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Mask up. Strapped for bear. Katana, daggers, H&Ks. For one night, Maya Lopez wasn't the Red Knight of Hellfire - she was Echo again.
"This is the place."
Matsuo, reluctant as she'd been to rely on him, had come through for them at last. Per his intel, the Black Sky - who may or may not have been running the Hand at this point - was holed up in a waterfront estate in Jersey. It was palatial, if a bit foreboding, and reportedly stacked to the brim with Gao's personal guard. A short drive and a surreptitious boat ride later, she and Matt Murdock were climbing up the westernmost side of the mansion on a hookshot cable.
At last, they stood on the estate's roof, peering down through an ornate glass skylight into the atrium below. A maze of art and statuary stretched out beneath them, punctuated intermittently by red uniforms. There wasn't much in the way of additional information: how extensive the facilities were, how many of the Hand lurked within, whether Gao was there herself, or even where Elektra might be within the facilities (although Maya had a feeling that once they started making noise, that would probably start making itself evident).
Maya glanced over her shoulder at the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, following behind her. A momentary twinge of uncertainty raced down her spine - about this, about everything, really. As their hunt had continued and they'd shared victories and frustrations, she'd felt herself growing closer to him, bonding over the constants in their otherwise-chaotic existences. Stick. Elektra. The mob, the Hand, the eternal fight. She owed him the truth, and while she'd been straightforward with him about more than most people got to hear, the singular reality of her existence was still more or less a secret, as far as she knew.
He was a good man, and one on a righteous mission. He deserved to know what she really was - to avoid tying his horse, so to speak, to the world's most prolific metahuman serial killer. The antithesis of everything he stood for.
"Hey." she murmured, pausing at the skylight. "If we live through this..." There was a pause; it was uncharacteristic for Maya to have to muster her nerve for something, but here they were. "...there's something I've got to tell you. Or...confess, I guess. Don't let me forget."
She took a single, light breath, and her heart rate slowed to a steady crawl.
"All right. Let's bring her back."
A single strike with the hilt of the katana shattered the skylight, and glass shards showered everywhere as Maya leaped down into the atrium. There were no shouts of alarm from the scarlet-armored guards waiting down there - they were surprised, certainly, but these were some of Madame Gao's finest. Well-trained, well-armed, well-disciplined, and ready to roll.
As it usually did, all hell broke loose.
Matt was back, he was ready. As he crouched next to Maya twirling the truncheon before sliding it to its sheath. Daredevil was back. Since Midland Circle, this was the first time he'd put on the suit. It wasn't that he couldn't before, it was that he didn't want to. As far as the world knew, Daredevil was dead. He hadn't been seen in the city. But now, now it was time to get serious. Once again he went back to Melvin to repair the suit. Now it was to work.
Flexing his hand into a fist and back out he studied the complex below them. It wasn't what he was expecting, but it seemed fitting. Blending in without knowing, a good place to hide. He listened in, the centre complex was where they needed to go. How fitting.
"They're in the main building. Where the mass group of them all are. A few guards at each of the exits. The others buildings are empty or just about. I can't pick out her heart beat from here. Something's clouding me from seeing it." Either that's or he couldn't focus.
Once again Maya's information had payed off. Matsuo had came through after all. At least they were done waiting. They were going to get her back. They were close this time, Matt could feel it. All the lead up, all the preparations, this was it. Now they had to go to Jersey. He was hoping to not have to leave the city, but this was more than worth it.
As they crossed the water and scaled the building to the centre complex Matt remained silent. He didn't say anything, just listened, studied his surroundings. He still hadn't asked Maya about her intentions of going after Elektra, what she got from this. His question was unanswered, hopefully he would get answers here. If not he would handle, he always did.
Matt looked to Maya as she spoke. He had gotten used to turning towards her when he spoke, someing he often didn't do. Being blind he had no reason to look at someone when he spoke, in their general direction was comforting enough to most. But Maya, he made sure she could read what he had to say.
"I'll hold you to that. Whatever it is I'll try and remind you. You have a way out of this? If it goes south? I'm not familiar with the area." Hopefully it wouldn't come that. Still he enjoyed knowing they had a way out if they had to. The way they came may not be an option later. Either way it was time to do this.
As Maya shattered the skylight Matt dove down. Drawing his truncheon he landed on the glass below. The shards crunched under his boots as he landed and readied himself. He expected to be swarmed instantly, instead there was a moment of silence. No guards, no alarms. It was all to quiet. No one moved, no one said a word. The Hand didn't attack, just stood in shock.
