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Way of the Warrior

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This story is No. 2 in the series "The Heart of the Dragon". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: Xander has embraced the Iron Fist, becoming the Immortal Weapon of K'un-L'un. But, with that come new challenges, and old ones. Sequel to Like a Thing Unto Iron.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Marvel Universe > Marvel Knights
Television > Law and Order
Television > Sons of Anarchy
neoolongFR1814143,74794127,25512 Dec 089 Aug 09Yes

Chapter Eight: No One But the Fighters

Xander raised his hands, feeling the gauze wrapped around them tighten as he clenched them into fists. The hand wraps were a reminder that the fight wasn’t meant to be to the death. That wasn’t the purpose of the Tournament, but from the exposition from the night before, it was still a not too unlikely outcome.

Xander circled to his left, feeling the light wind on his bare chest as he moved. Fat Cobra was adorned in the same uniform that he had had on during his last fight. The only difference now was the length of thick wood in the man’s right hand. It was a crude cudgel with a strip of cloth wrapped around an end in order to form a makeshift grip.

It was allowed in the Tournament so long as it followed in the style of the particular Immortal Weapon. Dog Brother #1 would likely use the swords that he had strapped to his back. Despite the guns he had used in battle before, such things would not be allowed for the Iron Fist. And he was not expert enough in any acceptable weapon to use in this battle. More’s the pity.

Fat Cobra broke the silence with a yell, reaching back with his right hand, an arc of electricity extending from the cudgel and marking its path through the air.

“Crap,” Xander exclaimed, flipping backwards as a bolt of lightning exploded from the weapon and arched towards him. He could feel the heat created by the electricity, and the ozone burned his nose. Evidently Fat Cobra had held back the night before, though likely because he didn’t need to resort to his full range of powers.

“Excellent speed,” Fat Cobra complimented his opponent as he threw out a couple of other lightning bolts from his club. He watched as the boy flipped into the air, dodging his strikes. Though he had yet to see the boy’s combat skills, he had to admit that his reflexes were excellent. “But, that is no match for my explosive strategist mind.”

Xander ignored the comment, as he landed on the ground in a crouch. He concentrated on what he should do, knowing that he couldn’t dodge forever. That train of thought was derailed as a straight bolt of lightning hit him in the stomach, his chi nearly automatically rushing forward to deflect some of the energy. It wasn’t enough though as the Iron Fist was thrown back against the wall of the large stone auditorium that they were doing battle in.

He picked himself up off the ground, wiping the corner of his mouth clean of blood. It felt like he had just gotten hit in the chest with a wrecking ball. Knowing that defense wouldn’t work forever, Xander bolted forward in a burst of speed, launching himself in the air with a vicious rising kick.

The air time was impressive as he flew the air, the heel of his foot connecting with Fat Cobra’s chin.

“Oomph!” Fat Cobra blurted out, his head rocking back a couple of inches from the impact. That was all it did though, the sumo still planted in his spot.

Xander didn’t let it faze him, instead dropping to the ground and twirling in a vicious spinning kick into the back of Fat Cobra’s knee. It was like hitting a tree trunk, though the blow did bring the large man to the ground.

The Iron Fist had to dodge back as his opponent lashed out with the electrically empowered piece of wood. The bolt nearly struck him in the face as he cartwheeled away.

Fat Cobra took the time to get to his feet, his speed allowing him to rise faster than expected. He swung his cudgel around again, sending forth another bolt of electricity. This one was different however, as a thick, horizontal bolt of electricity shot forth at his opponent.

Xander only had time to dodge to his left a few inches, before the bolt curved towards him. He looked down as the electricity encircled his waist, connecting him to the handle that Fat Cobra was pulling back. “Oh cra-“

Fat Cobra waited for the Iron Fist to fly towards him, pulling back his left hand in order to form a fist. He was not quick enough to bring it forward again to counter the elbow that flew into his face. The Iron Fist utilizing the momentum of the grab to put more impact into his blow.

Xander looked over his shoulder and saw Fat Cobra stumble back, as his elbow stopped reverberating from the impact. He didn’t waste the opportunity, flipping forward over his head, right leg extended behind him. The Iron Fist kicked the cudgel out Fat Cobra’s hand, the wood flipping end over end. The Iron Fist followed up with an aerial roundhouse kick, hitting the cudgel far into the arena and away from his mountainous opponent.

“Alright,” Xander said, calming himself down and going on the offensive. He pulled his chi to his fists, causing them to burst into flames with his power.

“You are a venerated opponent, but you will lose this fight,” Fat Cobra growled, beginning to get into the fight. He swung a fist, the hand blurring from the lightning fast speed.

Xander ducked down, hearing the strike whistle past above his head. He looked up at the Fat Cobra, noticing the aggressive look on the Immortal Weapon’s face. “Let’s go.”

Xander rose up in a strike to the stomach, the power of the Iron Fist allowing him to hit harder than any normal human. It was like hitting a steel wall, though he knew that it had an effect. He scooted forward, raising his right leg and bringing it down in a snap in a brutal axe kick to Fat Cobra’s head.

Fat Cobra raised his hand to his face, pulling back from the blow.

The Iron Fist followed up and moved closer, sending lightening quick punches to the man’s now unprotected chest. They blurred and flowed into each other as Xander found a rhythm, his glowing yellow fists streaking with their power.

xxx

“Now that the thieves have been taken care of, I think we can turn our attention on the Casket of Ancient Winters itself,” Giles said, after Buffy had finished telling the story of their confrontation with Menlo and his crew. While he had not been pleased that yet another teenager had discovered their secret, he was glad that nobody had been hurt or killed.

Amy briefly glanced over at Scott, still somewhat unused to the boy’s presence. Oz was there as well, though he was a much more regular presence, despite his continued tangential position in their struggle. Sometimes even Cordelia showed up, but she got the feeling that that was more for her own benefit than anything else. It paid to be informed on the Hellmouth, and the witch believed that Cordelia was more intelligent, or more self-aware, than she let on. “It’s…it’s in a safe place.”

