Part Nine: Ace's 'Change of Heart'

Meanwhile, crawling out from the road Chinwan had beaten him into, the Ace of Cards struggled to his feet, brushing off the dust and debris from his long coat, fuming that he had allowed himself to be taken down by some strange kid. Luckily, most of the boy's blows had been cushioned by his many decks, which were now either dented or mangled completely.

As his hands patted down his body, he stopped and froze; something wasn't right, he felt too light…something was missing!

"So," he grumbled darkly to himself, throwing his coat wide open for inspection. "The little brats adds insult to injury, huh? Gods help him if he took my Rumble Monsters deck! It took me ages to build up a good one! Er..."

Pausing, the Ace's eyes darted from side to side, just to make sure he was alone before retrieving the aforementioned deck, sorting through it in his hands. "Not that I play with them, of course!" he added loudly to anything that may have been passing within earshot. "They're just rare…and powerful…yeah, and…huh?! Where's my blade shard?!"

Pressing the top of his chest, the bandit was distraught not to feel the familiar chill of the V shard around his neck. So that's what the boy took, huh? Fancied himself as a little Bladehunter, did he?

Fuming even worse than before, the Ace took five angry steps away from Tayou Town before an epiphany came to him, his narrowed eyes widening in sudden realisation. Could it be? Could the hilt the pretty young girl spoke of be none other than that of the legendary Jigsword? And if the kid had that

"He can collect the whole sword!" the Ace squeaked excitedly, hopping from foot-to-foot. "Great sweet potatoes, this is it! The Big Time! The Jackpot! The chance I've been waiting for all my life! With that sword in my possession, no one could stand in my way! I'd be – Ace! Master of the Jigsword!" he caught himself in mid-rave, eyes bulging as he glanced down to all the cards strapped to his coat. "And King of Cards," he added hurriedly, as if his cards had feelings he might have wounded. "HAH! I shall be unstoppable! Why, I should catch up with those three suckers right now and snatch the hilt this very moment! YEAH!!!"

Turning in his stride back towards the town, the Ace paused as he noticed the small white shape of the bird that had been with the two kids – Aero, was it? – flying overhead towards him. "No," he murmured, a crafty smile playing across his lips as he reached for another of his larger cards. "I can't risk getting on the bad side of that brat again. I might not survive another beating, and my cards definitely won't! Hmm…I've got it!"

Tossing the card high above his head, the young thief followed it with his eyes, waiting until it was directly before the flying Pygmy Roc. "Change of Heart – Teleport!" he ordered, activating the magical item.

Hovering in the air, the card began to emanate a pulsing white light towards Aero, blinding the poor animal as it flew helplessly into it. Both the card and the bird vanished in a flash of light, a second flash reappearing them in the Ace's hands.

"Woooozy," murmured the small Roc, his eyes rolling before he managed to shake himself back to his senses. "Oh, joy," he muttered darkly, quickly struggling to break free as his sight focused on the man who held him. "If it isn't McAce the Wonder Chump…what do you want? I'm kinda busy…"

"What's the rush?" asked the Ace, oozing charm. "And where are the other two?"

"They've been arrested and towed off to Kachin Prison….why?" Aero's eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What's it gotta do with you, anyhow?"

"Well, let's just say I've had a change of heart," the Ace replied cheerfully, lying through his teeth. "I mean, sure it took a kid beating the crud out of me to move me to change my ways, but I've decided to do just that! I'm a changed man, now!"

"That's a lot of changes," the small Roc drawled doubtfully. "Try expanding your vocabulary sometime…and give me one good reason why I should suddenly trust you? My wing's still sore from where you clipped it!"

"Better sore than broken in my hands," the 'reformed' thief answered warningly, "oh, and I could've attacked you with another card instead of teleporting you here. That's two reasons."

"And very good ones they are, too!" Aero nodded enthusiastically. Considering his options, the bird realised that not only was the Ace of Cards closer to Chinwan and Sofi, but he would probably be more useful when it came to busting the pair out of prison than Old Man Gama, his original choice. "Hmmm…if you're telling me the truth and really do want to help, then you could come with me, I guess…interested in staging a prison break?"

"Sounds perfect," the Ace answered eagerly and, as the Roc closed its talons around his arms, lifting him into the air, he added silently: Yes, real perfect…this is almost gonna be too easy! If the others are this trusting after I free them, then the Jigsword is as good as mine!

Operation 'Bust-out the Brat' is GO!!!

END OF PART NINE

NEXT TIME, IN 'CHINWAN!' – The breakout goes underway! Aero and the Ace go in and stealth goes out the window! ALSO! The Jigsword falls into the wrong hands!

A/N: Yeah, short part this time, but that's mainly because Part Ten is gonna be BIG! If anyone, and I mean anyone, wanted the Ace of Cards to become a main character, then your wish is granted. For those of you who didn't well, sorry, but this was planned almost from the beginning.

On a similar note, if you were hoping for Aero to reach Old Man Gama and bring him back into the story, again, sorry, but who knows? There's still time…

SympleSymon (aka Stargazer)