Silence took the. All around, Matt searching around. They were already circled. It didn't take long for the attacks to come. The closest ninja swung a sword and Matt rolled back. The blade narrowly cut in front of him as he brought his boot down to the attackers leg, taking it out and rolling back.
The attacks came in flurries and he prepared himself, blocking as he did.
The room was certainly more ornate then the one Alexandra had given her. The walls weren’t plain cement and the bed was more then plain white linens. That room had been a step up from a jail cell, a place to put a tool when it wasn’t being used. This room was more like what she had been used to when she’d travel as Hugo Natchios’ daughter. When she was a rich, spoiled brat with a trust fund to take care of all her whims.
It was starting to make her feel like a bird in a gilded cage.
At least they hadn’t dressed her in stiff brocade and placed her like a mannequin by the window. Though she wouldn’t have put it past Gao to try if the woman thought she could get away with it.
Supposedly she was free. Supposedly Gao still recognized her as the Hand’s leader. And yet… This just felt like a different type of power struggle, one where she didn’t have enough information or a clear enough head. Everyone in this compound were loyal to Gao, she had no delusions about that.
She’d met with Gao a few times since waking up. Each time Gao was full of advice and placating words to be said of her nasty tea, which she always insisted they share. Things were too chaotic right now. It was best to wait. Bide their time. Things that Elektra didn’t care about, that made her angry and yet… When Gao spoke them she felt… Almost fuzzy headed in a way.
It wasn’t the only time her head seemed to be very subtly filled with wool and disconnected from her emotions.
Right now though she was starting to feel something. Curled up on the bed, not even under the covers, she started to feel that familiar warmth of anger returning. She could feel it start to bubble up inside her as she opened her eyes and wondered what had she been thinking, laying down for a nap? As she sat up on the bed, swinging her legs over the side, one of Gao’s blind and mute servants knocked before coming in with a tray.
”I don’t want it. Go away.” The servant didn’t even respond, instead just set up and started preparing a cup of the “healing” elixir that they’d been giving her since she’d woke after Midland Circle. ”I said go away!” She moved to stand up when both their heads turned at the distant sound of a commotion somewhere in the compound.
She knew the sound of a fight when she heard it.
"If this all falls apart..." There was a strong temptation to say 'just leave me behind' and let the dice fall where they may, but she hadn't come this far to succumb to despair quite yet. "I did a recon run here yesterday morning. There's a big circular stained glass window on this level we're about to jump into, looking out over the city. I attached a rappel line to the bottom of it, just in case we had to make a quick getaway - smash the window, grab the rope, slide down to the streets."
Now was not the time to think about retreating, though. Now was the time for action.
There was a hushed moment - the calm before the storm - as the pair dropped into the atrium, and then the onslaught came fast and furious, a torrent of scarlet and flashing steel. There were six of them at first, armed to the teeth with swords, staves, swords on staves (Maya was pretty sure that was called a naginata), and the eyes atop their masks flashed with grim intent.
Three on one, and the Hand were still a bit overmatched, frankly. Maya had spent months fighting alongside Matt, sparring, learning his moves exactly, and by now she knew his moves as clearly as if she'd been born with them. As he weaved between the blades and lashed out at the ninjas, she filled the gaps in his attacks perfectly, covering any exposure even as they were surrounded. They were a phalanx of two - him, lashing out at one enemy at a time, her, striking and slashing to cover his flank and sides. The enemy came two or three at a time, loaded for bear, but every few seconds in the exchange, there would be a flash of steel and a cry of pain, and one of them would fall.
Tellingly, perhaps, they would not be dead. She had her sword out, but - even if Daredevil couldn't see it - she was striking them with the flat of the blade. Having been on the wagon (so to speak) for a little over a month now, Maya was determined to at least give the 'way of peace' a try.
"To the inner chambers! Protect the Black Sky." It was a familiar voice, a low lupine snarl with a honeyed edge, and as a group of ninjas opened a nearby door and charged down a hallway to somewhere unknown, Kazumi the Snakehead stepped through into the atrium, bladed fans brandished and glimmering with sickly green venom. The tattooed woman, flanked by a pair of heavily armored warriors, twirled her fans in place and eased into a ready stance. "Sparing me at the waterfront was your last mistake," she thrummed, eyes glimmering with cold malice. "When my poison's twisted you in the throes of death, I'll bring you to Madame Gao as trophies."
