Adventures of Cassandra Cain, Ch. 13

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JamieWolfe7

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Alrighty, when we left off Hellhound had been turned on KGBeast by Bane. Only problem for them is that KGBeast is being held under constant security. Hush, on the other hand, is stalking Hellhound. He himself might love it if Hellhound ran up in there ;)

Richard has just received a loveletter of sorts from Hush letting them know where he's at in his little game. Not comforting to be visited by serial killer while you're out cold in a hospital. Fortunately, he's not long for there as he's in marvelous shape and recovers well!

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JamieWolfe7

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Cassandra could not take it anymore. James had started treating her like a child, and now she needed to move on. There were many things she could endure, and she reckoned she understood why he was doing it with all that had gone on, but she could endure the assassination attempts and arson easier than being coddled. Barbara's dinner visit had shown her what James felt, and she couldn't bear it when he actually spoke of shutting her in for her own good.

That next morning, she had her bag packed and was out of there. The room she'd stayed in was exactly the way it was before she got there down to the last detail. She didn't tell anybody what she was about, she merely put one foot in front of the other and was on her way. It hadn't been a matter of not appreciating, it was more a matter of shouldering the weight of being a target and making her hunter come find her. She thought of it as hiding by not hiding.

Cassandra had no idea where she was going. First her feet led her to low town by late morning, then before she knew it she was in China Town by early evening. She didn't know why she had went there, but she felt it was as good a place to disappear and begin her hunt anew as any.

China Town, or Little China as the locals sometimes called it, wasn't strictly for Chinese as the names suggest. It had its own districts and flavors, all certainly Asian. There was a tiny Korean district, an equally small Thai district, a few Japanese stores scattered around, and a fairly sizeable Vietnamese neighborhood. Naturally, the overwhelming culture was indeed Chinese.

Cassandra's feet pulled her inexhorably into the heart of Little China where there was a respectably established Buddhist temple. This temple had a storied history of its own, like most of the 'town' within which it lays. Legend had it that this was the Dalai Lama's first stop when he finally came to America after the Chinese sacked Tibet, and that it was the first place the seekers came to find his eventual successor before he declared there would not be one. It had also seen such colorful figures within its walls as Thich Nhat Hanh and in its early days Madame Blavatsky and Alice Bailey. Tonight it would be graced with a figure colorful in her own right, though under very different circumstances.

Entering the temple, she was greeted by the smells of assorted incenses and the flickering shadows of numerous candles disturbed by the door she had just opened. Those candles were the primary lighting at this hour and the light by which she observed lifesized statues of Hotai, Kuan Yin, and Lord Asoka with his benevolent attendants around the temple and a more than lifesized statue of the Gautama Buddha at the head on a pedestal.

Knelt before the shrine to Asoka in meditation was an aging clean shaven monk in orange and yellow robes. His features suggested some mixed heritage that she could not place, but he proved that he knew her when he addressed her standing there in a voice surprising deep in its bass,"This meeting has been anticipated."

Cassandra's gaze widens at that, and he continues without looking up after a beat passes in silence,"Your shadow is long but your gaze is illuminated. You have seen a light in darkness, but you have yet to be able to grasp it. You hold one set of keys, but you know not the doors to which they all go and there are yet keys that you have been purposefully denied."

Cassandra takes a step closer to this man. She often has to rely on context to weave her way through ordinary conversation, her understanding of conversational english as broken as her speech yet for some reason she finds herself understanding the man before her perfectly. She listens to him with rapt attention as he explains her situation in life as if he were living it with her though she had never seen him in her life.

"Your stars have long been known to me. You are the daughter of the shadow. The bat is the totem you have adopted as its herald has adopted you, but it is not truly yours. You may yet find your own, as indeed it awaits your acknowledgment but that is one of the many keys you were denied. This is no fault of the company you have kept, they have freely shared the ones they possess rather it is the fault of those from whom you ran. We here can share what we know if you would listen,"continues the elder monk, finally looking up to her. His eyes convey a youth that his years deny. Wisdom beyond those years tempered by a profound reverence for the world's mysteries marks the aura that strikes Cassandra as she looks upon this man. Here was a man whose eyes were truly open, who was truly aware of so much that he was proud to say that he wanted, and indeed knew, nothing and was in awe of it all.

