The two men stood watching eachother for what felt like an eternity. Fingers poised around their guns, waiting for the other to break the silence. Small beads of sweat collected under Antonio’s brow, his breath held.
Antonio raised his arm to aim and a shot rang out. The gun flew out of his hands, a trail of smoke rising from the barrel of Axel’s guns.
“Not one move, fucker.” Axel said, training his gun on Antonio’s body. Slowly, he stepped forward until he reached the other end of the desk.
“What do you want, Axel? And how the hell did you survive?” His breath hitched in his throat as he saw light glint off the revolver’s metal body, the smoke only now starting to dissipate.
“Nothing much. I just want ya’ ta’ bleed.” In one swift motion he brought the revolver against Antonio’s temple, throwing him to the ground. Antonio scrambled to grab the golden gun on the ground. Securing his fingers around it, he spun around and tried to take aim, soon feeling a shoe pressing his wrist to the ground.
“Augh!” Even as he felt something in his wrist crack, he kept his grip on the gun. A ghostly, second gun seemed to fly out of it into the air, whizzing past Axel and suspending behind him, aimed at his back. “Do you like it, Axel? It call it… 「Ｆｉｓｔｆｕｌ ｏｆ Ｓｔｅｅｌ」…”
Axel felt his heart skip a beat. He lunged forward, jumping over Antonio’s body. The ghostly gun fired and the bullet burned a clean hole through his leg, grazing the bone. “Shit!”
As he turned around, he saw Antonio, already up on his feet. The boss threw an uppercut that connected with Axel’s jaw, making him stumble backwards. He hunched over as Antonio punched him in the stomach, the air expulsed out of his lungs.
Antonio pushed him against the wall, one arm against Axel’s throat. His eyes were bulging, irises shaky on the glossy surface. His usual dashing smile was tainted with the blood issuing from his mouth.
“So… ya’ also have that kinda’ ability, huh?” Axel managed out, returning Antonio’s crazed glare with a cold expression even as his air supply dwindled. “That’s good ta’ know.”
“This is so fun. I’m so happy.” Antonio said, his smile growing. “I was almost sad I had shot you in the back. But now – now that I know you’re just a pushover, I can make you bleed as much as I want! This is so fun!”
“Fun? We’re gonna have fun, a’ight.” Axel shot his knee upwards, meeting Antonio’s groin. With a wheezing laugh, the boss backed away, holding his midsection until his back hit the desk.
“Let me tell you why I did it, atleast!” Antonio ducked under a punch and took another, his head whipping to the side as a tooth flew out. “It’s no fun if I kill you and you’re still an ignorant asshole! Atleast you’d be just an asshole!”
“I don’t give a shit! Just focus on screaming for me!” Dodging a bullet, Axel tackled Antonio into the desk, shoulder into his chest, a gush of blood expelling from his mouth and onto Axel’s suit.
“But it’d be so much fun.” Antonio gripped Axel’s neck and forced him off his body, tossing him to the side. “I first heard of you people when you killed Vincenzo, actually – good friend of mine.”
Axel rolled to the side and sprang up to his feet, facing Antonio. “Is that why? Is that why you went after us? Because we killed a damn nobody?”
“You know, if you were anyone else – and I mean this, Axel – I would tell you that. But, honestly?” Antonio shrugged, his arms raised in a ‘what can you do?’ expression. “I just love knocking down big shots like the two of you! Probably thought you were invincible, didn’t you?” His crazed expression softened as he aimed at Axel, a more elegant smile gracing his features. “You’re not.”
Axel remained where he was, gripping the brush inside his pocket. Glaring at the gun as a plan formulated inside his mind. The bullet had tore through his body like it was nothing, but when it impacted against Veronica’s ink, it had stopped. “That’s ya’ reason? Ya’ wanted ta’ feel superior? You’re nothing but a spineless coward.”
“Maybe. But Veronica’s body must be cold by now, musn’t it? If you had seen your face when you saw me in her apartment – like it all came crashing down on you! I should have taken a picture.” Antonio slowly backed away from Axel, reaching into the drawer of his desk. Axel was ready to spring, but froze at the sight.
Antonio held a white, tube-like device between his fingers. Axel paled until his complexion resembled the device’s color. “I got this from Veronica’s apartment while the two of you were on the ground. I had to get some kind of souvenir, didn’t I?”
“No…” Axel shook his head in disbelief as his surroundings seemed to blur, as his world seemed to come apart at the threads.
