battle to finish.”
Aaron shook his head. Van leveled his sword at Aaron, the blade level with his throat, though Van was still a good ways a way from him. “To leave a fight unfinished is to soil your honor. To face an opponent with their weapon drawn when yours is not is to die.”
“I have no honor and I doubt you could kill me,” replied Aaron, his voice deadpan. “Many have tried.”
“I think separating your head from your body would do the trick very nicely.”
Aaron started at Van. The metal of his sword glinted in his waning light shining into the courtyard. Maybe this was it. Maybe this was the end to his curse that he’d been looking for. He’d tried to end it himself. Alcohol had no effect, mortal wounds healed as if they had never existed. But to sever his head clean from his body, would it work? Would he be able to rest easy? The only regret would be giving up his ship and the life he’d been working to build for himself.
Kill him… came the whisper loud in his ear. You will kill the other demon and survive…
Startled, Aaron was taken aback by the sudden voice and the surge of the presence in the back of his mind. Other demon? He looked at Van. What did it mean? The whispers had never been so precise with their message before. And he wasn’t even holding the pistol. Was this his inner will? Was it reflecting his thoughts as Van had said?
“I cannot wait any longer. Take up your weapon, or stand there and die,” said Van. With his last word he lunged forward toward Aaron, shifting his grip on his sword and swinging.