“Amy, I think that the safest place would be here for now. I can send it to the Council for storage,” Giles explained gently, turning to face the witch. “They have very secure facilities and store a number of dangerous artifacts.”

Amy hesitated before answering. While Xander was off on his walkabout, she had worked closely with Giles and the others. And while she did trust them, she had become aware Xander and Jenny’s attitudes towards the Watchers’ Council. It wasn’t in anything specific that they said, but she got the feeling that the situation in regards to Vi and the other potentials had raised questions that they didn’t have satisfactory answers to. “It’s in a safe place now.”

“I know that Jenny has trained you in a number of areas, and you probably do know spells that would help to keep the item safe, but something of this power needs to be secured extremely well,” Giles lectured her. While Amy had improved greatly in her control of magic as well as power, she was still quite young and new to the practice. “It is very dangerous.”

The witch just shook her head, wavering a little. He was right that she was no expert, not yet at least. “I don’t know. Nobody knows that it’s here, it should be safe enough. But, if you want, we can wait until Xander and Ms. Calendar get back.”

Giles wasn’t surprised that she had suggested that. Still, he was concerned that the young man had placed himself so centrally in all of the affairs that occurred on the Hellmouth. Especially in something that he wasn’t even tangentially connected to. The boy had, after all, broken into his home. Albeit at Orson’s behest. Xander’s presence was felt even now, when he wasn’t even in the state.

“If that’s the way you feel, then that’s what we shall have to do,” the Watcher concluded in defeat. He had seen the expression on Amy’s face many times on Buffy’s. The obstinance that was common in the current youth could be quite taxing. There would be no moving her.

xxx

Jenny frowned as she looked down into the crowd. Sitting a couple of rows below her, she could identify two other Immortal Weapons. The Prince of Orphans was easily identified from his old brown robe, and the Steel Serpent was clear from his mockery of an Iron Fist mask.

“Five hundred on the little one,” the Prince of Orphans stated, audible in a random lapse of volume from the crowd.

Davos nodded, smirking to the man sitting beside him. “Deal.”

Jenny turned her attention back on the fight in disgust, watching as Xander struck Fat Cobra. He was doing quite well in her opinion, despite his youth. Although, Fat Cobra had gotten a number of good hits in during the beginning of the fight.

She ignored the glances that had been thrown her way. Although they hadn’t been in the city long, her position at Xander’s side had made her the subject of much gossip in the City. He had been accompanied by a number of women, though the affection that he had shown her in particular had marked her as the one that was sharing their hero's bed. And while she wasn’t one to follow celebrity gossip back home, she knew what it would entail.

The gypsy had yet to find it particularly annoying, since it had amounted to little more than the occasional look and whisper. Still, most of the time it was in a language that she couldn’t understand; English not being as common as some of the other languages spoken in K’un-L’un.

“Do you think that he can win?” Vi asked, looking over at Jenny. She could see that they were evenly matched for the most part, at least power-wise, but Xander had taught her that there was more to a fight than that. And that was the area that Xander was lacking in.

“I don’t know,” Jenny said, watching as Xander had to give ground to Fat Cobra’s attacks. They were going back and forth now, both of them cautious. Still, she knew that a loss for Xander would not be the worst thing in the world. Coming back not too badly injured was much more important in her opinion.

Vi just nodded. She could hear Faith rustling in the seat next to her, probably getting into the fight. She had not seen Xander fight that much, so much of it was likely a surprise. He had held back his real power during his sparring match with Colleen after all.

She looked over at her fellow potential and her Watcher. While Faith was thoroughly engrossed in the fight, Diana looked a little lost in thought, as if unaware to what was going on around her, though the woman was still observing the fight.

xxx

The Iron Fist kicked out again, impacting against his opponent’s stomach again. He knew that he was doing damage, although he couldn’t tell exactly how much. What he did know though, was that Fat Cobra was in little danger of going down for the count any time soon.

Xander punched again, Fat Cobra taking that as well. He followed up with a right, only to have his fist covered by one of Fat Cobra’s gigantic ones. He only had a moment to identify his opponent’s move, his mind tagging it as the Devil’s Skullcrusher.

It lived up to its name as it smacked him square in the face. The force of the blow should have sent him flying back into the arena, but Fat Cobra was still holding him. His head snapped back, the hit stunning him.

Fat Cobra made use of his advantage and sent fist after fist into his opponent’s face. None of them were particularly hard, relatively speaking, instead utilizing speed to batter at the Iron Fist. Their cumulative effect made the boy punch drunk.

Xander coughed out, having a hard time focusing before another fist hit him in the face. He couldn’t get his free arm up in time to block, as it felt heavy, as if made of lead. He shook himself, jerking his head out of the way of yet another strike, the sudden movement causing his head to ache even more. HE pulled back, and launched himself as best as he could at Fat Cobra, head butting the large sumo wrestler with all of his might, though it made his arm feel like it was going to rip out of the socket.

The two of them fell back, Fat Cobra having to let go of Xander in order to clutch at his face. Xander merely dropped to his knees, not having the energy to do much else but slump there.

Fat Cobra recovered quickly, shaking his head as he approached his spirited opponent. He had had qualms about fighting Xander, knowing that he had not been in his station for very long before being called for the Tournament. It had been one of the reasons he had chosen him as his first opponent, a number of the others would not have been as cautious as he had in the beginning stages of the battle. “You show spirit and strength. Now let us test not your skills, but your wisdom.”

He used a large foot to push the Iron Fist onto his back. Kneeling down, Fat Cobra grasped Xander by the shoulder. “Do you yield?”

Xander said nothing, looking up at Fat Cobra’s face. There was no anger or enmity there, but he was too tired to do anything. He tried to open his mouth to vocalize, but couldn’t.

Fat Cobra frowned and punched down, striking Xander hard across the face. “Yield.”

Xander felt as if his teeth were loose as pain exploded in his head. As much as he may have wanted to win, he wasn’t going to give up a chance to end the fight. It hurt to open his mouth again, but he managed. “Yeah.”

