Category Archives: Aaron Black-Heart

One More Light

A little something I wrote a while ago and never posted…  Until now that is, and after such a long hiatus.  I wonder, how long will I stick around this time?


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Black-Heart: Training

Aaron moved through this his workout fluently as Grace sat watching him.  As the sun climbed slowly into the sky and started to burn off the fog surrounding the city Aaron finished his last exercise and dropped into a sitting position, crossing his legs and looking at Grace watching him.  She smiled back.

He reached up and ran his hand through his hair.  It came back soaked with sweat.  He hadn’t remembered how hard some the exercises he’d used to do had been.  He’d fallen out of shape and it was apparent in his form and his muscles.  But to someone else it wouldn’t have looked that way.  In his workout he’d gone far beyond what most humans were capable of and had pushed himself even farther, knowing the limits of his body.

“You’re full of surprises,” said Grace smiling and shaking her head.

“That he is. But he’s going to need to do better if he’s going to master himself.”

Both Grace and Aaron looked up to see Van standing over him.  The man tossed a paper-wrapped package at him.  Aaron could feel what it was before he caught it in his hands.  It was the pistol.

He held it in his lap, gazing down at it, his expression having turned stony, his face becoming a hard mask.

“Open it and let’s get started,” said Van leaning against the mast, his arms crossed, his expression blank as he watch Aaron.

“What is that?” asked Grace leaning in to see examine the package.  She clung to the blanket surrounding her.

Aaron could tell she was feeling something coming from the pistol.  It had an affect on everyone that came into contact with it.  He could feel the curse seething in the back of his mind.  Having been distracted by his workout and Grace, he hadn’t realized just how strong it had become.

A dark air of anticipation radiated from it.  It had been waiting for this moment.

Aaron slowly unwrapped the paper from around it, answering Grace’s question, “It’s my curse and burden.  The reason that Barret wants my head.”

She gazed at it silently.  He could see her trying to draw herself into the blanket, to shrink as far away from the weapon as possible.

He looked from her to the weapon again.  The presence roiled in the back of his mind.

“You’re going to do what you tired to before, during out fight,” said Van, his voice having taken on the commanding tone of a teacher speaking to his student.

“Make a connection…” muttered Aaron.  He remembered what had happened last time he’d dropped his mental defenses.  He’d blacked out and seen that vision.  Of what, he was still unsure.

His gaze flicked up to Grace sitting across from him.

Kill her!  

The whisper surprised him and his gaze hardened.  That’s not going to happen.  He thought back.  Never.

He could feel the blood-lust of the curse calling out to him.

“Not with her here,” he said darkly to Van.

The swordsman shook his head.  “She needs to stay right where she is.”

Aaron shook his head looking up at Van, his gaze hard.  “No.  I will not put her in danger.”

“You already have,” replied Van strictly.

Grace looked worriedly between the two of them, her gaze falling on Aaron.  “What is he talking about, what’s going to happen?”

Aaron shook his head and sighed, clenching his teeth.  “I never wanted you to see this side of me.  This is the burden I carry from my past.”

Her fingers touched his cheek, surprising him from his focus on the weapon.  She’d reached out, but the blanket was still clutched around her.  Somehow she’d worked up the courage to come closer to the dark presence emanating from the pistol.  “Let me share some of that burden,” she said slowly, looking him in the eye.  “If it will help bring you back…”

Aaron sighed again.  “Alright.”  He directed his words to Van.  “If I try to do anything…”

“I will stop you,” finished Van quietly.

Grace let her hand fall away as she clasped the blanket around her tighter.  Aaron let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes.  He could feel the presence sending out tendrils, pushing against his defenses, eager to take control.

A little bit at a time I guess, thought Aaron.  Taking a deep breath, he started to let down the first layer of his mental defenses.

He felt the curse rush in, pushing as hard as it could against his consciousness.  Slowly, he let down another layer.  His eyes flew open and his pupils dilated.  He felt his muscles tense up and his control over his body start to waiver.  His hand twitched, wanting to move for the pistol resting in his lap.

