The blade was within centimeters of his throat. He dared not breathe for fear of its proximity.
"What a dilemma you gotten yourself into boy." a female said as an evil smile crossed her lips. Robin's head was a blur. He remembered bolting through the night sky in an attempt to get his girlfriend off of his mind. And how he spotted a young woman being cornered by ninjas. He had intervened and gotten the girl to safety. But as he turned to hold off the ninjas, the woman had pulled a katana blade and slashed his arm. Caught off guard, she had quickly put him down.* Now the blade inched its way closer to the Boy Wonder's jugular.
*See last issue. What rock have you been under? - Informant Kelen
"W-What do you want from me?" he asked in a dry voice. The female continued to smile and withdrew the blade a little.
"Quite simply, your death Robin. Our employer wishes to see you dead and the Shaolin never go back on their word." She returned the blade to its prior positioning and furrowed her brow. "And now, we fulfill our part of the deal." The tip of the blade had made contact with his neck and Tim was running out of options. He reached for his bo-staff, hoping it hadn't been jarred away. "What a waste of handsome..." the female stated as she started her swipe.
"If you like it so much," Robin managed to say as he used his bo to hold off the katana. "Back off!" And with that he sent the female into a crowd of ninjas. He took a moment to rub his neck before twirling his staff and taking a stance. The first few ninjas attacked, but they seemed a little stunned by Robin's comeback, and he easily sent them sprawling. "Oh come on," he quipped. "Is that all you got?" As another set entered the fray, Tim wasn't disappointed. The first ninja lashed out with his nunchucks and had Robin on his toes. His staff was defending him well, but not well enough as another ninja nailed him across the chin with a bo-staff of his own. Just as the Boy Wonder rolled back to his feet, 2 more ninjas arrived, wielding katana blades and throwing stars respectively. "Okay..." Robin said trying to catch his breath. "Forget that last comment."
In Chinatown, another fight was taking place with similar odds. Except this guy was beating the other twenty. With the quickness of a cat, the man's leg shot out and knocked one ninja off of his feet. As the ninja fell, the man kicked him squarely in the sternum, sending him flying into a batch of ninjas who were just recovering from earlier beatings. The man then turned and faced the last standing ninja, who knew when to make a quick exit. Dropping his sais, he ran for the door. But the man was too quick for he had literally flipped ahead of the escaping ninja. The ninja turned to make sure he wasn't being followed and instead was met with a palm to his chin. The force snapped the ninjas neck and he slumped to the ground in a heap. "Fool." was the man's only words. A loud applause erupted from the other side of the room.
"Very good swine," King Snake remarked as he stood and walked towards the room's center. The remaining ninjas quickly ran away at this sight. "I see you've learned a lot more than I've given you credit for. Those were a collection of the best ninjas Chinatown has to offer." The student's face could not be seen due to his cloak but a smirk was present in his voice.
"Maybe it's time to recruit some new ones." he stated boldly. Sir Edmund raised an eyebrow at this and came even closer to the man.
"You dare mock me cockroach? I made you all that you are today. I should kill you and be done with it." The student didn't budge. Instead he reached down, picked up a nearby sword and tossed it to Edmund. Again, King Snake was shocked. "You dare challenge your sensei to a duel? You have no idea what you've gotten yourself into fool." The student just folded his arms.
"Nor do you."
Meanwhile, Robin was finally getting ahead. Two of the ninjas attacked at once, leaving him the opportunity to bash their heads together. The other two ninjas were still causing him problems. One swooped in and clanged his katanas into his staff, pushing Robin down. The other leaped behind him and swung his nunchucks at Tim's head. Sensing the move, Robin slid just enough to the right for the nunchuck to wrap up around a blade. He then gave the ninjas arm a push, sending the blade and the ninja attached to it flying into brick. With only one sword, the ninjas advantage was drastically reduced and Tim finished with a roundhouse kick. That's when he noticed the last 4 ninjas, including the female.