Fat Cobra was about to strike again, but heard his opponent’s mutterings. He stopped, and stood up, looking down at his fallen opponent. Though the Iron Fist had lost, he had fought well, and there was no dishonor in that.

The large sumo looked over to the end of the arena, a large stone platform built into one end of it. On it stood the referee for the day’s battle, in this case, the Crane Mother.

“The Iron Fist yields!” The Crane Mother shouted, her voice magically amplified so that all in the stadium could hear her words. “Fat Cobra wins!”

“Hoo-tah!” Fat Cobra smiled and raised his arms wide in triumph. He turned around and scanned the crowd, eyes falling upon his entourage coming to approach him. “Bring me my victory wenches!”

xxx

Giles sighed, looking down at the sheet of paper in front of him. He had been sitting there for a number of minutes already, the page still blank. He was trying to write his report to the Council on the incident regarding the Casket of Ancient Winters, but it was not coming very easily. He had been used to fudging some of the facts in his reports to the Council before, but this was something else.

The Council required their operatives to report any significant artifacts that were found. If necessary, they were to secure all items in order for them to be collected for Council stores if they were not disposed of first.

He did not want to turn against Amy’s wishes, and thus he was having trouble with what to write in his report. If he revealed the existence of the Casket, and that it had been recovered, then the Council would undoubtedly question why he did not recover it. On the other hand, he could not lie to the Council so directly either.

He had already edged close enough to the line in his attempts to appease Xander and Jenny’s minds in regards to the Council. And while the pair might have had a point, he never questioned that they had the best of intentions. Questionable methods perhaps, but it was always for a noble purpose.

Sighting, Giles picked up his pen again and bent down to write.

xxx

Xander walked in silence, his footsteps echoing off the stone floor. He was feeling better, having had the chance to heal himself with his chi. He would be okay for his next fight, though he wasn’t particularly looking forward to it.

Moving closer to the wall, Xander stared at the exhibit on a raised platform that was in front of him. There was a stuffed dummy there, a uniform laid upon it. It was a simple set of dark green pants and a jacket in a lighter shade. Both of them were made of a canvas-like material. A length of yellow cloth completed it. Looking at a plaque beneath the display, it verified what he thought it meant.

“Bei Ming-Tian,” the plaque read. It was the uniform of one of the earlier Iron Fists. To the right and the left, there were other dummies, with other uniforms. Some of them similar, some of them not. There was no significant pattern to the evolution of the costumes, but he knew that they had been changed to suit the needs and personalities of the different members that had braved the dragon.

Xander moved forward, looking at the other displays mounted on the walls behind the uniforms. There were weapons and paintings, as well as other objects. Some of them were only there for the sentimental value that they had had for their owners, many of them he recognized from reading the Book of the Iron Fist.

He passed a few, stopping in front of one that was very different from the others. Not in style, but in cut. This one belonged to the one Iron Fist that had been a woman.

Wu Ao-Shi. One of the biggest influences on advancing Iron Fist techniques. At least it had been for Orson, and for him. He took a step closer, examining the finely silken fabric of the uniform. He had no idea how she had managed to keep such a fragile material from getting damaged given the amount of trouble they found themselves into.

He looked at the other artifacts, noticing a fishing pole and a few odds and ends. His eye was drawn by the sparkling of two silver rings that hung on bands of leather. As he grasped them, they glowed with the power of the Iron Fist, dying down as he took them off of their peg.

“You know what those are, correct?” a voice called out from the far end of the hall.

Xander looked over his shoulder, easily identifying the deep voice of Lei-Kung. He placed the rings into a pocket as he stepped back and turned to face the man. “Yes.”

Lei Kung moved closer, looking around at the different displays that were in the room. It was a large chamber, the uniforms and significant belongings of sixty six Iron Fists had their weight. “No one has been in here for some time. Only a few may enter.”

“I know,” Xander said, knowing that the Iron Fist had been granted a special place in the heart of K’un-L’un. A large building that served a number of functions, from training dojo to home. The hall that they were standing in served as a place of remembrance. The Book of the Iron Fist had been kept there, until Orson had taken it.

The Thunderer nodded as he walked down the hall, Xander following in tow. “You feel that strongly about her?”

Xander nodded.

“Then I think that she would have wanted you to have those,” Lei-Kung said.

Xander nodded again. “You knew her. You trained her.”

“As I did many of your predecessors.” Lei-Kung walked to the end of the row, standing in front of the last of the displays. “She was a strong stubborn girl and grew into a strong stubborn woman.”

“Why was she the only woman to serve as the Iron Fist?” Xander asked, looking over at the Thunderer. “As far as I can tell, she served her station well enough.”

Lei-Kung shrugged. “It is not my place to question the decisions that Yu-Ti makes. Only to execute them. But, she did do honor to those that went before her.”

Xander frowned, but said nothing. Instead, he turned his attention to the last of the Iron Fist uniforms. He recognized the green turtleneck and cargo pants easily. A brown belt was around the waist, the ammunition and equipment pouches empty. The double holster that had been a signature of the last Iron Fist was empty of Orson’s customary twin .45’s as well.

The Thunderer looked at the uniform as well, a familiar ache once again appearing in his heart. He could never show it, but training so many Iron Fists and knowing what it meant to train another, did weigh heavily upon his soul. It was one of the curses of his status in their society. He would always outlive them all. “Just because it is not my place to question, does not mean that I always agree with Yu-Ti’s decisions. Especially now.”

Xander turned his head slowly to look at the Thunderer, an expression of questioning on his face.

“It is the prerogative of the Thunderer to choose whom to train,” Lei-Kung continued, ignoring the boy’s look. He was the war master of K’un-L’un, and the City’s defense was under his purview. “As I suppose, it is yours.”

xxx

“What’s up with Amy and Xander?” Scott asked, walking on the sidewalk next to Buffy. It had been a number of hours since the talk at Giles’ place, and though new, he could easily detect the tension that had been in the room.

Buffy shrugged a little. She didn’t know exactly how much to reveal about Xander, given how secretive he had been about his powers. Still, Amy had mentioned him in such a way that it was clear that he was involved. The same could be said of their computer teacher. “I don’t know. I know that Ms. Calendar was teaching her, and that Xander had been the one to find out that Amy could do magic. But, I guess I didn’t know that they had become so close.”