A blade shone overhead, and Maya leaned out next to Matt, intercepting it with the edge of her sword. She sank a thrust kick into the attacker's solar plexus, sending him falling back against a statue of a dragon (which promptly toppled to the floor and shattered).
"That," she murmured, with just a hint of urgency, "is an obvious distraction. Go find Elektra. I'll keep Kazumi occupied."
Hopefully this wouldn't be in vain. She didn't particularly want to die to the venom of the Brazilian Wandering Spider or whatever on a mission for nothing.
Matt dodge an incoming blade. He ducked low, bringing his hand to connect with the ninja's side. He had a boxer's bunch. Anyone who studied his fighting would know a mix of martial arts and boxing was his style. While this was an illegal move, he wasn't in the ring. As he quick as he threw up the punch he brought another just as fast to the other side. Quickly, alternating the blows he continued to hit the ninja in the kidney again and again.
Another blow came from behind. The sword hit against the armour he wore. It cut the fibres but beyond that didn't do much damage. Still the blunt of the blow knocked him back. He rolled out of the way and tosses his truncheon. It launched the grappling hook, springing around an attacking ninja' legs as he pulled him to the ground. Matt sprung to his feet kicking the other two as he did.
Slowly they were dwindling their numbers. Matt strike down hard and fast. He admitted he was leaving his sides and back open more than he would have normally. But he knew Maya was there. As Matt hit hard and brought the damage she could deflect and move around him, taking off what was left. They worked well together, as Elektra and him did. He set his eyes forward, he had to find her. She was here, close, he could feel it.
As the tore through the ninjas Matt paid attention to little else. He rolled and weaved, swinging hard and fast as he did. The ninjas came fast but he matched them. He didn't notice Maya using the blunt of her blade, not the addition of more ninjas entering the complex. He focused on finding Elektra, trying to locate her in the maze of rooms and hallways.
The Hand seemed to disperse, a group breaking off heading down a hallway. Matt turned his focus to Maya. "The group that's splitting off, they're going after Elektra. We need to follow them." He hurried after them but stopped as the voice of a female Hand member caught him off guard. Madam Gao, she was here. If she was then so was Ellie. This was the right place. He barely noticed the blade coming down and as it did Maya saved him.
He turned and nodded at her. "If you finish this, head down that corridor. They ran that way." With that he took off down the hall. The truncheon flew into his holster a shield he ran. He knew Maya could take care of herself, or so he hoped. He ran, picking up speed as he jumped off the wall and brought his fist down on an unsuspecting Hand member. Rolling once he hit the ground he picked himself up and continued to run. Elektra, he was coming.
Matt continued to run till he came to an intersection in the hallway. Left or right? Right or left? He stopped. Listening. Listening for Elektra.
She was on her feet now, the promise of something interesting happening doing more to help clear her head then any nap or spike of anger had done in the past few weeks. The servant had looked towards the door but when nothing came through it they immediately went back to their task. It seemed that other then that brief moment of distraction that they were planning on following their orders no matter what.
It was a script that had been going on between them since the day after she’d woken up. They wanted her to take the “medicine” and she didn’t want to take it. At first it hadn’t been much of a struggle, she hadn’t been able to really resist too much. Now it was just an annoying game. She was healed. She was healthy. She was wasting away from inaction. Yet still they insisted. She was starting to understand though, it wasn’t medicine, it was just drugs to keep her calmer, more placid. Which only pissed her off more. When she could feel.
The servant came forward with the cup and Elektra narrowed her eyes. One foot shifted behind her, giving her a steadier stance. She was determined not to take it this time. She refused to be muddled headed when something was going on, because she could still hear the drumming of feet and there, just then the sound of something large breaking.
She moved forward to strike the cup out of the man’s hand, intending to follow through with a strike at his elbow. Instead he flung the contents of the cup in her face just before she hit him, leaving her sputtering and it was he that followed through with a strike at her solar plexus to force her to bend over. Grabbing her by her hair, he yanked her hair back, a vial appearing in his other hand, while she tried to strike out with an elbow again.
The stuff was nasty! Coughing and spitting she managed to land a few blows, elbow to his stomach and a shot at the side of his knee. He retreated and she straightened up, spitting a couple more time to get as much out of her mouth as she could and wiping the back of her hand across her lips. ”You’re going to pay for that…” Lunging forward she snatch up the tray and swung it as he made a lunge for the door. He attempted to block with his arm and it cracked but she wasn’t done yet. Throwing the two pieces to either side she followed through with a kick that sent him crashing against the bureau, sending it sliding a foot and knocking over a vase and candle stick. She was making a mess of her nice room but that was ok, she really hadn’t liked the décor anyway.