No.  He mentally willed himself to keep from moving.  Focusing on keeping control over his body, he started to let down more of his mental defenses.  The curse rushed in as fast as it could and then suddenly he felt all control falling away as he lost his focus on keeping himself from moving.

Through his eyes, he could see the pistol had suddenly appeared in his hand.  Grace had risen from her spot on the deck.  He could feel his muscles flexing as his own body followed suit, the paper wrapping falling away from his lap, blown about by the wind.

The pistol came up, his arm outstretched.  He watched with horror as his finger found the trigger.  Damnit!  No! he cried out to no avail as his finger tightened on the trigger.

 

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Black-Heart: Healed

It was early morning when Aaron started back into his old training regimen.  He barely remembered most of it but his muscles hadn’t forgotten the years of painful routines that had been drilled into him.  They had not been fun years but what he had been taught in his training to become a Protector had saved his life on many occasions.

Stripping off his shirt and boots he stood just at the bow of the ship, and started to move through the motions, stretching his tired and injured muscles before he really started into his workout.

The incessant itching that had been plaguing him had stopped sometime in the night and had faded away into a soreness of his muscles around where he’d been injured.  He remembered the itching from major injuries in the past.  He knew it was caused by his accelerated rate of recovery, but he’d never thought much more into it than that.

Finishing his stretching he started with is first exercise.  His body moved on it’s own, his muscles going  through the motions as it he’d just done the exercise yesterday.

The sun was rising just behind the ship, working it’s way through the clouds and the fog that blanketed the sky.  The rays of bright orange lit the towers of the flying city through the mists.

Aaron stared out at the city, his thoughts on where Barret was currently.  The man could be like a ghost when he wanted to be.  Aaron knew he would never be able catch up to Barret before the man found him first.

His musings were interrupted by the sound of footsteps on the decking.  Closing his eyes he focused his mind on the sound, trying to discern who it was.  Van was silent when he moved, so the only other person it could be was Grace.

“You shouldn’t be up,” she said when she saw him.

He heard the worry in her voice and stopped, turning and settling into a sitting position, crossing his legs.  He looked up at her.  “I’m alright, you don’t need to worry.”

Her hands were clasped up just below her neck, clutching the blanket draped around her shoulders.  “How can I not?  After what happened to you.”  Her gaze lingered on him.

Aaron followed her gaze, touched the bandages binding his chest and torso.  He’d forgotten about them.  Finding where they were secured he started to unravel them.

Grace shook her head and knelt in front of him, reaching out with one hand to try and stop him.

As the bandages fell away revealing scars from past injuries, she frowned at him.  Her hand tried to find his, but he stopped her, taking her hand in his own and touching her fingers to his bare chest.

She stopped blinking and probed around with her fingers.

Arching his back he craned his neck to check his shoulder.  The wound where the bullet had entered into his chest was closed, as small scar replacing where it had been.  He turned back to her, looking her in the eye.

“All better, see?”

She shook her head, her fingers going for one of the bandages on his face covering one of the many cuts he’d sustained.  She peeled it away, surprise and disbelief evident on her face.  “How?”

Aaron shrugged.  “It was something they did to me in my training… in my past life.”

Grace met his gaze.  “You never did finish explaining.”

Aaron’s gave a small nod and sighed.

“Who was that man?”

“Barret—Barret Bray.  He was a rival of mine in my last line of work.  We were both in line for the same position, but he wasn’t able to handle the stresses it put on him so they removed him and shifted the responsibility to me instead.  He never forgave me for that and has been out for my head ever since.”

Aaron looked down at his hands, turning them palm up in his lap.

“I nearly killed him at one point.  I should have too, but… Mai stopped me at the time.”

“Mai, your ex?”

Aaron snorted a laugh.  That’s right, she knows Mai from the bar.  “Not quite.  She was a colleague in my old job.  She did—does, the same work I used to.  She came looking for me to bring me back.”

Grace watched his face silently.

Aaron shook his head closing his eyes.  He could hear the call of the pistol down in the cupboard where he hid his stash.  “I’m never going back though,” he said finally.  “I left that life behind and I’m not going to let it consume me again.  Not ever.”