Cassandra knelt beside him, nodding to the man as she feels him awaiting her answer. He nods approvingly to her unspoken reply, offering,"We cannot give you all the keys you need any more than the man for whom you stand. What we can do is help you find a clearer path, one with the balance that you lack. What you do then is up to you."

Cassandra finally asks then,"And what of those that chase?"

He smiles at that, replying,"You need not fear. They know not the lie of their existence, and that is their downfall."

So began her next chapter. She would take shelter in the temple, helping with the cleaning in exchange for a bedroll behind the altar. To all the world, she had disappeared. Barbara was worried as not even she knew where Cassandra had disappeared to, but Cassandra didn't want anyone in needless danger. Deep down she knew her friend was ok, she just hated the abruptness of it all.

***

Hellhound was flustered. He had been tasked with assassinating his injured comrade before he opened his mouth abut anything he might have known, but he couldn't reach the man where he was being kept. The medical wing of the Major Crimes Unit was as secure as anywhere, noone just came and went.

He knew where he was at, and that was the most important thing for now. Hellhound contemplated looking up his old rival Catwoman to find out where person he didn't know was. Catwoman knew a lot of things about a lot of people and places, it was as good a place to start as any. It would be good to catch up for old times sake.

***

Bruce was kept well apprised of everything that happened in the world of the Bat Family. It didn't take him long to learn of Cassandra disappearing, it really hadn't taken him long to find out about his old partner Richard getting hurt. He needed to get out of here, his lawyer could only do so much but it just wasn't cutting it. People were beginning to notice the silence from Batman's front.

More than one had tried to make an impression on the Wayne patriarch. He'd had to knock out a few teeth to make a point, he wasn't going to play favorites or pick sides. He hadn't been put in general population, but there were still those who mistakenly thought he was just an eccentric rich guy who could be pushed. He might be eccentric, but wasn't going to be pushed.

Bruce had suspected that Hush could have been involved somehow. He didn't think that he would go so far as to murder Vesper in his home, and for that he had been cursing himself. One day a guard knocked on his cell and handed him a letter. Inside was a small letter that simply read 'The kids aren't alright' attached to the photo of Cassandra squared off against Hellhound and Jesse clobbering KGBeast with the chair while Dick was laying injured on the floor. Like the one sent to Dick, it had Hellhound's head in a circle and KGBeast's eyes x'd.

The back of the photo was what would send shivers down his spine in worry. It read 'Don't worry, old friend. I have everything in hand. Once the interlopers are tended to, I'll tuck the children in then we can catch up for old time's sake.' It was signed T.E., he hadn't even bothered hiding.

He obviously knew Bruce wasn't going to try alerting the authorities. As far as everyone else was concerned Thomas Elliot was dead. Hush was nearly an urban legend in the underworld, a real bogeyman who in his time had spelled trouble from Metropolis to Gotham before meeting his apparent end from the barrel of Harvey Dent's gun. Bruce knew this wasn't quite the case, but he was quite comfortable with letting that sleeping dog lie. Only it wasn't a sleeping dog, it was more like a festering wound.

He couldn't stay here, Hush was coming for blood and he didn't know how this could end without bodies in the street. He'd been putting psychopaths away long enough to know when someone just isn't going to stop, and he didn't know if Hush just had a death wish to push his hand like this or if he just really no longer cared and was finally going for broke to burn it all down. Maybe Bruce's chance at happiness was simply too much for him to bear somehow, after all he had always blamed the Waynes for costing him his fortunes.

Bruce had been trying all this time to do things within the system. He had been trying to let things sort themselves out and trusting to the others to keep the house that is Gotham in order. This was an affirmation that he could not wait any longer to see how things played out. He would now put his mind to getting out and settling with Hush once and for all before that sociopath claimed someone else.