"What have you guys been waiting for, an invitation?" he asked as he readied his staff yet again. In response the female leaped at him with her blade high. Robin tried to roll but he had backed himself into a corner. The female wasn't aiming for him however, more his staff, which she promptly cut in two. Tim's eyes went wide. "Holy..." He didn't have time to finish before another ninjas using daggers was upon him. Even though he was doing well with his 'new' weaponry, Robin was still at a major disadvantage. Especially when he couldn't get a bead on the ninja to hit him, and the ninja had no problem at all. A good fighter always fights until the end, he thought. But a great fighter knows when to make a good escape. With that he reached into his utility belt, pulled out his smoke screen and slammed it into the pavement.
"Do not let him escape!" the female screamed. "You know how to use smoke screen as well as he does, so go!" With that the ninjas headed off into separate directions, preying on its bird. The alley fell silent with the exception of Gotham's sounds, until a gloved hand came out from behind the dumpster.
"Geez! Memo to self: don't piss her off. Lucky for me she thought I would run, not hide. But they'll be back once they can't find me, and it's not like I can just take back to the rooftops without meeting at least one..." His eyes fell upon the manhole cover. Tim sighed. "I wonder what it is with sewers and us super types around here." With that he lifted the cover and disappeared.
Twenty minutes later, he was pulling himself back inside his bedroom window. "2:45. I just hope dad and Dana let me sleep in before they go off about my grades." He peeled out of his costume, thankful it didn't retain too much of the sewer's stench. He climbed into his bed and gazed at what stars he could see from his window. "Goodnight Steph." he whispered as he fell into a deep slumber.
"Unnnggghhh!" the student cried out as he was swung into the nearby wall. He rolled back to his feet but his high kick was nowhere near its target. King Snake's blow with his cane struck the man's midsection perfectly with no trouble. The student hunched over trying to regain his breath.
"You still do not realize that I am the master do you bug?" Sir Edmund laughed from above the man. He kicked him in his back, sending the student flat to the ground. "You should have never started with me." Just then the man rolled to his feet and back flipped over top of King Snake. He pulled out his sais and readied himself. A bit stunned, King Snake pulled out his own dagger.
"Okay..." the student said calm as can be. "Let's get serious." Edmund chuckled as he went on the offensive. It was a good move too, but when it didn't connect he found himself flat on his back. Now it was the student's turn to laugh and King Snake charged, furious. And the man did not budge. As the hot blade came to within centimeters of his side, the student spun away at the last moment. As Edmund was still charging by, the man grabbed him by his neck and lifted him into the air. After what was close to a pirouette, the student slammed King Snake into the ground with resounding power. Edmund was lucky his neck didn't break from the fall and it took him awhile to regain his footing. And just as he accomplished this, the student's foot slammed into his teeth. This sent Sir Edmund to the ground. He rolled onto his back and spit out blood. "It looks like your time is up pig," the student stated mockingly. "And I think it's time for the finale. It wouldn't be enough to kill you Edmund, not for me. I have a much bigger agenda. One with you not included. But instead of merely killing you. I'll cripple you even more.
"No one does this to the King Snake," Edmund managed in a dry voice. "Nobody!" The student merely hunch over Edmund's legs.
"Well, thangs done changed man." The man said as he gripped onto one of King Snake's ankles. Then he squeezed. King Snake immediately started screaming in pain as bones crushed in rapid succession. It was then the student's cloak fell off his head. Sir Edmund was in shock.
"YOU! IT WAS YOU THE WHOLE DAMN TIME?!" The student just smiled and proceeded to start crushing the other ankle. The pain became too much for Edmund and he blacked out. As the final bones cracked in the other leg, the man stood up. After replacing his cloak, the student took out a small jar. He opened it up, took a whiff, and then threw the contents onto the floor. Dropping the jar, he then pulled out a match. Striking it, he tossed it over his shoulder as he exited. The gas took off once the flame made contact, leaving a ring of fire around King Snake. Walking out of the front of the building, no one seemed to notice the building flames at the top floor or him. And with that, the student hailed a cab just as sirens were beginning to be heard.
Morning in the Drake household. At 10, Tim had managed to drag himself out of bed and downstairs to eat. Tim hadn't eaten for quite awhile and he devoured stack after stack of pancakes.
"Well Tim, are they not feeding you up there?" Jack asked as he watched another plate cleaned off. Tim looked up and quickly remembered his report card problem.