“What are you going to do now?”  He felt Grace’s hand on his cheek and he lifted his gaze to look at her.  “You’re not alone.”

Aaron placed his hand over hers.  “I know that now.  And I know that I have to get stronger.  There was a time when I was able to best Barret, I need to become that strong again.”

Aaron searched Grace’s eyes.  He could see a faint glimmer of fear in her eyes.  Whether it was for him or her own safety he didn’t know.  He shook his head, taking her hand from his cheek and clasping it in his own.  “I’m not going to let anything happen to you or anyone else.”

“Don’t worry about me, worry about yourself,” she said.  “I’ll be here for you.  I may not be able to fight, but I’m not leaving you by yourself anymore.  You’re getting into more trouble than ever known you to get in.”

He chuckled, a small smile coming to his face.  Releasing her hand he got his feet under him, then turned and bent over, placing his hands on the deck of the ship.    Flipping his feet up in one motion he held his balance, and then slowly took one hand off the deck, tucking it behind his back.

Looking at Grace, he saw she had a small smile on her face as she watched him.  His focus wavered momentarily at seeing the smile he’d fallen in love with and so did his balance.  His feet wavered in the air as he caught his balance, focusing on what he was doing, he slowly lowered himself, bending his arm and then pushing back up against the deck of the ship with a grunt.

He was going to get stronger to matter what it took as long as Grace was in danger, as long as his new life was in danger.  First thing was first though, he needed to learn how to control the curse.  If he didn’t, it would all be for nothing.

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Black-Heart: Aaron’s Decision

Aaron emerged on deck just as the sun was starting to set.  The orange light hit the clear sky and the towers of the flying city, setting it alight.  It was a sight he loved to see.

Cool night wind whipped across his bare chest and shoulders, and plucked at the pants he wore.  The bandages wrapping his chest offered no protection for him, but he didn’t mind.  It felt good against the incessant itching that was plaguing him now that the numbness had worn off.

“I see you’ve awoken finally.”

Aaron didn’t turn to look at Van.  He wanted to enjoy the spectacle of the sunset as long as he could before it vanished into the coming night.

“I’m alive.  Barely, but I’m alive,” grunted Aaron.

“A lower spine injury, multiple broken ribs, and many other shattered bones.  You’ve barely had time to recover and yet you can walk.”

Aaron sighed to himself.  “A miracle isn’t it.”

“From my experience, there are no such things as miracles.”

“Yeah, my experience too,” replied Aaron turning from the sunset and the city flying ahead of them.

Van was standing at the helm of the airship, one hand resting on the wheel, the other resting casually on the hilt of his sword.  Aaron saw no threat in his stance though.  Turning he around the mast and sat down against it crossing his legs.  Setting his hands in his lap, he held them palm up staring at the callouses he’d developed over the years of working on the ship.

“How do you do it?” he asked after a while.

Van was silent behind him at the helm.

Aaron sighed.  “How do you control all of your power?  How are you not affected by the curse?”

“Soul Steel reflects it’s wielder’s thoughts and emotions.  There is no curse,” replied Van finally, his voice unemotional.

“Easy for you to say,” grunted Aaron.  His mind had wandered to Grace sleeping below deck.  She’d fallen asleep after a while nestled next to him.  He’d tried not to disturb her when he’d gotten up, and had tucked a blanket around her before he’d headed up on deck.

When he’d been injured by Barret, she’d clung to him, not wanting to leave his side.  She’d given up her life to stay with him despite Barret’s threats.  And when Van took him back to the ship, she’d given up her chance to return home when she’d stepped aboard.  And it was all for him.  He’d never felt that way for anyone in his life.  Sure Mai had been his anchor to reality when he’d been consumed by the curse in his last line of work, but it had never been anything like this.

She cares for me too much to let me go… and I don’t want to let her go no matter how hard I try.  This was never how I planned for things to turn out when I chose this new life for myself.  No one from my past was supposed to find me and that damned pistol was supposed to stay lost!