***

The old man that Cassandra had met was named Tien. He didn't answer to anything else, and apparently he was something of an oddity himself. Noone knew where he was from, or even where he was at before he came to Gotham but everyone agreed that his was a remarkable soul.

Tien was the first person Cassandra had met that she could understand. He explained to her in private that he, like her, had a gift. He could see for every choice that he meditated on seven life courses within his own life. This was how he knew that he was destined to meet her, and the source of his profound insight. He could not see the lives of others beyond his own interactions with them, but the clarity and degree with which he could see that much was quite a lot.

As a young man he had been troubled with seizures. At least the doctors called them seizures for he would go into fits sometimes speaking in tongues or talking about things that would not happen for days or more as if they had already happened. He was given to the local Buddhist monastery, where he would not reveal. It was eventually discovered that these fits were an awakening form of clairvoyance, and he was simply having trouble distinguishing the location in time that his consciousness was situated.

Over the years, he would be rigidly disciplined in many forms of meditation learning to control this gift. In this manner, he would come to realize that he could accurately experience as many as seven possibile outcomes for every life decision that he made. The deeper he focused, the further he could learn. This gift was not without its hazards, however.

When he was in the prime of his youth, he had explored the limits of this gift. He once sat after a lesson from his mentor and entered into his trance. He sat there for three days, pushing the limits of his mind by focussing on a single possibility that could come from following his lessons. He saw his life play out in his mind's eye, a life dedicated to the scroll. He felt his hands callous from handling the delicate sheets in daily recording, he felt the intellectual thrill of translating forgotten and neglected volumes in the dark corners of the monastery library. He had also felt the pangs of loneliness, the realization of an old man that he had never known companionship and the bitterness of solitude.

He recovered from that trance wracked with tears. Finding his way into the temple library, a place that he had never been previously invited to, he found and dusted off a number of those old tomes from a corner that none of the monks had visitted in recent memory. The translations were fresh in his memory of several of the musty scrolls, yet they had been written in a hand that noone had used in literally centuries. After that experience, he refused for a long time to do more than duties expected of someone of his station and discontinued his curriculum altogether. He told her in a matter of fact tone that altogether, he had lived in his one lifetime more than some would experience in a dozen.

He never revealed what led him to pick back up, what led him to forecasting their eventual meeting. She never asked either. Day by day, he guided her in learning meditation. He passed on to her knowledge of glyphs, the basic strokes of calligraphy, and she felt from his lessons that she was really beginning to understand some of what had been eluding her. She wasn't building a real proficiency by any reckoning, but by their candlelight she made progress that had been frustrating her in the fluorescent lighting of the Gordon household and her dojo.

***

Thomas spent this same time watching. A week had passed, and he had no idea where Cassandra had gotten off to. Richard was back into his routine, albeit suitably squirrelly as he had made the score painfully clear. He sent another of his letters to the Wayne kids, this one with a personalized photo of Dick meeting Barbara outside of the hospital. He'd signed it, 'Glad you are feeling better, hope to see Cassandra soon' and drew a smile over Richard's head for added flair. Not knowing where the girl had gone off to was a frustration, maybe he could goad them into finding her for him.

Meantime, he'd observed someone skulking around the GPD rooftops and more recently low town. He assumed it was likely Hellhound by the profile, but he'd yet to get a bead on him to be sure. He could try to put a bullet in whoever it was, but that would be unprofessional and unsportsmanlike. Verification was crucial, randomness could only breed needless chaos and he did not need that in his world.

If it was Hellhound as he suspected, he was likely trying to get at his partner. This could be useful if it proves out, he reckons. He would have to figure out a way to corner the mutt, and once this was accomplished, he would put him down once and for all. KGBeast was decommissioned, and he knew enough about him that he could be removed at any time should he recover in an inconvenient time frame. This man, on the other hand, was an unknown variable and would not be afforded this courtesy.

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ImpurestCheese

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@jamiewolfe7: Ah poor KGBeast, getting the double X treatment is never good.

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JamieWolfe7

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@impurestcheese: No it's not. It's really not, especially from a guy like him ;)