"Sorry. Just haven't taken the time to eat in awhile." Tim said as he ate his last bite of toast.
"Well you better make the time Tim. You need to eat." Dana chimed in. Tim glanced up at both them, noticing their spirits were good. Maybe my report card didn't come in at all. He excused himself from the table and headed back to his room. What's on today's agenda Tim? First, I think I'll try to dig up some leads on this Shaolin Clan. Then I'll head over to the Cave to have a talk with Bruce. I wonder if Steph will be... His thought died off as Dana entered his room and closed the door behind her.
"Your father's watching TV so we talk now." she stated flatly. Taken aback by her tone of voice, Tim was speechless. Dana folded her arms and looked hard at Tim. "Who is she?"
"She?" Tim asked baffled.
"Yes she, don't play dumb with me. Who's the girl you've been sneaking out to see the past few nights?"
"No one." Tim could hardly contain his laughter.
"Tim, tell me the truth. I've been there and I know you're going through some changes now and you're starting to like girls.."
"Dana!" Tim moaned and rolled his eyes. Dana sat down beside him.
"I'm serious Tim. You're too young for kids."
"Dana, I'm not seeing anybody. I've just got the urge to go out these past few nights, take a walk. You know, enjoy life." Dana eyed him suspiciously. "At 1:30 in the morning?" she asked with a raised eyebrow.
"I know it sounds strange, but it just feels right at the time, so I go with it." Tim sat back as innocent as possible, hoping she would bite. Dana finally chuckled.
"You're right Tim," she said. "I should've known better. I'm sorry."
"That's alright. I learned that a long time ago anyway." he said with a smile. Dana turned back into the room after hearing this.
"What?!" Tim pushed her out of the room from the other side of the door.
"Kidding Dana..." he said as the door closed. Sighing, he fell onto his bed, drained.
In the heart of Gotham City, Stephanie Brown walked alone. She easily dodged the bastard lot that loved knocking over daydreaming pedestrians, that she could do. What I can't do is beat Batgirl in a training session. And that means I'm not winning any of Bruce's approval, just remarks about what I did wrong. And to top it all off I had a boyfriend named Robin. And that had been good enough for me. But Batman took it upon himself to tell me Robin was really Tim Drake. Did I think he would get so upset? No. Is it fair for him to act like this? Yes and no. I can understand how he feels betrayed by his partner. I can't see how he feels I did. I didn't ask to know, I was told because it was time I knew. That's what Bruce said anyway. And how come it feels like every time Tim may get over this, he just won't let go? She sat down in front of a Taco Bell, contemplating a meal now and a night in, or going to settle with her boyfriend once and for all. Steph turned and headed for a cab. There's no way I'm going to let this kill what we have Drake. I don't care how you feel about it. Her cab soon sped off towards her home, on a mission to clear up Robin's head.
The Gotham Heights Library. Even though Bruce's personal study had all the information he could ever need, Tim decided to head to the library to keep Dana and his dad off his case for always being a Bruce's. And he had suspicions of what Dana really did know. He finally brushed away the thought and jumped right into his Oriental history. He had called up Oracle for some tips as well, and she would call within the hour. Tim skimmed quickly until he came to a section called Historical Clans. Flipping back to the table of contents, the first Clan listed was Shaolin. Puzzled, he flipped back to the section, but it started with the Dragon Warriors. "Looks like someone ripped the pages out," Tim whispered as he studied the torn paper within the book's crevice. "Someone must be watching me somehow, or maybe they're one step ahead." He closed the book and slumped into his chair. Now what? he asked himself.
"What a surprise to find you here Tim," a female said as she pulled out a seat. "It's been awhile since I seen you in one of these." Tim looked up and his outlook got much better. Ariana.
"Yeah, it has been awhile," he smiled genuinely. "What brings you here?"
"I got lots of studying to do for calculus. If I don't do it somewhere quiet, I'll blow the test." Tim nodded his head. "Yeah. I'm here studying up on some Oriental History." He replied as he tapped the book.
"Big test huh?" Ari asked.