The sound of fighting was getting closer and a mirror on the wall rattled as something on the other side hit it. The nurse, or what ever he was, was down for the count and she paused looking around her for a weapon. The plush carpet was scattered with some broken glass but nothing in shards big enough to her liking. The candle stick however… that had potential. The door to her room rattled, there were always a couple guards outside and normally the sound of a scuffle would bring them inside. It sounded like they were too busy with something else, her evening entertainment had arrived! She snatched up the candle stick and slipped up against the wall by the door. She came out on the offensive against the first body through it.
This was not Maya's first encounter with the Snakehead, not by any means. They'd clashed in the past a few times, most recently in a dockside meth smuggling operation on the Lower East Side (surprisingly close to Daredevil's territory. If she'd known him back then, she probably would've tried to enlist his help in dealing with it). She had let Kazumi live that time, overcome by a fit of guilt regarding her homicidal tendencies and revolted by the ninja's fascinated admiration for them.
Perhaps that'd been a mistake.
Matt's keen hearing picked up the trail, and he pointed it out to her before launching himself after the fleeing Hand. She barely had time to parry an incoming swing and redirect her momentum, sending the hilt of her katana into an attacker's nose with a crunch of cartilage, before he was practically through the door.
"Don't let them lead you too far off! I'll follow as soon as I can--"
She heard, rather than felt, the thrown stiletto sink into her thigh, the immediate pain blocked out by her adrenaline. But when her knee buckled, sinking to the floorboards, a surge of hot, burning agony shot up through her leg. Alarm settled into Maya's mind, vulnerable as she was in the midst of a sea of groaning bodies with broken limbs and mottling bruises. Even a single scratch could be fatal, when it came from the Snakehead. What kind of venom could it be?
"You're wondering what I just killed you with, I take it?" Kazumi had shed her robe and was circling closer now, blades in hand, ornamental armor glittering in the torchlight. The corner of her mouth pulled upwards in a cruel smirk. "Nothing. Just a little acid on that one, to get your attention." She twirled the fan in her right hand. "This one, though? Bamboo curare. Slow and painful, just for you--"
Maya pulled the stiletto free and threw it back at her.
It was the advantage of not talking on the battlefield, or at least doing your talking with your weapons. No time wasted, no opportunities given - and most importantly, no reassurances. Her leg ached from the burning acid, but now she knew it wasn't fatal, and that meant she could throw herself entirely into the fight. As a fan swept up to deflect the thrown knife, she was right behind it, sword arcing downwards in a vicious blow. Sparks flew as the two struck at each other, parrying and twirling, black and red flashes in a deadly dance.
I can't just keep her busy. I have to catch up with Matt.
Every second that passed in this duel was another second falling behind him.
It'd be easier just to kill her.
But she could do that. She was trying to change.
Matt stopped at the intersection, he listened for Elektra, where was she? He knew she was here, but he couldn't pinpoint which way. He listened, trying to sense where she was. As he did he was attacked. The one side he had followed jumped out at him. Two of the attackers, the others having gone up ahead. Matt dodged the incoming blade, watching it cut fast as it narrowly crossed his nose.
Bringing the billyclub up he tossed it towards the wall. It ricocheted off as he swung his fist toward the ninja. A sword was swung and the club hit the hand that held it. As the sword clattered to the ground Matt's fist collided with the ninja's face, sending the man spiralling backwards. This all happened within a few seconds, series of events that flew by as Matt launched his next attack.
Another sword came down, this one cut deep, slicing at his back. It cut through the armour and agaisnt his skin. Matt moved back, spinning his leg back as he connected it with jaw of the ninja who cut him. The man fell, and Matt flipped in the air landing down with his billy club to finish the man off. Once he was certain he was unconscious he stood and tucked the billy club away. For a brief second it was calm, no noise. He could hear heart beats though, coming down the hall on his left. The other ninjas that had split off. They were making their way to Elektra. He knew which way to go.
Something else caught his attention though. It was back the way he came. He could sense the person in distress, in pain. He know who it was, Maya. He stopped, did he go back, try and help her. She had saved him, helped him recover. This wouldn't be possible without her. But Elektra was the other way. If the Hand got to her first, they'd move her, or something worse. He had to rescue her, but he couldn't let Maya die either.