“Seems like Giles had a problem with Amy wanting to wait until Xander got back,” Scott noted, looking across the street. It was a store he had passed a number of times before. The local magic shop, and though he had never been in there before, he figured it was one of those New Age deals that sold to the gullible. Now, he wasn’t too sure.

“Yeah,” Buffy remarked pensively. She wouldn’t say that Giles was particularly antagonistic towards Xander, but she had to admit that he had not looked particularly happy about Amy placing his authority below that of Xander. She got the feeling that there was something between Giles and Xander that she didn’t know about.

“Watchers. Weird name.” Scott turned back to Buffy. “You think it means anything that Giles’ wants this thing so badly?”

Buffy shrugged, and looked at him. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe we can ask Willow to look into it,” Scott added, noticing Buffy’s contemplative expression. “There could be something on the Internet about them.”

Buffy just nodded.

It made her think though. She actually didn’t know very much about the Council outside of Giles and Merrick, and Nancy to a lesser extent. There was a whole organization and leadership that she knew nothing about. For some reason, that worried her.

xxx

Xander ducked and rolled, simultaneously dodging Vi’s kick as well as finding a better position. He regained his feet and struck out in a punch to Vi’s side. He nodded as she blocked it with an upraised forearm and swung in a left hook. He blocked it easily, and followed up with a few punches of his own. He was pleased as the potential was able to deflect his strikes.

“A little faster,” Xander said, noting that Vi was beginning to sweat, though she was not moving as fast as she could.

Vi nodded, snapping out in a ferocious roundhouse kick that nearly caught Xander in the face.

“Good,” Xander said, noting the power that the blow had. It was more than most potentials would have, he knew that much. The innate power that the potentials had was barely utilized until they were Called. It was not that they could become Slayers without that happening, but there was more of the gift that they could pull from. It was still new to him, as well as Vi, but he knew that she improving dramatically as a result. Though largely through trial and error, and tremendous effort.

They continued to spar together for another twenty minutes, going faster and faster until their limbs were almost blurring. Though he was outwardly calm, Xander was thinking about multiple things at the same time. He knew that the Thunderer’s words earlier had meaning to them that he was not willing to explicitly state. It was rather annoying that Lei-Kung clung so much to tradition, at least on the surface. Especially since he had no idea what the old warrior was trying to tell him.

“That’s good,” Xander said, lowering his hands from the fighting stance that he had been in. It had been a good workout, and the injuries that he had gotten from the fight with Fat Cobra could not be felt in an appreciable manner. One of the better perks. “Good work, Vi.”

“Are you sure you should be doing this,” Vi asked, using her shirt to wipe some sweat off of her forehead. She looked over at her teacher in concern after she had done so.

“Yeah. It’ll be at least a few days before I have to fight again,” Xander said, walking over to the side of the dojo and picking up a towel. He used it to wipe off, placing it back onto the bench after he was finished and took a seat.

The place was set up similarly to what Orson had made in the warehouse back in Sunnydale, though this one had been more intentionally designed towards the training of Iron Fists. The lack of mats and the enchanted pads had been geared specifically towards the enhanced abilities of the Iron Fists. Much better than the makeshift equipment that Orson had come up with.

“What do you mean?” Vi asked, taking a seat next to him.

“It’s a double-elimination tournament,” Xander explained. “Everyone fights twice. I just go into the losers bracket. Just have to wait until the other fighters have a chance to fight.”

“Do you think you can win?” Vi asked.

Xander shrugged. “Probably not, but that’s not really the important thing.”

“Davos is,” Vi said quietly.

Xander just looked at her. She was right that that had been where his motivation had laid. And he knew exactly where it had gotten him, even if it had sort of worked out. “Yeah.”

“Do you think maybe it’s blinding you?” Vi asked, after a moment. She knew how much his original teacher had meant to Xander, and she could imagine how she would react if something had happened to her Watcher. That Xander had had it done in front of him was all the worse.

Xander smiled briefly. “Maybe. Probably.”

“And you think that that’s okay?” Vi pushed, a little harder. “Did you talk to Ms. Calendar about this?”

“Kinda sorta.” Xander looked away. “You think I should just let it go?”

Vi shook her head. “You’re the one that told me to use my head. You think that going after Davos for vengeance’s sake is smart? Even if he deserves to die?”

Xander said nothing for a moment. She was probably right; more than that actually. Of course, it was never so easy as that. “Yeah, you’re probably right.”

“See,” Vi said, smiling. She dropped it after a moment though, putting a hand on his thigh. “I’m glad that you’re going to be okay.”

“So this is what you guys have gotten up to.” Faith smirked as she leaned against the wooden frame of the doorway that connected the hallway to the training room.

Vi looked over at her, removing her hand from Xander’s leg as discreetly as she could.

xxx

Lei-Kung stood with his back straight as he looked at a small bunch of flowers that were hanging upside down in the large bedroom that belonged to Xander. He remembered it from the day before, it was the one that the Iron Fist had been given by that little girl.

“Is there something you wanted?” Jenny asked, her arms crossed over her chest. She wasn’t particularly angry at the Thunderer, although she wasn’t particularly happy about what had happened earlier. Even if Xander could heal himself, physically at least. Lei-Kung was just an easy target.

“I am concerned about Xander,” the Thunderer stated, turning around to face the woman. It was something that he had felt better to keep amongst the warriors, but Xander had turned out to be more strong-headed than most of his students. “He fought well today, but his outburst last night speaks of much turmoil in his heart. He is losing control.”

“Because he wants to avenge Orson’s death?” Jenny asked.

The Thunderer just looked at her, examining her closely. He supposed he could see why the boy would be attracted to such a woman, but there was something deeper that drew him to her so closely in so short a time. “Because he wants vengeance. And it is blinding him.”

Jenny softened, relaxing her stance. She had to admit that he was right. While she did agree that Davos had to be punished, Xander was becoming too focused on it. He sought vengeance, and that was one thing that she all too well. “You know how boneheaded he can be. Do you think that I can convince him, to what? Let Davos go?”