"Killer." Tim said literally, but Ari didn't pick up on this. "Glenn have other plans?" he asked changing the subject. Ari was caught of guard and turned her head away.
"Yeah.." she sounded distant. And alone.
"Oh Ari," Tim said resting his hand on top if hers. "Don't worry about him. If he can't see what a great girl you are, then he's missing out." Ari smiled up at Tim and he was already asking himself why he let such a girl go.
"Thanks Tim. It's good to be appreciated." She then reached over and hugged him.
I want to try one place before I start scouring the city for him. He comes to the Gotham Heights Library a good bit; maybe I'll get lucky... Steph walked into the building, quickly surveying the tables. Seeing nothing, she walked up to the main desk. "Has a Tim Drake signed in lately?" The librarian nodded and pointed towards the history section. Steph hurried over in that direction, anxious to finally talk to Tim out of costume. As she turned the corner, she nearly fainted. Tim was hugging Ariana! That double crossing so and so I'll... her thoughts were going a mile a minute, every other word scorning Tim. She turned on her heels and marched out of the library.
"Tim, I'm gonna go ahead and get out of here. I don't want to have my uncle on my back so early in the move. Tim nodded.
"That's cool. I'll see you around Ari." Ariana then picked up her few books and left. "I thought she said she had to study here?" Tim looked puzzled for a minute and finally came to one conclusion. "Women." Speaking of which, was it me or did I see Steph while I was hugging Ari? Sounds crazy, but I could've swore. Oh well. I guess I better head for Bruce's collection. It was then his communicator went of in his ear. Walking into the elevator alone and shutting the door, Oracle spoke.
"Tim, I got a bead on the Shaolin. Reportedly there was an ancient Clan but they were full of rich, honorable history. The Clan you're dealing with has only been around for a few years. They started in Japan as bottom-rung assassins, but they did what they did so well, they quickly became the elite. Only in the past year have they worked outside the Orient. And apparently someone has sent them after your head." Tim's head was racing.
"Do you have an address Oracle?" he asked as he hit the stop button.
"The only thing I have is an old skyscraper on the other side of Chinatown. But they haven't been seen for ages there."
"Thanks Barbara, that's all I needed to know." He clicked off his communicator and let the elevator resume. He rode to the top and finally, back to the bottom before slipping away to change.
"Reports out of Chinatown are now saying that the villain known as King Snake was saved from the burning building. His only wounds were two shattered ankles and bruises indicating he had been in a fight. He is in a coma however, and whether or not he will come out of it is still in doubt." Robin switched off his police radio and swung deeper into the heart of Chinatown. Who in the world would have the power to take Sir Edmund out like that? And I wonder if that has a connection to me? Robin shook off the thought as he landed behind the address Oracle had given him. He pulled out a credit card and easily pried the back door open. Hoping there was no silent alarm, the Boy Wonder crept through the darkness. He had no idea what to look for and he was expecting the Clan to pounce upon him at any time. He ignored his infrared lenses and bumped into a desk. The noise was slight, but it was enough for the floodlights to light up. Ninjas surrounded the place as they stood on the upper levels jeering at Robin. "What is this, Gladiator?" he asked as the jeers grew louder.
"Robin!" a voice called from across the room. It was the female ninja, dressed in what had to be the scantiest ninja outfit Tim had ever seen. He didn't know where to hit on her or just plain hit her. "It is time boy. Time you and I go face to face. And there's nowhere to run. She drew her katanas. Robin held up his hand.
"If you want a fight, no weapons!" The room silenced as they waited for an answer. He had only did this because he hadn't had time to go get his spare staff from the Cave. He hoped she would buy it.
"Very well then child," the female smiled devilishly. "I can't wait to spill your blood on to my hands."
"Let's just get this over with lady." Robin stated, a hint of nervousness within.
"You," she said as she leaned in to whisper into his ear. "May call me Lotus. Like I said before, such a shame such a handsome boy needs to go to waste."
"I feel the same way," Robin said as he leapt away and poised himself for battle. "Now let's see what we can do about keeping it that way..."
NEXT ISSUE: It's Lotus vs. Robin, one night only. What secrets does she hold about her employer? Plus, the student revealed! Be here!