Aaron shook his head and sighed.  It was too late to change the past and to wish for something better to happen.  It had been bad enough when Mai had found him, but now with Barret gunning for his head, he needed to do something.

He’s become much stronger than I remember… or maybe what he said was true.  I have gotten softer in the time I’ve been away.  Aaron didn’t want to think about it, but what Jay had said to him back then was true.  Headquarters had it’s eye on this planet, Vale.  Mai had been the beginning even if she’d been here on other business from Headquarters.  Barret was the next step in asserting their power.  However Aaron knew that Barret would keep silent about his whereabouts on the planet.  Barret wanted him for himself and he would try to keep it that way until the very end.

I’m going to have to fight Barret again, and many more if I’m going to stay hidden here.  I don’t want to… I gave up that life a long time ago…

His mind strayed back to Grace again.

I’m going to have to if I want to protect her though.

It was as if a shadow had fallen over his thoughts.

“Van,” said Aaron, his voice hard.  “I want to you to train me.  I want you to teach me how to wield my pistol as you do your sword.”

He could feel Van’s gaze on him from behind the mast.  “I cannot teach you, that is something you must learn yourself, but I can guide you.”

“Just like that?” asked Aaron.

“I’ll do this for the same reason I am following you.  We have a fight to finish.”

Aaron sighed and nodded his head.  “Of course” he said quietly.

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Black-Heart: Rest

Aaron could feel himself floating.  His body felt heavy, numb.  It took a conscious effort for him to focus his mind.  He could feel the dark presence of the curse floating around him, enveloping him like a black fog.

A memory of the dream he’d had after blacking out during his fight with Van surfaced in his mind.  He remembered a similar feeling to what he felt now.  Somehow he could tell that this was different though.  He hadn’t dropped any of his mental barriers during the fight when he let the curse take over… was this something new… something different.  He could tell there was something different, but he couldn’t pinpoint what.

The sound started to come to him then.  Aaron twitched his head at the sound, trying to move to hear it better.  It was as if the sound was far off, at a distance, muffled.

Crying?  Someone’s crying? he thought to himself.

He couldn’t think of any reason anyone should be crying.  He tried to move toward the sound, but his numb body wouldn’t respond to his commands.

Trying a different tactic, he focused his mind, honing on the sound.  Steadily it became clearer and he found he could suddenly feel something.  He was lying on something hard,  there was something under his head propping it up.

Prying his eyes, open, he watched as the wooden ceiling above him swam, slowly coming into focus.  Turning his head gingerly, he focused his gaze on the noise.  Sitting against the wall next to the door, holding her knees, her head buried in her arms was Grace.

She was crying softly, unaware of his gaze.

“Don’t cry for me just yet,” he called out quietly, his voice barely a croak.

Her head whipped up in surprise.  He saw her eyes were red.  She must have been crying a while.

A small smile came to her face and she looked relived.  Wiping at her tears with a sleeve she sniffled and said, “You’re awake.”

“How long was I out?” asked Aaron smiling back at her as best he could.  Half his body was numb, the other half itched terribly for some reason.

“It’s been three days.  I didn’t think you were going to wake up.”

He let his head roll back so he was looking up at the ceiling again.  Three days.  He blew out a breath.  “I’m sorry I worried your like that.”  He looked back over to her.

She shook her head and sniffled again.  “No!  No!  I’m just happy you’re awake.”

“Did Van—?”

“Yes.  We’ve been in the city’s wake since we took off.”

Aaron blew out another breath.  At least they were safe.  And Grace was here too.  He was glad she was safe.  His brow furrowed in thought as something came to mind.

“Why?” he asked.  “Why did you stay with me when…?”

Grace looked at him for a moment, hesitant to speak.  “…when I have someone back…”

Aaron nodded as best he could.

Grace looked away not speaking for a moment.  Aaron watched her reaction as she worked through her emotions.

“We… broke up after you left without saying anything.  I was too worried about what had happened to you and he… I didn’t consider his feelings at the time.”

She looked like she was going to start to cry again, her eyes were tearing up.

