Danny Leong settled back in his boarded-up storefront. Someone had burned his store out while he was gone. He would fix that after he dealt with his enemies. One thing at a time.
He still wasn’t sure if he wanted to settle permanently in New York’s Chinatown. That was something else he would have to think about when his current situation was resolved. He was of two minds about the city.
Danny decided that he would have to announce his presence after watching the neighborhood for a few days. He had made sure not to tell Billie he was back in town. He wanted her to stay out the mess he was going to stir up.
Picking one of the White Tigers at random, Dragonmage followed the gangster from the rooftops, war paint masking his placid features. He held a small metal ball in his hand as he waited patiently for the right moment.
The White Tiger grabbed an old man trying to load a fruit stand in front of his store, then shook his index finger in the man’s face. Suddenly, a crack told him his hand was broken by some invisible force. He dropped the merchant with sudden pain. The old man shoved the injured extortionist away with both hands.
The gangster raised his good arm, hand clenched in a fist. He was sure his intended victim had broken his hand somehow. That hand snapped before he could bring it down.
The White Tiger ran away, hands in his armpits. Hopefully he had learned a lesson. Dragonmage followed behind him, another steel ball in his hand. He knew the word would go out while the Tiger was in the hospital getting casts for his hands. Eventually it would spread back to Li Jiane and then his hatchet man.
Dragonmage bounded across his aerial highway, looking for other White Tigers that might assist their wounded friend. He had all the time in the world to pursue his vendetta, now that he was dropping his pretense of normality.
Over the next few days, Dragonmage continued to terrorize the White Tigers with his invisible attacks. He had listened from across the street as one of them called Li Jiane from a cell phone. Soon, the hatchet man would return to stop him. Li Jiane would not back down from one man when he could have that man killed.
Danny hoped he was ready for the challenge. Retraining may have helped him, but he wasn’t sure. Matching his skills against the One’s was like comparing a Model-T to the newest Formula One car on the racetrack. He just had no way of gauging his ability until he started fighting. By then it would be too late. He couldn’t hope to use another trick to escape as he had in their first meeting.
Standing on the roof across from the Dragon Kanji restaurant, Dragonmage listened. The notes of everyday life formed music in his mind as he waited. Sooner or later, the hatchet man would appear to his challenge. Dragonmage could hear the pale thread that marked the assassin’s movements toward him.
“I told Li Jiane you would return to face me again,” the hatchet man said. “He didn’t believe me.”
“Our business shall be concluded one way or the other,” said Dragonmage. “I have waited a long time to meet and defeat you.”
“Shall we?” said the assassin, letting his suit jacket fall to the roof. Green flames lit in his eyes.
“Let’s,” said Dragonmage, matching fires of chi energy erupting in his own eyes.
The two fighters circled each other, gliding gracefully in place. Gravel on the roof danced from unseen vibrations as their auras clashed silently.
The sky over Chinatown thundered as green lightning flew overhead. People on the street looked up, trying to find the disturbance with searching eyes.
Dragonmage concentrated as his chi sliced the air with every move of his arms and legs. He decided to fight as defensively as he was allowed so that he could try to gauge his opponent’s skills. He knew his tactic was unsound. The hatchet man was slowly pushing him out of position with each block and counter. He could feel that, even as he tried to place an impenetrable shield in front of him.
Summoning his dragon fist, Dragonmage lunged with it in the hopes of blasting his enemy away. The hatchet man caught the blow in his open hand. The energy from the punch reflected from the opposing chi. The rooftop cracked, spitting gravel and burning tar as the two fighters were thrown away from each other.
“Impressive,” said the hatchet man. “You continue to surprise. It’s been many years since I have had to fight this hard.” His trained placidity let a smile slip through. “Let’s see how good you really are,” he said, dark hair fluttering in an unseen breeze.
He raised his open hand, then sliced the air diagonally. A ribbon of agitation reached for Danny. The Dragonmage brought his hand up to stab the strange attack with an index finger. The conflicting chi wrapped around the younger man. He was spun by the twisting ribbon, feet leaving the rooftop. He went with it, using the spin to generate velocity to turn into a human tornado. The hatchet man braced himself for the expected blows.
The funnel that was Danny Leong’s spinning form crashed against the assassin’s defenses at high speed. The hatchet man slid backward, using the rain of blows to propel himself in front of the miniature tornado. He braced his foot at the edge of the roof, and his cabled hand caught Danny’s wrist as the hatchet man turned. All of Danny’s momentum instantly ceased as he was thrown over the edge of the roof at bullet speed.
Dragonmage rotated to get his feet under him. For all of his abilities, flight was not one of them. He was trapped while he was in the air.
Sensing projectiles in the air heading toward, him, he twisted, hands flickering as he fell. The metal balls he carried suddenly appeared in front of the thrown gravel. The weapons compressed against each other, flattening into small discs and tiny pieces of stone. They fell slowly toward the street.
The Law’s Legionnaire lightly touched down on the roof of a car. He bounced to the street, missing a car rolling past in a hurry. Bystanders hurried out of the way. White Tigers, both injured and whole, stood watching in the door of the Dragon Kanji.
The hatchet man appeared on the street, using the face of the building as a running path. His dark suit fluttered around the rips caused by the fight so far. One slap of his hand on his jacket knocked most of the loose dirt off as he walked forward.
