November 5th, 2010
Veronica froze. It was like a vice grip held her throat in place, rooted her to the ground. Axel watched her with a pair of glossy, uncaring eyes. His hands hid in his pockets.
Their masks cracked.
His face transformed into a snarl, an angry yell booming from his throat. Axel shot forward, producing a knife from his pocket. Veronica let her instincts take over, taking a step backwards. Her body danced between his blows. Even as the cold steel nearly grazed her flesh, her irrational mind had trouble likening it to anything else but a dance between them, a sparring match.
It was only when it ripped a cut into her arm that her mind returned to the present. She backed away from him, towards the kitchen.
“A-Axel, how are you…?” Veronica tilted her head, feeling the edge of the knife cut through the air beside it. “How are you alive?!”
“Thought yourself the greatest assassin, didn’t ya’?” He feinted a swipe to the right, catching her nose with his left fist. “How’s this for a rude awakening? Because I sure had one!”
Her face covered in blood, she backed into a wall, eyes closed with her hands over her nose. She immediately ducked and felt splinters fall on her head. He had jammed the knife into the wall, missing her head by the breadth of a hair.
Veronica jumped forward, driving her head into his stomach and her arms around his waist. The two of them went to the ground, Axel letting out a grunt of pain as he fell on his bandaged wounds.
“Axel, listen to me!”
He reached to throw her off and her fist shot out like a snake, meeting the side of his jaw. His head whipped to the side, a small stream of blood waterfalling over his lips. She brought her hands onto his arms like nails on a coffin.
“Axel, listen to me, I didn’t want to kill you, I swear! I had no choice!” Even as he snarled at her like a frenzied animal, she brought her face closer to his. “You have to listen!”
The world turned into an explosion of pain as he slammed his head with hers. She fell backwards, disoriented, her legs refusing to follow what the brain told. Axel jumped up to his feet and ran, tackling her into the kitchen.
Her back met the kitchen counter, the air expelled out of her lungs. She brought her knee upwards into his stomach and pushing him off his body as she struggled for breath. Axel rolled backwards onto his feet, holding his bruised midsection with a hand.
Axel pulled a brush out of his pocket, gripping it close. Veronica secured the bracelet around her wrist, forcing air into her burning lungs.
“Killing in the Name.”
He rushed forward with the arcing motion of his arm, a wave of ink leaving the brush horizontally towards her. Snakecharmer’s tendrils coalesced together into a rectangle in front of Veronica. The two constructs of ink collided and dissipated.
Veronica reached behind her, fingers patting around until they found a knife set, quickly pulling one out. As Axel reached her she swiped in a line, aiming at his torso. He leaned backwards, the steel ripping open the fabric of his white shirt.
She darted to the side, towards the kitchen table. Axel sketched in the air and in the blink of an eye there was a knife in his hands, running after her. Veronica jumped over the table, every muscle tensing as she felt the back of her shirt rip open.
“You always liked throwing knives around, didn’t you?” They stood at opposite ends of the table, watching eachother’s movements. “You were always spot-on…”
There was no response from his end. One hand sketched in the air while the other threw the knives. Veronica watched his hand carefully, ducking to the right, weaving to the left. Knives flew around her and lodged themselves into the wall.
Axel held two knives between his fingers, throwing both with the flick of his wrist. Veronica dodged one way and was caught by the other, feeling it cut across her side. Snakecharmer grabbed one of the table’s chairs and flung it at him, her user darting out of the kitchen.
Gripping the brush tight, he sent out a wave of ink towards the chair and cut it in half. An animalistic grunt issued out of him as he ran out the door.
They were back in the living room, Veronica running towards the door. As she heard his thundering footsteps coming up behind her, she whirled around, knife in hand.
Axel thrust forward and time slowed to a crawl. Watching his arm, Veronica brought her elbow up, ready to drop it.
And then time sped up again as she felt his fist connect with her face. She was thrown backwards, spinning, only stopping as an arm secured around her.
She didn’t scream as the knife dug into her back three times.
“I taught ya’ that move. Hurts, don’t it?” There was no feeling in his voice. Veronica fell forwards into a puddle of her own blood, words frozen in her throat.
It was over. He had to take a deep breath as his mind caught up with his movements. Even now, seeing her like this, he couldn’t help a pang of sorrow that struck the chords of his heart.
The click of a hammer broke the silence. Antonio was standing in the doorway, aiming a golden gun at him. And he was smiling.
“Sorry, kid… but this game was rigged from the start.”
Axel felt the impact of the bullet and his mind disconnected from his body. It wasn’t him falling down to the ground next to Veronica, it was someone else. It had to be.
But when the darkness swallowed him, he knew it wasn’t.
“How’s it feel to be the world’s greatest assassin, huh?”
There was light, breaking through the darkness. His body screamed from the pain, every nerve ending frayed knots. He felt groggy, sluggish as he got up. But most of all, he felt sticky.
Axel reached around his body, eyes adjusting to the light. With two fingers he tapped his back, near the epicenter of the pain, where he presumed the bullet had hit, dabbing both digits in a sticky substance.
“This ain’t blood. It’s too sticky, too viscous, it’s almost like…”
Ink. He parted his fingers and a bridge of black liquid formed between them. The bullet hadn’t even broken the skin, just impacted against the glossy layer of ink. His head darted to the woman that laid at his side, her red clothes blending with the blood below her body.
Veronica slowly turned her head towards him, eyes glossy and unfocused. “You survived… that’s… good…”
He sat frozen for a moment, feeling his heartbeat quicken. “Veronica… did ya’… why the hell would ya’…”
“You haven’t figured it out yet…? Axel, you’re sharper than this… I never wanted you to die.” Her voice was faint, like all her strength focused on holding on, just for a few more seconds. “…come closer.”
Like a machine, he obliged, lifting her body off the ground and closer to him. Tears welled in his eyes and the world turned into prisms, the one Veronica turned into two, four, eight, sixteen. “I didn’t… I really thought… Veronica, I was so…”
“Shhh… we both… made mistakes. He played us both like idiots… but he doesn’t know you didn’t die.” She brought up her hand, gently caressing his cheek, a thumb wiping away one of his tears. “…this is it for me. I’ve done… all I can do. Please… use this opportunity well.” Her grip on his face grew fainter and fainter as her life slipped away. “This is my final gift to you.”
With the last of her strength, she leaned forward and pressed her lips to his. It was brief and weak, but he could feel her life, her essence, leave her body. One last sigh, and she dropped back down.
“I love you. I’ve always have.”
“I…I… oh, god.” He couldn’t stop shaking. “I-I love ya’, too…”
There was a tiny smile, and then, nothing. Cold, unfeeling. Death stared him right in the face like he had stared at it his entire life.
And he blinked.
It took him a long time to let go of her body, carefully setting her on the nearby couch. He was still shaking and no amount of warmth could cease his tremors. After an even longer time, he even managed to leave her apartment. There was a gun in his hands.
“This game isn’t over yet…”