Aaron forced his way through the numbness of his body and lifted his hand.  She saw his motion and leap forward on her knees, catching his hand in hers.  Forcing his muscles to cooperate he pulled her toward him.  She didn’t resist as he pulled her into the crook of his arm next to him on the floor.

He realized then that he was lying on the floor of his bunk room.  His hammock had been laid out on the floor under him and his pillow as under his head.

They must have moved me here after I passed out on the deck up above.

He could feel her quiet sobs as he cried, clinging to him.  He held onto her as best he could with his numb muscles.  He was quite though.  She’d been through a lot and needed this.  He knew how she felt, but he’d lost his ability to shed tears a long time ago.

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Black-Heart: Help

“You are no immortal.”

Barret barely had time to react as Van’s sword came down on him.  There was a clash of metal on metal as Barret whirled around blocking Van’s sword at the last instant with his pistol.

The swordsman wasn’t phased though and stepped up his attack on Barret, swinging again and again, driving Barrett back with each blow.

Barret tried to hold his ground, surprise mixing with rage on his face and he blocked or dodged each slash of Van’s sword.  Leaping back, he tried to take aim with his pistol at close range as Van kept up, closing the distance between them.

The crack of Barret’s pistol going off echoed through the street.

Van angled his sword deflecting the shot with the flat of his blade at the last instant, stepping in and spinning around, catching Barret off guard.  The blade of his sword sliced into Barret’s clothes at the hip and cut upward at an angle, slashing along Barret’s torso.

It was all Barret could do to stumble backward, throwing himself away from Van’s attack as his blood spattered his clothes and the ground in front of him.

“Gaah!” cried out Barret in pain.  “What the hell is this?!”

Van stood, sword at the ready, staring down Barret with a hard gaze. “This is where you face your opponent with honor,” said Van, his voice steady.

Barret locked his gaze with Van, his eyes narrowing.  Holding his own stance ready, he flicked the release on his pistol.  The barrel and chamber flipped forward.  The moment the empty casings were ejected from their chambers and started to fall, he tensed his muscles, sliding a single round into the pistol and flipping it back into place in an instant.

Van lunged in that same moment as well.

The shot rang loud in the street and there was a bright spark as Van deflected the shot with his blade.

In that brief second though, when Van focused back on his opponent, Barret had vanished.

Van stopped, standing at the ready, looking around.  He surveyed the area, looking for the other man, but there was no sign of him in the street.  There were few onlookers left.  And even though they were standing out of range of the destruction wrought by the fight, they were close enough for Barret to slip between and escape unseen the crowd.

“Aaron!”

Van lowered his sword as Grace bolted past from the hole in the bar wall, over to where Aaron lay crumpled on the ground.

She collapsed to her knees at his side, her hands hovering over him, unsure what to do.  A bruise was swelling up on her face and her clothes were spattered with blood.

Turning Van came over to Aaron’s side as well.

“Is—is he alive?” she asked.

Aaron rolled his head groggily and coughed up a mouthful blood before trying to speak.  “I’m— not dead yet…” he ground out, his voice gravely.  He looked up at Van.  “What took you so long?”

Van gave him a small smile.  “We need to get you out of here.  The authorities will be here soon.”

“You can’t move him like this!” cried out Grace.  “They can help.”

Aaron shook his head slowly, wearily.  The movement sent pain up his neck and back.

“No.  Van—take me to my ship…”

Van nodded, sheathing his sword and coming down on one knee to get a grip on Aaron’s torso.

“I’m not leaving you,” said Grace defiantly.

“You— have a guy friend to think about…” ground out Aaron as Van hoisted him up into his arms.  The pain nearly overwhelmed him right then and there.  It took all his focus to keep from passing out.  It helped that the curse was hanging on to his consciousness as well, keeping him awake.

“That’s not— I can’t leave you like this!”

“Then follow as fast as you can,” said Van staring off, Grace trailing behind him.  “We’re out of time.”

He started into a run toward the end the street that would take them back to the dock.  The remaining onlookers parted, not wanting to be anywhere near them.

Grace stayed as close to Van as she could, keeping up with him.

