Had time and inspiration with the weather today. Thanks to that, I managed to get another chapter done! Picking up with Cassandra and her friend at the temple in Little China, but don't worry. Getting back to the action this time quick.
The spirit is not the soul, and there is yet another element that enjoins the two. The body is seperate again from the three as it is merely a vehicle and all of our experiences are recorded in yet another plane that is seperate from all. This was one of the lessons that Tien imparted to Cassandra, the tripartite essence and its relationship between the Akashic and the Mundane.
Tien explained to her that this was one part of one of the keys that had been denied her, spiritual understanding of the nature of karma. Without this, it would have been a small thing to be drawn inexhorably towards the darkness of their path. Unable to make her grasp the words that properly explain things such as this to her, he showed her lessons such as this with glyphs. Images within images that he explained with the patience of an illuminated master. Slowly, through this manner she would begin to understand the lie of the League: that man could ever be the conscious instrument of karma against civilization.
All the time in her lifetime could not make her fully grasp the elements of the path he had walked in life, but such minor lessons as this he hoped would open her eyes to choices she would not otherwise be aware of. That she would be more adequately prepared for trials to come and better equipped to stand firm against the darkness. He had no illusions that she would choose a priestly path, his intention was to allow her to better understand the difference between a warrior and a mere living weapon. If she chose to lift her gaze towards faith in the process, so much the better. It was slow and frustrating, but in his heart he felt this was what he was meant to do.
Thomas, the man known as Hush, was frustrated. He had verified that it was indeed Hellhound he had seen and that he seemed to be searching for someone other than his partner, but had not yet found the opportunity to corner him. More frustrating than this, he knew Cassandra was somewhere in Little China but had no idea where. He hated that, to be so certain and yet uncertain was the worst feeling in the world to him.
In light of that, he focused his efforts on the dog faced ninja. His instinct was that he was stalking Catwoman. She had been spending a lot of time at Cassandra's dojo by day, her friends had really stepped up to the plate in her absence and he was almost touched by their comraderie. By night, Catwoman did what she does. Roamed rooftops and raided the homes of middle to upper crust families fulfilling her ambitions of playing Robin Hood while lining her own pad with the trophies of her illgotten conquests in the process.
She amused Hush more than anyone else in this city, so carefree in the face of what anyone thought that she seemed repulsed by the idea of a life without danger. He actually considered doing something to help her wouldbe assailant find her. He knew he wouldn't have to though.
The knife wielding ninja assassin was indeed stalking Catwoman. He had a bone to pick with her for old time's sake, and he didn't buy the notion that someone could be stalking these streets of hers that she didn't know anything about. He was sensible enough to realize that noone knew everything in Gotham, but she knew as much as anyone and what she didn't know she usually knew who did.
He'd staked out the dojo for the last several days, alternating between there and the GPD. Finding her was an easier prospect than finding the one fatal flaw in security that would let him put a knife in his former partner. He just needed to be patient, she had her patterns these days.
Selina Kyle amused herself twice a week filling in as the gymnastics instructor of the Queen's Heart Martial Arts and Gymnastics Studio. She was there more often than that to be sure, but it didn't hurt cultivating a more positive face for the police officers that frequented the place. Besides that, the place had attracted with its overnight pubicity all sorts of clientelle, including some with last names that everyone knew.
She also had a soft spot for the awkward little girl that kicked her butt not too long ago, she was friends with the Wayne brats and knew they were in trouble. She agreed with Barbara that Cassandra was likely ok, just on the lam for the time being. In fact, she had persuaded her of it when Babs had initially panicked and was trying to make sense of her bizarre absence.
Selina knew something about the mentality that all children of the street shared. Cassandra may not have been born to the street, but she had walked them long enough that they would always be part of her and this fact allowed Selina an insight into the choice she had made. You can't shelter someone like that, they will fight it to the end and in Selina's eyes that was exactly what happened. She respected that, and if she couldn't make the others do the same she hoped they at least understood it. It was nothing personal on her part.