“I’m not asking Xander to let him go.” Lei-Kung said, detecting the Iron Fist powers in the room. Others that could detect such things might have attributed it to the accumulation of the Iron Fists that had taken residence in that place, but he knew that it was something else entirely. “And, I know that you can convince him.”

It was not something that he would have believed that Xander could do. While there had been stories in the history of past Iron Fists, the ability came in those with much more experience. Still, Xander had proven that he was full of surprises. As well as whatever Orson had given him, aside from the training.

“What are you talking about?” Jenny asked, confused with where he was going with it.

Lei-Kung showed nothing. “How do you feel?”

“What?” Jenny asked again.

“The Iron Fist has healing abilities far beyond anything that you have likely ever seen before,” The Thunder stated, stepping closer. “They are necessary in order for him to keep his body functioning. But, that is not all that they are used for.”

“I know, he can heal others as well,” Jenny said, still wondering.

“Xander might have told you that some Iron Fists travelled alone. And that some travelled in groups,” Lei-Kung began to explain. “Sometimes when the Iron Fist is close to someone, or even more than one person, some of that energy is transferred. It does more than heal them, it can keep them young for many years. It is rare, but it happens. With bondsmen, as well as his those that they choose to be intimate with. Truly intimate.”

“Oh,” Jenny said simply, trying to figure out if she felt any difference.

“He likely is not even aware that he is doing it. But, he loves you, and he will listen to you,” Lei-Kung continued, as unemotionally as ever. It wasn’t simply a trust issue, given that he knew that Xander trusted him enough to tell him the truth about what he wanted. It was something more than that. “How do you feel about him?”

xxx

“There’s nothing going on between us,” Xander said, waiting to speak until Vi had left the training hall. He had sent her off to take a shower and cool down, not wanting a blowup between the two potentials. Faith was rather good at pushing people’s buttons, and from what he could tell, it was often just to see how far she could push people. Nothing would be helped by Vi pushing back.

He had never thought that he’d ever have to be the mature one in a situation like this.

“Right,” Faith said wryly, as she walked further into the room and scanned the equipment and weaponry that was strewn throughout. Much of it was variations on what one would normally expect, though there were racks of non-training weapons as well. She picked up a double-edged sword and tested the edge, it was sharper than she would have expected for practice.

“Why are you riding her so hard?” Xander asked, standing up. He came up to her and took the jian from her hands, placing it back on its cradle on the rack.

Faith shrugged, ignoring him as she wandered around the hall. “C’mon, I’m just kidding around. She needs to grow a thicker skin.”

“She’s tougher than you think,” Xander said, watching as she paced the room. There was a frenetic energy to her, like a panther pacing back and forth in a cage, tensed to attack in a position that it would never be able to. “Vi being sensitive does not make her weak.”

“If you say so,” Faith remarked only half paying attention. She was still trying to get a handle on things, and if she had to be honest, it made her defense mechanism kick in.

“No, I think your real issue is with me. Or you just like stirring up shit.” Xander walked to the side and leaned against the wall. “But, I don’t care. Lay off her.”

Faith turned, looking back over her shoulder at him. That wasn’t exactly what she had expected him to say. Not all of it at least.

“I’m seventeen years old,” Xander continued. “And, in case you weren’t paying earlier, I got my ass kicked by someone that weighs three times as much as I do. And is a hell of a lot better. I’m not here to fix you. I doubt I really could.”

“I never asked you to,” Faith shot back, turning around to face him.

Xander could easily see the defensiveness on her face. But, it didn’t particularly deter him. “No, but I never asked you to come with me. I don’t need two girls going at it…in the not fun way.”

“I’m not promising anything,” Faith retorted. It wasn’t so much his request, but she wasn’t one to compromise. Or change at the request of some boy.

“Look, I have enough to worry about, and I like her better than you.” Xander sighed and rubbed his forehead.

“Enough to worry about?” Faith echoed. “Like killing that guy?”

Xander’s eyes turned cold as he stared at her. “Do not. I give you a lot of leeway, but there are lines, even for you.”

Faith could tell that he was serious, and that there was a lot more rage there than he let on. Enough for her to know not to push on that front. “I’m…sorry.”

She looked away before continuing. “And, thanks for saving me.”

Xander just looked at her for a while before responding. Some of his ire had lessened at that point. “Alright, you’re welcome. Look, my issues are my own. And yours are yours. I’m not going to press, but if it does cause problems, then that’s a problem. And I do not need the aggravation. So, if you want to talk…”

Faith hesitated, turning to look at him. He had gone above and beyond in trying to save her, and despite the suspicion that Diana had admitted she held in regards to him, he seemed to be generally decent. But, she’d been burned before.

Xander just let her work through it, before pointing a hand at the door. “Look, there’s no one here but the fighters. In this hall, you can talk.”

Faith still said nothing.

“My dad used to smack me around sometimes,” Xander admitted, shrugging. In truth, he’d gotten over it. As much as one ever did. “Look, I got no idea, and I’m not saying it’s comparable or whatever. But, maybe I know a little something about whatever trust issue you got.”

“Let’s just say that I’ve learned not to have the highest hopes when it comes to men,” Faith declared, crossing her arms over her chest. She wasn’t being completely serious in tone though.

Xander smiled slightly. “Well, I did turn you down, so that should give me something. And I did risk my ass for you already.”

“That is true,” Faith had to admit, on both points. “But, Diana doesn’t exactly trust you. And I don’t know what she plans to do about that.”

That frustration was particularly bad as well. She had begun to trust the Watcher, but it seemed that she was keeping things to herself. And while Faith knew about Diana’s status as a Watcher, the rest of the Watchers were another matter altogether. And her guardian did have to work for them.

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Xander said. “But, that’s my issue. You don’t need to get involved. She does care about you though. And, if you need to talk….well, I am here.”

Faith just nodded.

xxx

“I’ve tried looking it up before. There’s nothing there,” Willow proclaimed, turning around in her swivel chair to look at Buffy and Scott. “Without a specific name or address, there’s nothing I can look for that’s not just a bunch of rumors.”