Running back he pulled his billy club once again. He started to pick up speed. He stopped short. Maya was back, fighting as she had been before. Whatever it was must have been temporary. That meant she could wait. Turning on his heels Matt ran down the hall, making a sharp turn towards where the guarded cell was. This had to have been where Ellie was. He was certain of it.
Sprinting towards the armed guards Matt jumped from one wall to the other. He tossed the billy club as a distraction, landing down to bring his first toward the face of a ninja. Grabbing his arm, he spun the man into the other, knocking both into the wall. He then retired his club and swung it up to block a blade, before striking hard and fast at the abdomen of the one he threw. As the man went down he brought his foot up, connecting it to the jaw of the other armed guard. They both fell flat, laying on the ground. They weren't getting back anytime soon, after a few quick blows, he made sure of it though.
Matt turned to the door. He only heard one heart beat inside, the other unconscious. It was enough for him. Pushing the doors open he stepped in, tucking away the billy club. He didn't say anything, just opening the door and stepping in.
Attack first, ask questions later. She had been trained that way twice now and in the middle of a fight it was hard to turn off those instincts, especially when a life was on the line. She’d learned that while partnering with Matthew and she’d eventually failed at it. But she had tried, it wasn’t something she’d had much practice in overriding.
Right now she had no inclination to hold back those dark urges. There was no Matthew or anyone else that gave a damn about her soul. The nurse was only alive because he was a minimal threat and her attention was needed for who ever was coming through that door. Though she still felt she owed the bastard for what ever he had forced down her throat.
She could still taste it, the bitterness lingering in her mouth and turning sour, like milk close to going bad. Worse was feeling that fuzziness threatening to creep over her mind. Feeling the lassitude taking the edges off her movements. Her heart struggling to slow down even as adrenalin spiked in her system. Bad enough she hadn’t been training, or maintaining the past couple months, she had to do this quick or it was over. She worked on controlling her breathing, gathering that Qi to help focus her body..
The knob turned and she adjusted her grip on the candlestick. As soon as the person was past the door she kicked it shut to prevent anyone else following. Best to take them one at time and hope there weren’t too many. She wasn’t looking for this to be a familiar figure, her mind too clouded with anger as she swung the stick from behind him. One bare foot shot out with a kick towards the knees to try and bring him low as the stick swung up for a follow through strike.
"Why are you holding back?!"
Maya didn't really have a good answer to that. Despite the unconscious (or semiconscious - some of them were groaning from broken arms or ribs, after all) ninjas strewn all around the atrium, she was not doing great at fighting Kazumi herself. Fan strike after fan strike clashed against her katana, throwing up a shower of sparks, but all she was really accomplishing was self-defense. Holding her ground - and barely, at that.
This was not going to cut it. In a fight like this, particularly when the slightest mistake could envenom her to death, she couldn't afford to go light. The Snakehead's war fans were driving her further and further back, and before long, Maya found her back up against a statue of some nebulous horned creature. The marble was cold against her shoulders, frigid as a death sentence. This was it. Either she got serious or she was going to find out what it was like to die from curare poisoning.
"Fine!" the ninja spat, a hateful glare blazing beneath her headdress, and spun into a pirouetting strike with both blades. "Die in timidity, then! I'll tell the Black Sky you barely even put up a fight--"
Something cold and empty flashed in Maya's eyes, and the katana sang.
The parry didn't strike Kazumi's fans like most of her defensive swipes had - it struck her wrists, severing both hands in a single clean sweep. Claret sprayed, and if Maya could have heard the pained yelp, she probably would've grimaced in satisfaction; failing that, she shoved forward, shoulder buried in Kazumi's solar plexus, and pushed her backwards in turn until they crashed against the wall. Her body kept the other woman's braced upright, even as she drew her sword back.
The Snakehead's breath was hot against her neck, and Maya felt her lips move in a rueful chuckle.
"No more Substance, Echo. This is our last dance. Make it beautiful for me."