They rounded the bend just as they heard shouts from the other end of the street.  The authorities had arrived and were going to be on their tale the whole way.

“Grace— if you come— with us…”

“I’m not leaving you,” she said firmly, between heavy breaths.

Van was keeping a steady pace.  They’d emerged onto the docks.  “I’m assuming you want me to take off?” said Van.

“Yeah…” ground out Aaron.  “Just set— me up by against the mast.”

Van dashed out onto the onto the docks and straight for the airship despite the odd looks from the people nearby the and the shouts from the security force following behind them.

Van’s booted foot hit the wooden deck of the airship and Aaron could suddenly feel himself being put on the ground.  The moment his back touched the mast though it sent a wave of pain up his spine.

Somehow he found the strength to endure it and then weakly raised his arm to point.  “Loo—loose those ropes and take—take those over there.  If you can—take us out behind the city.  Just follow—at a distance.”

Van nodded and headed to work, silent.

Grace knelt down beside Aaron, he could hear her heavy breathing.  Van had set a fast pace and after what Barret had done to her, he was surprised she’d kept up.

He tired to raise his other hand up to put it on her arm, but with his blurred vision he missed and she caught his hand instead in her own.

“D—don’t worry.  I’m just gonna rest,” he tried to reassure her, his voice weak.  With his last words though, he lost focus completely and the world around him faded into blackness.

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Black-Heart: A Losing Fight

People scattered as Aaron hit the ground with a grunt, the wind escaping from his lungs, he went sliding and crashed into one of the market stalls set up across the street. The fragile construction toppled in on itself, collapsing on top of him.

The pain in his back was intense, but Aaron pushed it from his mind, trying to focus on keeping the curse at bay instead. It’s presence was hanging over his mind, roiling with bloodlust, silently calling out to him.

Pushing himself up, he shrugged off the debris that had fallen on him. He gazed around at the people clustered at the edge of the street watching him, fearful of getting to close. He had to stop Barret before the fight got to be too much for him and he lost control. He didn’t want the curse to take him over here, but he knew he might not have a choice in the matter.

Barret stepped through the hole in the wall of the bar, scanning the street.  He cocked his head to one side and grinned wickedly at Aaron.  “You survived!  This will be fun.”

He raised his pistol, aiming at Aaron.

His gaze hardening, Aaron tensed his muscles, throwing himself from the debris the moment that Barret squeezed the trigger.  The gunshot rang out loud in the street, sending people running for cover.

Aaron was ready this time for Barret when he rushed in after the shot.  Aaron caught his fist with both hands, sliding back with the force from the blow.  Pain shot up his back, but he ignored it as Barret wasn’t waiting for him to recover.  Aaron heard the click of the pistol being cocked and he released Barret’s fist with one hand, knocking Barret’s other hand to the side, as he squeezed the trigger on the pistol.  The shot skimmed Aaron’s midriff sending another wave of pain up his body.

Barret shifted his weight and Aaron released his grip on Barret’s fist, shifting his own and blocking the powerful kick with both arms.  The force knocked him back, sending him crashing into the debris pile of the stall again.

He felt more than head the crack and knew he’d broken several ribs.

Before he could react, Barret was on him, the heel of his boot slamming into Aaron’s chest, driving him down into the debris.  Aaron let out a pained grunt as the wind was knocked from him.  He heard another crack and he knew something else had broken, but he was beyond pain at this point.  There was no stopping, the other man.

At this rate I’ll die… thought Aaron to himself, watching through blurred vision as the man readied his pistol aiming down at Aaron’s head.

No… I can’t die… he thought.   I just can’t.

Releasing his focus on the curse, he gave into it’s call.  A wave of darkness consumed his thoughts and he felt his muscles react, but he wasn’t the one controlling them.

His legs whipped out and he felt his feet lock around Barret’s legs.  Aaron felt his body twist, the pain that would have radiated from his many wounds would have been debilitating, but there was nothing.  His mind was numb to what was happening, all he could do was watch as Barret toppled to the round, caught by surprise and thrown off balance by Aaron’s sudden attack.  He was quick to catch himself though and leapt back out of Aaron’s reach.