She had tried to conduct her own snooping once they had learned how Xander and Ms. Calendar had discovered where Vi and her Watcher lived. But, without information similar to what they had to start out with, she had quickly run into a dead end.

“Thanks anyway,” Scott said, looking puzzled. He was still trying to play catch up, and the shifting factions were not helping. Not to mention that a major player apparently wasn’t even in town during all of this. “I know that you and Xander were friends for a long time, but how much do you trust him on this? Do you think that he’s right? That Amy’s right?”

Willow bit her lip as she thought about it. She did trust Xander, although his increasing secrecy and rebelliousness made it hard to accept that he was right about things. Especially since they were only opinions at this point. They hadn’t met any other Watchers that couldn’t be trusted. Although they had only really met two of them.

Buffy looked at her friend. From the conflicted look on the redheaded girl’s face, she knew that they were both wondering about the same thing. As much as they trusted their friend, they also saw how suspicious he could be. He had gone looking for Ford after all, mistrust that had turned out to be right. Still, it was Giles.

“I don’t know,” Willow admitted, frowning. Giles was the one in charge, and it made her nervous that Amy would go against that so easily, and without any concrete reason that she could see. “But, I don’t think any of us are going to be able to change her mind.”

Buffy had to admit that that was probably right. And it would do little good to even try.

xxx

The Thunderer stood on the street corner, idly watching the people pass by. There were many more than usual, all uplifted by the quality of the match that had occurred earlier in the day. His mind was elsewhere however.

He turned suddenly, looking at the robed figure that had approached him nearly silently. “What do you want?”

The robed man said nothing for a moment, looking at the large immortal warrior. “I have observed your interactions with the newest Iron Fist. I suppose there is a story to how exactly he came about. One that is not what the August Personage in Jade has said. I know that the next cycle has yet to come to pass. There should be no Iron Fist.”

Lei-Kung frowned. The Prince of Orphans knew, or suspected, more than he let on. And, given his identity, it was no surprise. “There were extenuating circumstances. Be assured that he is the Iron Fist, with all that that entails.”

The robed figure turned slightly, to look out across the crowd. “With your training I suppose?”

The Thunderer said nothing, such things were not to be spoken off with an opponent of his City. Despite who was under those ratty robes. “He is as ready as could be.”

“You seem to have taken a particular shine to the boy, even if it does follow along with your responsibilities,” the Prince of Orphans continued. “Yet, I wonder why it is that you can’t bring yourself to speak with your own son.”

The Thunderer frowned, unhappy memories springing up in his mind unbidden. “He has made it quite clear what he thinks about the matter.”

“What do you believe about it?” The Prince of Orphans pressed. “Davos did not become the villain he is on his own. We all hold some of that blame. Those of us who tried to take Orson’s gifts that night. Does this new Iron Fist hold a grudge for this? Does he bear a grudge against us? You?”

“I wasn’t a part of that. For anybody,” Lei-Kung retorted.

The Prince of Orphans nodded, the slight movement of his hood the only indication that he had moved at all. The wheels of his mind wound, the end result was the slightest of smiles that nobody could see. “You let him go.”

The Thunderer did not bother to respond.

“It must have been brutal for your son to grow up in the shadow of that, knowing not what you did.” The Prince of Orphans noted. “For Davos to dream of becoming the very thing you wanted for him least. He will see how you are with this Iron Fist. And behave in response.”

“You are not telling me anything I do not already know.” Lei-Kung turned to face the other man once again.

“Perhaps not,” the Prince of Orphans acknowledged. “But, how much does anybody else know? For you have already seen how much damage not speaking can cause.”

He turned and started to walk off, pausing to speak, “good night, old friend.”

“And to you,” Lei-Kung replied, watching as the robed man entered into the sea of people and disappear into the crowd.

xxx

“Xander is…powerful,” Faith said, fidgeting in her place. Guilt and nervousness made her feel restless. “And I don’t like how Diana looks at him. I don’t like how she sees this whole situation. I don’t know what she wants.”

“She cares about you,” Nancy said cautiously, as she put down her cup of tea. It wouldn’t do to speak improperly of another Watcher.

She was just glad that they were the only ones in the main dining and exhibition hall at the present moment.

“I know,” Faith said; that was the part that made it all the more troubling. It felt like betrayal. “But, he saved my life. And he didn’t want…he didn’t want anything.”

“He does that a lot,” the Watcher said, smiling briefly. “The Council affords its Watchers significant leeway at times. Although, it usually is just because we don’t report everything. But, it does have its share of mandates.”

“Damn it!” Faith exclaimed suddenly. She had entered into unfamiliar emotional territory, and it frightened her more than she would like to admit. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Diana is a good Watcher I’m sure,” Nancy said, though she couldn’t really be, not having known the woman previously. “If she has earned your trust, then until she does something to break it, she deserves it.”

“I guess,” Faith responded, still unsure.

“Still,” Nancy went on, even more delicately than before. “She is a Watcher, as am I.”

“Meaning?” Faith asked, in a frustrated tone of voice.

Nancy just looked at her. As a matter of faith, she didn’t have much. She may respect some of the Watchers that she was under, but history had shown that the Council was not above reproach. “Meaning, that we are all just people.”

xxx

Lei-Kung stood on the balcony of his private chambers, looking out into the clear night sky. A rain of meteors was impacting the atmosphere, lighting up the black with streaks of light. It was cold, snow already capping some of the nearer mountain peaks, though the temperature did not bother him.

“My lord,” a young woman said, walking up beside him carefully. She had been expected, although she had stayed quietly beside him for some moments, not wishing to intrude the war master’s private thoughts.

She unwrapped a binding around her left wrist, revealing a carefully inked tattoo. She held it up so that the Thunderer could see it in the dim light of the moon and stars. “Lightning is in my blood. Thunder is the pounding of my heart.”

“There is no need for that,” Lei-Kung said, turning his attention onto the young woman. “I know you’re faithful to our cause.”