No. No, she couldn't. There was still time, she could use...tourniquets or something, it wasn't fair she was supposed to be in control of herself she'd managed to abstain for a month now if she fell off the wagon and killed again she'd be right back on that hellbound path but she had to act now she had to they were going to kill Matt they were going to kill Elektra it wasn't fair it wasn't fair IT WASN'T FAIR---
It all happened in a blur, sort of a detached haze, as if she was watching herself do it from afar. Step back. One, two, three strokes, flower of flesh and blood. Splattering the floor, the wall, the doorjamb, everywhere. Gore sprayed up against the elegant stonework of the walls, and as Kazumi collapsed forward, Maya caught her, drew the mask back, and sank her teeth into the Snakehead's throat like a starving coyote.
It was everywhere. Splashed across her face, flowing down her neck and chest, weeping its way past her lips and down her throat, sweet and familiar and nostalgic in its coppery tang. There was an ache all the way down in her core, a hot seething wail of longing and regret and orgiastic pleasure, and Maya felt every nerve in her body electrify at the sensation. One of them was shuddering so hard that both their bodies shook - maybe the dying ninja, maybe her in the throes of murderous ecstasy. Maybe both.
The world fell away for a single moment and everything was perfect.
Reality returned momentarily, but sobriety - and the guilt that would follow - hadn't quite made it there yet. Maya stumbled back, as if drunk, and let the scarlet-clad form topple to the floor. She twirled her sword into a reverse grip, mouth still stained a hedonistic red, and pressed a blood-soaked palm to Kazumi's face...leaving behind the telltale handprint. It wasn't even something she had to think about - it came on reflex at this point.
Turning, she wandered toward the hallway that Matt had rushed down. There was a wounded member of the Hand sprawled on the carpet, dizzy from the Devil's billy club having smashed him upside the head. Yes. This must be the correct way. More of them were coming now; she spotted three more approaching the room in the distance and moved to intercept them, sword in hand, a jackal grin crossing her lips.
Hopefully Matt had the situation well in hand. For now, the Red Knight would hold the line.
Matt walked in and instantly heard the door start to close shut, he sensed the heart beat of the person beside the door. As it clicked shut he sprung into action. He tried to turn to her but the kick only hit his legs and he fell to knees. Hitting with the ground he swung his arm up, catching the candle stick in his hand. He held it, looking towards Elektra as he tossed it aside. He focused on her and slowly stood. He watched her, studied her. He didn't say anything though, just studied to see if it was really her. Part of him didn't believe it.
He stood till he was at his normal level. He looked at the candle stick, his hand hovering over the truncheon on his thigh. Since she was back she hadn't been her. Part of her had, but she was different. He had thought he had got through to her, but he couldn't be sure. If she were to attack again, he would be ready. He hovered over the truncheon but eventually let his hand fall away. If she was going to attack she would have continued to do so.
"Elektra I can...I can...is it you? Are we living?" He offered a smile and looked back at the door. They didn't have time to stall. More Hand would be on the way. He reached for the truncheon, pulling it out to twirl it in his hand. "We should get going. I have a way out. The person I came with is covering the tracks, making sure we can still leave. But we need to hurry."
Matt stepped closer, he placed his hands on either side of Elektra's face. "If you're in there we can talk later. But we need to leave." He could make out a few details, the lock on the door, the state of the room. The fact there had been conflict inside. Elektra wasn't here on her own will. She was back, at least for now. They were either scared of her, or she was a prisoner. Either way they could work together.
Stepping back Matt twirled the truncheon again. He reached for the door and pulled it open. As he stepped out into the hallway he left it open for Elektra to follow. "I suggest grabbing one of their weapons, last I left her she wasn't alone. We should hurry." They were alone for now, so was the hallways leading towards the way they came. He could sense Maya in the room, she wasn't alone. They really needed to hurry. He knew she could handle herself, but the longer they stayed the worse it got.
"I'll explain everything once the complex is at our backs. For now we need to move." He spun around as a door flung open behind them. It came from the other end of the hallway, opposite of the way he'd been facing. Three ninja clad Hand members broke through. They ran forward, swords raised. Within seconds they were on them, sword coming down as they did.
Matt tossed the truncheon towards one as a shuriken was tossed towards him. He felt the star burry in to his shoulder. The billy club hit the ninja and he fell as Matt tore the star from his shoulder. He let it clatter to the ground as he moved to help Elektra with the remaining two ninjas.
She didn’t see the suit, the deep red color, or the horns as he came into the room. It was the last thing she expected to see right now. Her shock as recognition came, looking down at him while he was on his knees, let him yank the candlestick from her hands. Foolish girl. Stick would have chastised her for letting her guard down like that.