Thursday night was just like Tuesday night for her: dazzling the little kiddies and a few adults with tumbling routines and feats of balance and coordination that some would grasp while most fumbled at them and tried to do better. These classes bored her to tears for the most part, after all she lived by the principles of free running and par kouar and would likely die by them. Cassandra was likely the only person in the city who could keep up with her on a tear. Stepping down the street, she reached into her gym bag to feel for her whip. Something told her tonight would be a break from boredom.
She had felt eyes in the night for a while. She knew well that Hellhound was in town, she'd heard it from Barbara the day after Richard and Cassandra were hurt. She wasn't surprised, she was well aware how canny the ninja was. Apparently he'd gotten better since they last fought. That's ok, she reckoned, so had she.
Hellhound was tired of the watching, he had her routine down. Tonight would be the night they squared up, and after he had from her what he wanted all old business between them would be finished. If he was going to have put his partner down, he may as well take the frustration over it out by putting her down too.
Watching her round the corner into the alley, he made his move. Slipping a finger to a bracer, he flicked out a throwing blade and loosed it at the unmasked cat. He aimed to nick, not cripple, with this one. He only wanted her attention, and when she rounded grasping a cut arm he knew he had it.
Selina gazed up at the masked assassin, eyes narrowed. That had hurt, and she was not impressed. She wasted no time, bounding from wall to wall as she acrobatically made her way to the rooftop.
"Hello there, kitten. Been a long time," comes the voice behind the asian styled demonic dog mask.
"Hello yourself. Not long enough," retorts Selina.
"Still quick, I see. Good to know holding the hands of the children of Gotham hasn't dimmed that trait, I'm curious to see if you've picked up any new ones," he says as he draws one of his fighting daggers.
Her scrap with Cassandra had told her how far she had to go, and he had winged her. Granted this man fought to kill where she had never intended to seriously harm the girl, she still had been working on her skills. She hoped they were presently up to the task, being out of uniform and therefore sans her clawed gloves. She still had her whip, its reach would have to be edge enough.
She slipped it from the bag and properly shouldered it as she took a stance, cracking it once in challenge. The supple leather of the weapon resounds across the dimly lit rooftops and the man wastes no time springing to her rooftop to close the gap, Selina springing from him in a no handed backflip as her weapon snakes out to strike at him in midvault.
Hellhound knew from fighting her before that Selina's bullwhips were not some trifling novelties from one of the various sordid adult toy stores around Gotham. They were heavy instruments that might be short compared to the sort wielded by a real matador but nevertheless were of the same quality and her accuracy was as uncanny as he remembered as he felt the force of its crack just inches from where he landed. Observing that that level of accuracy was from an attack delivered midflip, he slipped his offhand dagger and readied himself to dance with his superbly agile opponent.
Selina respected the bat brats' usage of bladed bracers for times like this, but she really never liked letting herself get penned in to need them. That was why she favored whips and claws, and she didn't mind not having the latter as she knew she would likely lose if she let this man get close enough for them. She observed the tension of his stance, he was harder than she remembered, but that's ok since she reckoned herself faster than then. As he flicked his blades around she snaked her whip out for another strike.
Hellhound rolls to the side as her weapon snakes out at his right leg, she was aiming low so he couldn't disarm her. Smart, he thought. She was making him work for this, and he meant to. An easy kill isn't one worth making. He carried forth in a springing lunge to try to get inside her reach and found only empty air as the coil of her weapon slammed into his side giving him a taste of the torment it offers.
Selina had drawn first pain, but she could not afford to slow down. She knew he would not let up on account of a scar or two from her whip. She would have to frustrate him, wear him down, make him bleed. He was a professional and she acknowledged that, even if she had no respect for him on account of their shared history.