“Mighty Thunderer, we have protocol for good reason,” the woman softly chided. “Don’t let your faith in me blind you. I could be a spy without my knowledge. Only the Chi-Tun markings should be trusted. They cannot lie to you.”

Lei-Kung breathed out in melancholy, stepping forward to the railing at the end of the balcony. Breathing deep, he took the clean air of the City into his lungs. The Thunderer rested his hands on the metal top rail, gazing out at the mountains that bordered K’un-L’un. He had lived so long. Long enough to see them change. Just as K’un-L’un had. “That we have come to this. If he were still with us, my father would die of sorrow.”

“Would he?” the woman asked gently. She had not worked so hard for this without believing in the cause. She was under no illusion what it meant for her if she was discovered. “Because he raised a good son…wouldn’t he see the virtue in what we do? In what you do?”

Lei-Kung continued to stare forward, sadness briefly marring his usual impassive expression. He spoke gently, for himself, “is it enough to silently resist tyranny? Or must we fight back?”

The Thunderer turned away from the edge, and looked back on the woman that he had helped train in secret. “Sadly, I’ve found that sons and fathers are not always a reflection on each other. Or at least, not in the ways they would like.”

It was something both miraculous and devastating that Xander was more like the son he would have wished for than the one that he had. And yet, he would not have wished the heart of the dragon upon either of them.

“Why have you come to see me?” Lei-Kung asked, turning his attention back upon the woman. She had lowered her hood at this point, displaying her brown hair. Unlike many of the servants in the employ of the kingdom, she could not trace her heritage in the city back very far. And for that, she bore out the sins of her father. A man whom had never known her.

“I believe that we should approach the Iron Fist,” the woman stated. She had been at the first battle. And though the Iron Fist had not won, she had seen the enthusiasm of the citizens of K’un-L’un. Though not visible on the surface, such cohesion had not been a part of the city for some time. The Immortal Weapons were important for more than just defense or their participation in determining the cycle of Cities. “Why did you have us stay away?”

Lei-Kung had to admit that she had a point. The Iron Fist would make a substantial ally. There were, of course, other concerns. “He has enough to worry about in the Tournament without what we are doing now.”

“Do you believe that he cannot be trusted?” She had never met the Iron Fist, except for when they had by chance passed each other. She had had the opportunity to clean his room, and from her interactions with the people that he kept his company with, this Iron Fist, perhaps more than most others would believe as they did.

“In all my years…,” The Thunderer smiled for a moment, looking off in the distance. It was an odd moment for him, to show even the slightest feeling. “There has never been a more unconventional one chosen to bear this burden. Yet, worthy, just the same.”

“There is a rift in K’un-L’un, and it is tearing itself apart,” pressed the young women, harder than she had prior. As much as she called for change, she still loved her City. As much as any of its true citizens did. “We need him, now more than ever.”

xxx

Xander shifted his feet to his right, moving his body out of the way of the strike that came at his head. The magically enchanted training dummy was doing its best to hit him, while he practiced his defense. Deflecting with his left arm, the Iron Fist struck out with a right fist, a glow appearing as he hit the energy field that surrounded the dummy.

Moving in a circle around his mock opponent, Xander continued to move, flowing from one stance to another, from strike to strike, from dodge to dodge. Catching the dummy’s wooden arm, Xander ducked underneath it, spinning in place and kicking it in the back. It was thrown forward from the force, sent to its feet.

“Forgive the intrusion, Iron Fist,” the servant girl said, taking the break in battle to speak up. “The Thunderer desires your presence.”

Xander looked at the dummy that was getting back to its feet. “Deactivate.”

The dummy went into standby mode, standing straight up in the middle of the training room. Xander moved toward the young woman, picking up a towel as he went. Though she spoke English, she appeared to be of mixed heritage. Or at least, what little he could see of her indicated it. She was dressed in long robes that covered nearly all of her body, including her face and hair. “When?”

“Now,” the woman said, turning around and walking forward. She left the man little room to dispute the timeline, leaving him quickening his pace to catch up.

“What’s this about?” Xander said, as he followed the woman out into the hall.

The servant girl said nothing, leading him through a number of hallways and into the meditation room of the Iron Fist’s domain. It was only open entering the room, and shutting the door that she spoke to him again. Her brilliant blue eyes catching his brown ones in concentration. She was judging him, just as she knew that he was of her.

“What’s this about?” Xander asked again, wondering exactly who the woman was. There were other servants that worked in the place, he knew that much. He hadn’t had much time interacting with them, and they hadn’t seemed particularly concerned with conversing with him at any rate.

The servant girl walked over to the stone wall at the far end of the room, and touched a number of the old grey stones in an intricate pattern. She looked over her shoulder as a section of wall moved inward, and separated to reveal the entrance to a tunnel. “K’un-L’un has not been your home for long, but it is still your home. And it has its secrets.”

“Did you learn cryptic from Lei-Kung?” Xander remarked, as he walked into the tunnel with the woman. He heard the tunnel entrance close behind him, momentarily engulfing them in darkness until the servant girl lit a torch.

“The Iron Fists of old found it desirable to have a method of moving away from this place quickly and secretly,” the servant girl explained as she walked further down the tunnel. They moved further into the depths of the tunnel network, slowly but surely descending. It wasn’t long before she saw light at the head of a stone staircase.

“Xander,” the Thunderer said in greeting as the two others in the tunnels moved closer to him.

Xander nodded back. “What is this about? Why are we meeting here?”

“You have faced your first opponent and you have lost,” the Thunderer continued, looking at the young man that had been a pupil of his, if even only for a short time.

“Yeah…well, it was my first time,” Xander said, a little embarrassed at being called out on it. And, he had thought he had done pretty well considering.

“You survived, and that is all that matters. No one here can ask for anything more,” Lei-Kung explained further. In truth, it was a little deeper than that, considering what the Yu-Ti had been up to. It meant that the Tournament was for nothing more than vanity. Whatever honor there was in testing one’s City’s best warrior against others in honest combat, the Yu-Ti had forgotten it. “You know what it is to fight in the Tournament.”

