A Highlander/Kung Fu The Legend Continues Crossover
By Henry Wyckoff and Scott Vodvarka
January 22, 1996

Chapter 9

Duncan led the way from Caine's apartment, even though it was Caine who knew where to go, apparently. Duncan was angry --angry at himself, at Kenny, at Caine. Though he knew that Caine believed that he was doing the right thing, Duncan wished that he had never made that impulsive vow.

The voice of a long-dead, nameless Quaker preacher echoed in his mind, "...Never swear an oath, for how can you know what tomorrow will bring? Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no..." A wise saying that he never remembered when he really needed it.

Powys put a hand on Duncan's shoulder, stopping him. "Duncan? The car's over here."

Everyone else was waiting at the car, looking at Duncan with odd expressions on their faces. Only Caine did not -- his eyes were full of pity rather than concern. Duncan glared at Caine and got in the back seat, with a near sulk on his face.

The Ancient watched them depart from the window. Though he wished he could accompany them, he knew that his duty was much more important -- the souls of the dead must be cared for...

"So Pop," said Peter, trying to break the dead silence in the car. Normally, when he drove he preferred quiet, but for some reason, he needed somebody to say something -- so he did. "Where is this place?"

"Just drive. I will tell you when you stray from the path."

//Just great!// fumed Peter. //Why not say, 'Just follow my directions.'??//

Grumbling under his breath, he drove straight for a while. When his father said nothing, he turned left down a main street. When Caine still remained quiet, Peter was getting a rather odd feeling. Turning right at random, Caine still remained silent.

"Pop!" he yelped. "You're supposed to tell me where to go!"

"I have no need to when you're already going the right way."

Peter had no time for this. He gunned the engine and made random turns here and there. Eventually, they reached a large, active warehouse. But since this was after hours, it might as well have been an abandoned one. Even the security lights were out. Peter glared at his father, who shrugged helplessly.

Powys scanned the place quickly, then he spoke softly, "There has been a great movement of people recently."

It was Peter's turn now to get frustrated, "And how can you determine that, O Great Reader of Foot-tracks? This is an ASPHALT parking lot!"

Powys didn't look ruffled or disturbed at all, "Asphalt can sometimes be the best source of foot-tracks, because nobody bothers to clean their tracks. Do you smell the burned oil and exhaust in the air? A lot of vans moved through here in the last half hour, and they were driving very fast. See the skid marks? Those are very fresh."

Richie sniffed visibly and nodded, "Now that I think about it, I'm surprised I didn't notice it."

Powys smiled, "You're starting to look at the obvious!"

"Let's get going!" grunted Duncan, leading the way.

Getting in didn't prove to be a problem. It was empty. There wasn't a soul here -- not even a cockroach.

"This is just great, POP!" snarled Peter, waving around at all the empty space around them. "Do you have any other great leads?"

"Yes," said Caine gravely, pointing upwards.

A heavy, thickly-oiled net fell on them from above, dragging them to the floor. The net was perhaps about fifty feet across, and weighed almost as much as a man. The ropes were the kind used for mooring ships -- almost a full foot thick. The net's weight and the thick oil prevented them from moving -- and ruined Peter's new set of clothes. He was the one who struggled the most, somehow managing to get filthier than the rest of the group put together.

Duncan snarled, "Really damned sloppy!" He drew his sword and sliced the net rather neatly. They were able to slip out in a few moments, but then realized that they were now surrounded by a hundred black-clothed assassins. Jin Ming was at the front of the circle, laughing. The buzz that came from the suddenness of his arrival rattled Duncan's mind and nerves.

"So you came," laughed Jin Ming like a host welcoming friends and family to a Christmas party. "I was beginning to worry that you didn't care for the kid after all. -- But where's my manners? Come and meet my wonderful staff!"

Jin Ming waved at the assassins, who began to move in on them. Duncan, already having a bad day, totally snapped and charged towards Jin Ming, who suddenly began to look worried -- that look soon left his face, however, as if he'd remembered an important detail. Duncan didn't pay any attention to these details, because he was seeing red.

It was like running through beach sand. The ropes of the net were thick, and the oil was so sticky it slowed Duncan down. When he reached Jin Ming, he was so exhausted that he could barely move his arms, let alone his feet. When he slashed, he realized that all the oil from the ropes had also thickly coated his blade -- making it heavy and dull.