Picking himself up, Aaron stood at the ready. Blood had stopped flowing from the wound in his back, but he still felt lightheaded as he watched himself pull the pistol from his jacket pocket and aim at Barret.

Barret grinned wickedly back at him.  “Here we go,” he said happily.  “I remember that look.  This is real Black-Heart that I remember!”

Aaron didn’t say anything, he knew his face had become a passive mask.  It was as if a shadow had fallen over him.  Slowly he squeezed the trigger on the pistol.  There was a hollow click and suddenly his muscles tensed and he flew at Barret, lashing out with a vicious kick.

Barret dodged, ducking under, countering with a sweeping kick of his own.

Aaron dodged out of range, dancing around the other man with incredible speed.

Barret followed his movements though, jabbing and swinging at Aaron.  But Aaron kept just out of range.  He could feel the movements of his muscles and the tingle of the broken bones as his body acted on instinct.  He could feel the curse, and knew what it was focusing on.

Suddenly Aaron saw the opening, he knew the presence of the curse had as well.  He lunged forward taking Barret by surprise as he grabbed the cylinder of Barret’s pistol.  Time seemed to slow as Barret’s eyes went wide as he watched in surprise as Aaron’s fingers deftly found the release for the chamber.  The barrel of the pistol flipped forward, the cylinder coming with it, the auto-eject pushing the ammunition left in the pistol out into the air.  Aaron’s other hand flew out, catching the rounds.

Barret recovered from his surprise and took the opportunity presented.  He spun around, wrenching his pistol from Aaron’s grip and bringing his leg up to slam a kick into Aaron’s stomach.

Aaron felt himself lift into the air and fly backward in a rush.  He hit the ground, but he felt his muscles quickly pick himself up, standing.  He worked the release on his own pistol.  The barrel and cylinder flipped forward exposing the seven chambers.

Unconsciously he slid the rounds into the empty weapon.  The click of each round locking home rang loud in his ears.

Across the way, he watched as Barret calmly did the same with is own pistol, replacing the lost rounds.

“You will pay for that dirty trick!” snarled Barret, sliding the last round into place.

Aaron slid the last round into his pistol as well, flipping the cylinder back into place.  He raised his weapon.

Demon!  Kill him now!  whispered the presence.

Aaron felt his finger squeeze on the trigger.

Barret did the same, their weapons went off simultaneously, the crack echoing through the street.

Both of them sprung into action though before the shots even had time to reach either of them, dodging away, circling each other at high speed.  Aaron swung his pistol around to aim as he dashed toward Barret.  He heard another crack, as Barret fired his own pistol.  Changing direction, he tried to anticipate Barret’s next move, but his muscles were starting to fail.

A shot ripped through the air where he’d been as he danced out of the way of Barret’s next shot.  The speed they were moving at left no openings for him to get a perfect shot lined up.  He needed to though if he wanted to end the fight.

Dodging, he tried to close the distance between himself and Barret.  The other man didn’t give him a chance though, firing off two shots at Aaron.  The first he dodged, the second caught him in the arm.  Aaron could feel the fragments of the round rip through his muscles, but he was numb to the pain.

Trying to focus his thoughts, he mentally lined up a shot.  He felt his muscles tense and he squeezed the trigger of the pistol.  The crack rang out and it caught Barret in the shoulder.  It knocked him back, but he was still on his feet, gripping his bleeding shoulder.  Releasing his shoulder he, took the opportunity to close the distance between the two of them.  He slammed into Aaron before he could react.

Aaron few back, slamming into the wall behind him.  He felt it crack behind him, but it stayed solid.  Sliding down, he collapsed on the ground.  The curse still had control, but his body was at it’s limit.  He couldn’t feel his muscles, but they nonetheless they wouldn’t move.

Barret towered over him his pistol aimed at Aaron’s head.  “You don’t get it do you?” said Barret.  “You can’t win!  You can’t kill me!  I am an immortal now!”

Aaron saw the sword through his blurred vision and he heard Van’s voice.

“You are no immortal.”

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