”Mathew?” Disbelief. Longing. What was this? Was she seeing ghosts? Her eyes were glued on him as he got up. He was talking, she saw his lips moving, understood there was sound reaching her ears but she didn’t hear any of it.
He reached for her, she almost darted away but then his hands cupped her face and she gave in for just that one moment. Her eyes closed briefly, her cheek turned into his palm and let her think for just a second this was real. But the world snapped back into focus, her training smashing down on her and she jerked back, jumped away. ”No! You’re dead!” Agitated she circled away from him.
”They said your head was smashed, they couldn’t bring you back! I read your Obituary!” she flung the words like a defense, her fingers curling into fists. ”Is this some cruel joke? What was in that stuff they gave me?” Her breathing was coming quicker now and she raised her hands, pressing the heel of her palms to her temples. ”She put someone in the suit, trying to trick me? Trying to manipulate me into being her puppet?” Her words were more like venom.
She’d circled around enough to give him that clear run for the door. As her foot came down again, she felt a piece of the broken glass slice into her heel, crimson staining the carpet with her next step but nothing compared to the amount of blood in the atrium right now. He was leaving and though she didn’t trust him or anyone else in this building, she also didn’t want to be stuck here. This could be an opportunity if done right. If she could keep her head long enough.
Moving towards the open door, her legs feeling light, if she could last long enough against the drugs, she could slip away, with him as her distraction perhaps. She didn’t feel like she was going to make it far but she had to try.
Looking down at the bodies she saw swords on all of them and her palm itched to hold one. One hand on the door jam she bent over to take one. Hearing the sounds of further fighting though she turned and glanced down the hall, the other was from Mathew’s ghost. There were more members of the Hand that way and another bloody warrior among them. There was something familiar there but the sound of more warriors in the other direction pulled her thoughts away from it as she turned with sword in hand.
They were on them quickly, two of them flowing around the ghost. She raised her sword but her palms were sweaty, her focus non-existent. Within three moves the on had her opened and the second rushed her low, putting a shoulder into her abdomen and slamming her into the wall. Air burst out of her lungs and the other struck her wrist, the fingers holding her sword went numb.
It was as if a switch had flipped when she killed Kazumi. Or, more accurately, as if a dam that'd been holding fast against a steadily-rising tide for the past month had finally given way. With the levee broken, the current was rushing in now, neck-deep and overwhelming, and Maya Lopez found herself swept away once again. The blood was still staining her lips and teeth (and chin, and neck, and chest, and...), and she luxuriated in its bitter, metallic sweetness as she swept away from the Snakehead's limp body, sword in hand, and turned to meet the second group of ninjas before they could follow Matt.
They came at her two at a time, and unlike before, they died at her feet two at a time.
The katana sang again, blocking and chopping at their weapons, parrying them with such alacrity that the battle seemed almost like a blur of metal and scarlet for a moment. And then, pivoting on her heels, Maya finally struck - but this time, she wasn't aiming to disable. The sharp edge of the blade was out, and she was fighting with gruesome intent. Claret geysered into the air as one of the Hand's shock troopers dropped, then the other. She turned in place, but another was already upon her, and even her instinctive dodge didn't totally save the ex-Chaste, as a roundhouse blow from a pair of nunchaku still caught her in the side of the head, snapping it to the side. Maya's ears rang (even deaf, she was still cognizant of the sensation of getting her bell rung, so to speak) and everything dimmed momentarily - still, even dazed, she was able to turn in place and lash out with the sword, burying its point, and then the other two feet of its length, in her attacker's gut.
She was in the middle of pulling it out when the last of the ninjas stabbed her. It was a dull shock, a familiar sensation that in no way minimized the sudden bursting pain that followed the realization. He'd gotten her with a kunai, thankfully, just a four-inch blade, but it was right between her floating ribs and Maya was distantly aware that he'd probably nicked something important, like a lung.
God, it hurt. Pain, though....pain was mental. She could compartmentalize it, put it aside. And so she twisted around, using the man's knife (buried, as it was, in her side) to drag his arm towards her. A headbutt to the nose followed, sending him sprawling. The Hand clansman raised an arm, pupils dilating as his terror betrayed him - he'd caught a glimpse of the savage look in her eyes. "No, wait, I--"
There was a single flash of steel and a sound like an axe hitting a watermelon, and his head rolled.