Li Jiane pushed his way to the front of the crowd of street gangsters. Fury clouded his features, as the private fight was suddenly a block party for the neighborhood around his restaurant. This fight had to be ended quickly in his favor, if he wanted his rivals to keep fearing him.
He grabbed a pistol from one of his henchmen. He would put an end to this. He took aim and fired as fast as he could pull the trigger.
Dragonmage twisted slightly, his sword flicking out in a short slash. Sliced bullets dribbled to the ground in halves as he completed the move. It was not as good as catching them, but the move averted any blow.
“Stay out of this, Li,” said the assassin pleasantly. A stab with his index finger sent a piece of gravel into the tong leader’s hand. The empty pistol clattered to the ground as the crime boss clutched the bloody wound blossoming on his hand.
Dragonmage waited as his foe picked up a metal waste basket on the nearby sidewalk. Short gestures turned the small basket into a bar of compressed steel. The hatchet man gave his weapon a couple of swings to check the balance. He nodded in satisfaction.
“Whenever you are ready,” the assassin said, holding the bar at his side.
Dragonmage started with a careful lunge. His sword was knocked aside as he thought it would be. He tried to slice on the recovery, the bar guiding his aim into the air. Small sparks accompanied the blows as the fighters drew in deep breaths for the next round.
The two masters made the air vibrate as their spirits clashed with each exchange of blows. Pieces of the street broke off the top of the asphalt and danced around them. Misses from the vanishing hands destroyed anything caught in the way of the lightning weapons. Spectators paused to watch, unaware of what could happen if the spinning whirlwind happened to leave the street for an instant.
Dragonmage turned, knocking the assassin’s club to one side. He brought his own weapon around in a complete circle. The bar moved to stop the swing, and the blade sliced through the compacted metal with a sharp whine. Both men were thrown down from the blow. Danny slid back against a battered Oldsmobile, while the assassin touched the curb and bounced to his feet. He warily approached the downed foe to finish the job.
The assassin raised one foot to smash his enemy’s skull into a spray of shattered bone. He knew Dragonmage had been knocked out by the backlash they had both suffered; he could hear it.
The hatchet man brought his foot down. He registered a change in his victim, but he was already committed to the killing blow. His foot hit the asphalt. Pieces of the street scattered as the impact drove into the street to form a bowl.
Dragonmage had moved at the last second, vanishing in a green blur. His sword flickered in the light. Green flame sliced along the hatchet man’s leg, spraying blood in a small cloud. He slid to a stop as the hatchet man fell over.
Danny recoiled from the landing, kicking low to send the hatchet man into a fire hydrant. Water sprayed from the damaged metal, running on the street in a small river. The hatchet man pulled himself into a sitting position, dark suit sopping wet from the artificial rain.
“A very good trick,” he said. “I fell for it like an amateur. What now?”
“I would dearly love to kill you while you are relatively helpless,” said Danny, wiping the blood off the blade with a cloth. “I would love to treat you the same as you did my father. Instead, I am going to let you live, knowing you will never be as good as I am.”
Danny then turned, sheathing his sword.
The hatchet man pulled the top of the hydrant off with a quick gesture of his hand, balancing it in his palm. He threw it point first at Danny’s back, and it cracked the air in flight like a bullet.
Dragonmage whirled, reacting to the pressure of the air moving across the body of the makeshift projectile. His dragon fist burned the air as he swung it in a lightning blow. His knuckles smashed in the bubble shape as it reversed its flight. He’ll knock it aside, Danny thought.
The crushed metal cap hit the hatchet man’s chest. It dug in, smashing through the rib cage, a lung, and then sliced through the hydrant behind him. The small geyser turned into a column before settling back down. The assassin collapsed to one side from the deadly blow.
“Chih Dou Wong is beholden to no one,” said the assassin with a small smile, blood leaking from the corner of his mouth, covering the front of his shirt.
Danny Leong waited quietly for the man to die. No medic in the world could replace a lung fast enough to stop that from happening. He didn’t have to wait long.
He turned to the watching crowd. Revenge wasn’t nearly as wonderful when it was accomplished as when he wanted it. The people looked at him in fear — all of them, not just Li Jiane and his White Tigers.
Dragonmage looked around once and then leaped upward. Using the Dragon Kanji’s sign as a vault horse, he vanished over a rooftop.
Dressed in jeans, T-shirt, and jacket, Danny Leong looked around the wreckage of his family’s old shop one last time. The fire had destroyed everything. He didn’t really care. His goal had been finally met. It was the end of a dream.
He picked up his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He needed time to consider what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He decided to travel for a while, walk the roads until he decided what he wanted to do. Maybe he could catch up with the One, wherever he was going to be.
Danny started walking, and the residents who knew him fled inside their homes and businesses. The battle in the street had attracted the attention of the police for the moment. Li Jiane had put his operations on hold while the heat was on. Danny knew that wouldn’t last long. He had half a mind to stay just to finish breaking the Chinese gangster.
A police car rolled to a stop beside the fighter as he walked down the street. He glanced over, recognizing the driver with a drawn brow as she rolled down her window.
“Need a lift?” Billie Gunn asked.
“I think I can get to where I’m going on my own,” Danny said. “Thank you for the offer.”
“Where are you going?” asked the policewoman.
“I don’t know yet,” said Danny. “I have a lot of thinking to do. If you or the team need me, call Uncle Greg. I’ll let him know where I am so I can be reached.”
“Good luck, Danny,” said Billie.
The police car pulled away as Danny started walking again.