It was now about twice its weight, and Jin Ming knew it. He danced lightly around Duncan, daintily poking and tapping him with his light, straight sword.

The others were faring about the same as Duncan. The assassins slowly moved in, taking their time, posing theatrically.

Powys shook his head, "Bloody amateurs -- we'll make short work of them!"

Caine was the least disturbed by this development, "You sound as if you would want them to be professionals -- I take it you prefer decorum above safety?"

"I think they're killing me by making me die laughing. Did you see that guy slip over there?"

Peter and Richie weren't amused or unafraid -- all they saw was the number of assassins closing in and all they felt was their blood racing through their bodies, letting the adrenaline tag along with it.

After what seemed like hours, but was more likely just a few moments, the assassins finally reached them. The battle had begun in earnest. Peter and Caine reflexively fought back-to-back, forming a large, empty circle in the midst of the assassins -- a hole that grew and grew.

The two complemented each other very well. Where Caine was relaxed, effortlessly slamming and throwing the assassins around, Peter was using his muscles too much, wearing himself out pretty quickly -- but dramatically pummeling the assassins and doing those 'flopping noodle' flying kicks that he was famous for.

Peter got a slam kick into the gut that sent him flying into Caine, who snapped, "Relax!"

"Yeah," breathed Peter sarcastically. "Relax!"

Richie found that while his training with Duncan had helped him to appreciate the Oriental manner of fighting, he was still unprepared. While he was no stranger to fighting, he was more used to Brooklyn bruisers named Bruno than assassins who trained most of their lives in a different system. Again and again, he would get slammed or stabbed, and thanked his immortality for bringing him through. If it hadn't been for that, he might have been killed in the very beginning.

Powys suddenly laughed out loud and pulled out an automatic sawed-off shotgun, firing away at the mass of assassins closing in on him. He made sure he only fired it away from Caine, Peter, and Richie. In those instances where one of them was in the way, he would bash heads in with the butt of the shotgun.

At one point, Caine looked at Powys when he was momentarily reloading, and he answered the unspoken question with another one; "So what? It works!"

More assassins moved in before Caine could form a reply.

In the meantime, Duncan and Jin Ming were at a stalemate. Duncan was the superior fighter, but the strange oil had really dragged him down and exhausted him. Jin Ming's weakness was his inability to fight fairly -- but to his credit, he fought like a man.

Jin Ming was playing hard-to-get; staying at the edge of Duncan's reach, and slipping in with trivial cuts and stabs. His aim was to play, not to kill, and it frustrated Duncan to no end.

Whether it was by skill or chance was uncertain, but Jin Ming made a momentary slip, giving Duncan the chance to step in. The now augmented mass of the sword gave it more of a punch than it normally had. When it slammed into Jin Ming's chest, it knocked him down as if he had been hit by a ten ton hammer. When his torso slammed into the ground, it made the sound of a giant bass drum, then the sound of bones cracking. Blood soon flowed out of his mouth, as well as through the holes where the ribs poked through.

Duncan stood above Jin Ming's body, panting and heaving, his eyes wild as he was glad the fight was over and yet frustrated that he didn't have an opponent to fight anymore. A wild urge filled him, and he smiled insanely, "There can be only one!"

"MacLeod!" called Caine's voice from across the room. "Remember your promise!"

Duncan looked around and saw that the fighting had ended. All of the assassins were lying in piles on the floor -- some dead and some alive. Caine was approaching him without any apparent difficulty.

Duncan struggled within himself, wanting to kill the man, but also reminding himself that he made a vow. That didn't make much of an impact, but then he remembered that this man was the only one who could reverse Amanda's condition. Screaming in bass, he yelled at Jin Ming, "Your life may be spared, but you won't be!" Feeling a streak of maliciousness, he dragged Jin Ming by his arms, worsening his conditioning and preventing his ribs from healing.

Caine looked at this in sadness, making his own inner conclusions as he saw Duncan intentionally torture a man, but he also knew that Duncan's emotions were like a volcano that needed some kind of release -- better that he release them in an honest fashion, and perhaps learn the error of his ways, than to bottle them up and explode. There was not much Caine could say anyway, for Duncan had only made a vow to spare the man's life.

A small voice within Caine relished Jin Ming's punishment. It was the remnant of what he once had been before he'd begun to purge himself of his baser self. He quelled that inner voice.