Covered in blood, wild-eyed, and still sporting a knife half-in her ribcage (it was probably best not to pull it out, lest she start bleeding in earnest), Maya turned away from the heap of bodies. She'd killed seven of them in her frenzy, and left a dozen more incapacitated thanks to the earlier brawl. She stalked to the hallway, and there, as her eyes fell on the open door and the skirmish going on, her battle trance fell away from her.
There she was. Everything was right with the world. It'd all been worth it. All the things she'd done, the lives she'd snuffed out, the sins she'd committed...but at least she'd managed this. They had her sworn clanmate back.
A moment later, the ninja pinning Elektra against the wall jerked with pained surprise, and then toppled to the floor, revealing he'd been impaled from behind by a bloodstained sword-wielding figure.
"....Elektra?" There was an oddly dreamlike quality to her tone, as if she wasn't quite sure any of this was real.
"It's me Elektra, I didn't die. The Hand lied to you. The Chaste saved me from Midland Circle and I recovered. This isn't a lie. I can prove it, we just need to get out of here first." Matt spoke as he dodged and incoming kick. He blocked and brought his hands up to twist and flip the leg of the attacker. Smashing them into a wall he moved back, focusing on another blow coming towards him.
His fist collided with a ninja's face, sending the man sprawling to the ground, stopping the attack. Matt moved back, ready to toss the truncheon at another attacker. But he stopped, the sound of Elektra in trouble causing him to spin around. He flipped back and went to attacker her attackers but stopped short as he crumpled dead to Maya's blade. Matt stopped short, hesitating to move. He could taste the iron in the air, Maya was covered in it.
"You didn't need to kill him. We had this," He looked to Maya, she had killed more than just the one man. The layers of blood spoke more than anything she could say. At least the blade went for the Hand member and not Elektra. He hadn't been sure about Maya's loyalty, but she seemed to be cooperating at least. He never had a reason to doubt her, yet he did. Maybe it was the lawyer in him.
They couldn't stick around though, they needed to leave. Matt looked back and moved forward towards the hallway. "We can reunite later. We need to move. There's more coming, they have the estate surrounded. We have five minutes, before they are all on us. If we don't hurry we may not make it out." They could talk about the killing later. It didn't need to happen, they were just taking orders. As much as they were against them they didn't need to kill. They could make it through this without that. He wouldn't let it happen again.
"How much of that blood is yours? Are you hurt?" He turned to Elektra. "This is Maya, she was the one helping me. She has a plan to get us out of here. She was following the Hand at Midland Circle, only a few steps behind us." He looked down the hallway. "I'll lead the way, stay close."
With that he set off down the hall. He started to pick up speed, moving faster as he came into the atrium. He stopped in his tracks at the carnage. The dead bodies, all bled dry and cut up. He gritted his teeth and continued to move. He would talk about this later. Killing the Hand wasn't part of this. Even so there was nothing he could do for them now. He just needed to get out.
The Hand was a bunch of lying son’s of bitches. If it had just been Madame Gao’s statement, she would have been skeptical. She had been. There had been hope. But the newspaper, seeing that obituary. Matthew loved his life, his lawyerly things he had for himself. He wouldn’t have given that up. Not unless he really was dead. That was when the darkness got really deep around her.
”The Chaste are all dead! I killed them.” More lies! She’d killed them all. Stains on her soul but what did she care, what was one more splash of blood after so many? Still, that had been a weak lie. Gao knew Alexandra had ordered to kill them.
She tried to bring her knee up, ramming it into the man’s midsection but he seemed more intent on dragging her up the wall then her flailing. Or at least she was going up, like a doll about to tossed over his shoulder, until he suddenly collapse and brought them both down with him.
She didn’t know the woman in front of her now but by the looks of her this was no basic level Hand ninja. There was something eerily familiar about the woman though. She’d felt that before about people. Still, she switched hands with her katana, bringing it up even as she used her knee to push the ninja’s body off her.
”Speak for yourself.” She was performing like shit and she knew it. And she was still on the floor, something she started trying to rectify while still holding her sword ready. She didn’t know who this woman was or what kind of story that was supposed to be. Her back slid up the wall slowly, not trusting either of them right now.
Down the hall. More were coming. Just great. She started to follow them, only because it was a promise of a way out. As the Devil moved faster though, she struggled to keep up, falling further behind. Her adrenaline would only take her so far. The last one she came limping into the atrium, one hand on the wall, sword held loosely. She surveyed the carnage with a passive gaze and hoped this exit plan was close by. "Lovely redecorating you guys have done." She said with a breathy sway trying to catch the words.
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