Hellhound would not stop his advance, even though time and again he felt the sting of her weapon as she masterfully countered each in kind. However this encounter ended, he knew he'd have scars for a while. His determination was paying off however, his blades were closing in as her acrobatics afforded him that fraction of a second to close in with each attack.
Selina wasn't blind to that as she whirled her weapon overhead in a spiraling arc to force him back as she squared off with him once more. Her poise was proud as she demanded,"You've been away so long, who yanked your leash back to Gotham?"
Hellhound grudgingly acknowledged the first round had gone to her, allowing this moment for them to collect their breaths as he answered,"Someone with a score to settle. The little girl who ran away has been misbehaving, her family is ready for her to come home. Or be put down."
Selina frowned at that, she'd suspected and she could read between his sarcastic lines well enough. "I take it this is just a side venture on your part?"
He just nodded at that, crouching forward so she couldn't see what he was doing with his hands. Her posture irritated him and she would regret it as he placed his primary hand knife between the fingers of his offhand to allow him to draw another throwing blade and a smoke pellet. His mask provided more than a theatrical edge, it shielded him from the fumes of the instruments of his profession.
Selina watched this man like a hawk, shifting her weight to her rear leg as she anticipated him trying something new this round. He looses his throwing blade first and she easily avoids the shimmering edge, her eye on the birdy as she follows the simple pivot with another of her trademark no handed flips to bring her into an advance of her own. Her whip snakes through the air as she brings it right at him once more in a not entirely anticipated maneuver.
Hellhound is forced to dodge this time as she proved herself equal to his scheme, knocking one of knives away with her strike and stinging his hand. He had intended for her to be put back on the defensive so he could close on her and gut her as she fumbled in the smoke, now he'd have to drop smoke and improvise hoping for a similar result and he does just that.
Selina wasn't impressed with this plan of his. When he hid his hands, she knew he was up to something like this, he's a ninja after all. All ninjas work with basically the same bag of tricks, some happen to better with certain tools of the trade than others just like anything else. The two of them had gone to the same school of the trade, she didn't bother with the bag where he'd ran with it. As soon as he slammed down the smoke pellet, she was ready for it and slammed him with a straight legged kick to his side knocking him off balance where she followed through with a stinging strike to his shoulder with her whip.
That combo hurt, everything was going to hell thought Hellhound in a moment of ironic reflection. She was taking him apart now, having forced him out of his smokescreen the instant he made it and already bounding upwind where it was useless. He loosed a pair of throwing blades now, hoping to drive her back into a defensive pattern that he could exploit and at least buy a moment to come up with something but this wasn't to be.
Selina is like a ghost when she gets into her groove. She literally dances around the silvery blades flying at her with an agility such that if an onlooker blinked, she might have seemed to not have moved at all. Snapping her whip with a purpose, she lowers herself into a challenging crouch before advancing on the ninja yet again. She knows she has him on the ropes, she also knows that he could be more dangerous in this state of mind as he lashes out over it.
This time she came in low, tumbling forward as she rolled up her whip to swing the heavy coils at his legs and keep the man moving. She follows this by carrying with the inertia to bring a leg around at his jaw in a maneuver that resembled a capoeira attack. She's surprised when it actually works, knocking him to the ground with his mask flying away in a string of curses.
Hellhound knew this fight was as good as over. Rising shakily to his feet, he looks at Selina with an expression of seething hate. This was to be the last time however. A crimson glint dimly illuminates his features before his world goes dark as he slumps slowly forward. First he drops to his knees with an exhalation that Selina knows all too well, then her rival falls forward where his face lays breathlessly in a gathering pool of blood.
Selina screams in horror, looking to where she knew the shot had to come from. There she sees the last thing she could have ever imagined. Bruce? It can't have been, but there he is smiling at her as he shoulders a silenced rifle before turning to casually walk back into the building. She runs to the man lying in his own blood that was one of her deadliest nemeses only moments before. Crouched beside him, she drops her whip and unshoulders her gymbag to get at her cellphone and call 911.
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