The trip to Caine's apartment seemed to take much longer than it actually was. Under Caine's watchful eye -- watchful of Duncan -- Jin Ming healed to a certain extent. His ribs were sore, but mended. Peter watched this with a shaking head, as if he still couldn't believe it, but he remained quiet -- he could take the occasional hint.

They arrived at the apartment to find that the Ancient had dealt with Kenny's body. On a prominent table rested a golden urn where none had been before.

Amanda remained where she was, and Duncan dragged Jin Ming to her body. "Heal her!" Demanded Duncan, his eyes blazing.

Jin Ming sneered, "And what will you do to me if I don't? Kill me?"

Before Duncan could say anything, Caine moved in and stared him down. "You know the rules, Jin Ming. You have been defeated in a fair fight. Reverse your damage -- you know you have no choice."

That seemed to be the magic sentence. Duncan, Powys, and Richie were baffled as to why it should be so effective, but Caine didn't explain himself. The Ancient and Peter kept quiet as well.

Trembling, Jin Ming laid his hands on Amanda. Peter's eyes widened a bit, Powys looked as if he was bored -- but Duncan and Richie saw nothing but just that simple action. However, Amanda's eyes opened. She was weak, but her eyes showed a cleanliness of spirit that had been absent.

Jin Ming turned around, his utter humiliation visible through his eyes. "Go on, Highlander. Finish it."

Duncan smiled, "I'd love to. But I swore an oath to Caine not to kill you."

The killer looked at Caine with a sardonic expression, "Hmph! How noble of you, Shaolin."

"Shut up and follow me," snapped Peter, slapping the cuffs on Jin Ming, happy at last, since he finally had someone to arrest. He even stopped glaring at Duncan, but he did give Duncan and Richie a warning, "You'd better stay out of town. I can't arrest you since you're supposed to be dead... but I have a habit of breaking the rules. And if you're ever connected to a beheading around here -- I don't even care if you're back in Vancouver when I find out -- I'm taking you in."

Duncan smiled at him, his eyes expressionless as Peter hauled off the killer. "I believe you would," he said. His expression changed when he saw Amanda, slowly gaining her strength and consciousness.

"Kenny?" Amanda asked, her voice very slurred and cracked.

"Hush, child," whispered the Ancient, wiping her face with an herb-soaked cloth, "you have been comatose for many hours. You must give your body time to heal."

Amanda, not knowing that they knew her secret, and ignorant of the fact that the Ancient had a 'mothering' personality, didn't argue with him. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply.

Duncan sat by her side, "Kenny is dead."

Amanda's eyes snapped open, "You KILLED him?!" She tried to get up, but the Ancient held her down. She was too weak to overpower him.

"I didn't kill him," said Duncan softly. "It was Jin Ming. The monster tried to take your head after he poisoned you, while we were out trying to find him, and Kenny delayed him long enough for us to get back. He died bravely." His voice caught, but he held his emotions well.

Caine sat by her other side, feeling her pulse with three of his fingers, "His last words to Jin Ming were, 'You might take my head, but you won't kill me.' I think you should be proud of him -- he found his inner self, and atoned for his misdeeds. He met his death with a clean and tranquil soul, which is the closest thing to heaven as any of us can reach."

It sank into Amanda. She tried to hold it back, but the tears came. Caine looked disturbed, "Grieve. Don't be afraid to show your sadness. Sadness and happiness are two sides of the same coin, and without one, we may not know the other." He released Amanda's wrist, and passed a hand over her face. She soon fell asleep.

He looked at Duncan gravely, "She will sleep for the next few hours as her chi finds its balance. I would strongly suggest leaving her here. I have room for you, should you wish to stay."

//It's holy ground,// he remembered. Duncan bowed, "I would be greatly honored by your request." He gave Caine his katana, bowing once more. Caine accepted it with a bow as well. Then Duncan surrendered his two knives in the same manner.

Caine smiled, "My son, you have paid your debt to me. It would not have mattered to me whether Jin Ming lived or died. We all find our own rewards or punishments. It was *YOU* I was concerned about, and it was your soul I was trying to protect."

It was not realization, but Enlightenment, that hit Duncan. His eyes shone with the wordless realization. Some require loans, some require lifelong fasts and self-punishment -- and some require simple statements of mundane truth.

There needs to be some balance in all things, and it was achieved: as Richie looked at this whole exchange with complete bafflement. But he became enlightened in a totally different way; "God!! I stink like a pig!"

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