“No? But it has two marks on it – that means positive, right?” Antonio uttered a short, mocking laugh. “Hey, looks like you got to bang the broad before you killed her, huh? How’s that for silver…”
One moment, frozen eternally in his mind. One second, Axel was crouching on the ground, ten feet away from him. The next, the sharply-dressed youth was right in front of him. Axel grabbed Antonio’s wrist and forced it upwards, Antonio’s delayed shot burning a hole into the ceiling above. Then, a crack, as his wrist was crushed under the sheer force.
“How the hell…” was all Antonio could manage as Axel grabbed his forehead, slamming him into the bookcase behind him. He felt a deep gash open on the back of his head, blood trickling down his hair. “What the hell… what the hell are you?!”
“Ya’ wanted ta’ have some fun, Antonio?” Axel caught one of his punches and whirled around Antonio, twisting his arm behind his back. Head brought against his desk. Arm twisted in ways it wasn’t meant to, the bone slowly cracking. “Fine, let’s have some fun, then.”
“Hey, fuck you! You think I’m gonna listen to you just because…” He screamed as his arm was dislocated, hanging loosely. “Okay, okay, just stop, I’ll do whatever you want, okay?”
“Ya’ can start by rolling over and dying.” Axel forced Antonio to his feet and shoved him to the ground. Antonio rolled, grabbing his gun and turned to aim at Axel. Two more ghostly guns floated into the air, aiming at the approaching blond.
“Just fucking die already! Stop walking, goddamn you!”
“I don’t need to. I’ve figured out your weakness. Snakecharmer.” Axel said. Antonio squeezed the trigger and three bullets shot towards Axel. From his wrist, a dozen tendrils poked through the fabric of his sleeve and batted away the bullets like they were just paper balls. “Ya’ can’t hurt Stands, can ya’?”
One tendril wrapped itself around Fistful of Steel and ripped it from Antonio’s hands. Axel grabbed him by the collar and slammed him against the window. A dozen shards fell to the streets below as Antonio’s body was forced through it. He felt the cold wind rush at his face, sending his hair to and fro.
With one hand, Axel held him over the edge of the window. He raised the other, the sleeve falling down to reveal Snakecharmer. The diamonds were cracked and the ink was almost all gone. Fistful of Steel glimmered in his hand against the light.
“This is the last of Veronica’s spirit… she gave it ta’ me. She used the last of her strength ta’ save me… so, there’s no way in hell I would have died tonight. The moment I walked in, ya’ were already dead.” The dozen tendrils shot forward and impaled Antonio’s right eye as the diamonds exploded, the last testament to Veronica’s life the ink that exploded Antonio’s eye.
“That’s for Veronica. And this…” Axel raised the golden gun over his head, and brought it hard against Antonio’s temple. Up and down again until his hands were covered in blood. “…This. This is for myself. Goodbye, Antonio.” With his hand releasing the man, Antonio fell down, down into the darkness and out of sight. There was no scream as he fell, and no sound as the darkness swallowed him.
November 8th, 2010
Axel stood in front of a small grave. Carved into the stone, it read “VERONICA MONTELLO. 1987 – 2010”. He watched not it but the horizon past it, letting the cold wind tickle his face and rustle the bouquet of roses in his hand. Collecting his thoughts.
“…I don’t know where ta’ start.” He started. “There’s… a lot I never had the chance ta’ say – and it’s all because I rushed without thinking. I got… so angry, thinking that ya’ had never actually loved me, I just… I snapped.” Axel sighed, forcing himself to face the gravestone before him. “I didn’t want ta’ imagine a world where I didn’t have you. I think… after I killed you, I was going ta’ kill myself, too.”
He squatted, keeping a hand on his hat as the wind threatened to blow it away. “We really got played for idiots, didn’t we? Because we cared so much, we would go ta’ such lengths ta’ keep those we care about… and what do we have ta’ show for it? Nothing but graves and lonely funerals.”
Axel set the roses down on her grave, muttering under his breath. “Roses. Ya’ always liked roses, didn’t ya’? They were your favorite…”
He crouched there until time seemed meaningless, the sun performing its ritual dance across the sky. After he felt it was enough, he got up.
“But I can’t give up, can I? No… it’s not what ya’ would want. So, for you, Veronica, I’ll keep going. Until life finds meaning again.”
With his coat rustling in the wind and a hand on his hat, Axel turned away from the grave, and began to walk.
“It’s not that being alone scares me, Veronica. It’s all the blood. It’s slipping through my fingers, and I’m drowning in it…”