“So what now?” Xander asked, confused as to what purpose the Thunderer had called him there for. Especially in front of a stranger.

“Phineas Randall, my grandfather, built a machine. It is a bridge between K’un-L’un and your world,” the servant girl said, looking at Xander. “It uses your brutal science and allows a user to slip between realms undetected.”

Xander said nothing for a moment, digesting the new information. Evidently, not such a stranger. “Orson was your…did he know?”

The servant girl shook her head, reaching up to pull back her hood and pull down her mask. Brown hair was revealed as was a young face of mixed race. “My father never knew me. I was born after the war. After his war...It doesn’t matter now.”

The Iron Fist examined her carefully in the flickering torchlight, striving to find some trace of his old friend upon her face.

“Xander, you are not the only one that feels his loss,” Lei-Kung said, his voice reverberating off of the walls of the tunnel.

Xander looked down for a moment, absorbing it all. Back on Earth, he had been the one closest to the last Iron Fist, and being there had hit him hard. “I suppose not. Why did you call for me?”

“You are still new to this City, and to its Yu-Ti. You do not know him as we know him,” the servant girl explained. “He has become…”

“Corrupt,” Lei-Kung finished, distaste evident in his tone. “Nu-An was always corrupt. The pleasures of the world of men have long intoxicated him, even before his father, the previous Yu-Ti, died.”

“And, when he became ruler, he became a tyrant,” Xander commented, remembering some of the things he had learned in his world history classes.

“Exactly.” The Thunderer nodded and turned towards the stairs, heading down them, the other two falling in behind. “Phineas Randall’s device was kept secret, cared for by his granddaughter and allowing the Yu-Ti to enrich himself on the decadence of your world. He has ceased to see his people, and to act in their best interest.”

“What are you saying,” Xander asked, an odd feeling bubbling up in his stomach. The Thunderer’s restrained manner evidently hid extreme vehemence. He wondered exactly how well he knew the old warrior.

Still, it certainly explained a lot of the mysteries he had been investigating before arriving in K’un-L’un.

“A schism has long been coming, dividing K’un-L’un between the way things are…and the way things could be. We are a paradise filled with half-citizens, and laws that put our tyrant ruler above all.” Lei-Kung stopped at the end of the stairway, pausing to open a large wooden door. He looked over his shoulder at the Iron Fist that represented the strength and heart of K’un-L’un. “No more.”

He stepped inside, moving forward to allow Xander and the girl to enter as well.

“You’re planning a revolution?” Xander asked, though he knew the answer without having to see what was inside that room. Still, what was there surprised him.

“Iron Fist,” Lei-Kung said, waving a hand forward at the training ground that lay before them. “This is the Army of Thunder.”

Xander surveyed the expanse without word. There were perhaps fifty women in varying uniform practicing in the large room. He could identify the style as that of K’un-L’un, something that was forbidden by the laws of the City. Laws that The Thunderer had evidently chosen to ignore.

“Have you been teaching them to fight?” Xander asked, mind going back to the Thunderer’s reactions to his teaching Vi. Lei-Kung had not pressed him that hard on the matter, and had never followed up; perhaps this was the reason why. “All the women in K’un-L’un?”

“Almost all,” the servant girl remarked. She undid the wrapping on her left arm and showed the Iron Fist her tattoo. “My father taught my mother, who taught me. And I-“

“Enlightened me,” Lei-Kung answered, putting a hand on the woman’s shoulder. “Every man has been raised, trained, and prepared to fight and die at Yu-Ti’s behest, from the grandest fighter to the lowliest fisherman. Those are the odds this revolution faces.”

“What do you need me to do?” Xander asked, looking at the Thunderer.

“You are our heart,” Lei-Kung said, looking out again at the women that were practicing for the time that they may fight to achieve their freedom. “If there is one man that the people of this City respect and honor more than the Yu-Ti, it is the Iron Fist.”

“A great responsibility,” the servant girl said, putting a hand on the young man’s arm. “One that we believe that you are ready for.”

xxx

“I called you here because I’ve learned a couple of things about this place,” Xander said, looking at the women that had assembled in his room. He had thought a lot about what he should say, and who he should say it to. There were no easy answers, but from discussing it with Lei-Kung, he knew that they had to be informed. There were, of course, some notable exceptions to those that were there. “Jenny, Vi, Nancy, Colleen, I trust you. Some because of what you are, some because of what you mean. So, I think that I need to tell you what’s going on.”

Vi looked around the room, noticing that the other potential and Watcher were not there. She wasn’t exactly sure how she should feel about that, but stayed quiet to let Xander have the opportunity to speak.

“I don’t know if you noticed it, and I hadn’t…but there is trouble brewing here. K’un-L’un is not a City united by its leader, and its leader has become a tyrant.” Xander explained, the words that Orson had spoken in regards to the City were clearer now than they ever had been. “The Thunderer seeks to redress that. Here and now. He wants…needs me to be a part of it. And it’s my responsibility. To him. To Orson. To the City. I’m not asking any of you to get involved. But, it’s coming, and I want you to know so that when it does come, you can keep your heads down.”

“No,” Vi blurted out, blushing as she saw the eyes turn towards her. “You’re our friend, and we’re not just going let you go at this alone.”

Colleen nodded. “This is one fight that needs fighting. And, I’m not going to let you be the only one to be in it.”

Xander could tell that the other women were equally adamant. He smiled, glad that they felt so strongly about it, and worried about what could happen if they got involved. “Okay, that’s…that’s it for now. You might wonder why I left out a few others. Honestly, I just don’t know them well enough to bring them into it. But, I don’t want them to get hurt. So, when it comes, try to keep them in mind. And, don’t talk about this outside of this room. I’ll let you know anything more that I can tell you. That’s it, and it’s getting late.”

The gathered women took it as a sign that the meeting was done, departing out the door without speaking. There was much for them to wrap their heads around, doubly so considering that they were considering a part, even passive, in a coup in a world that they weren’t even a part of.

Jenny was the only one that didn’t leave, already in her quarters. She shut the door behind them, glad to be alone with Xander. It did help explain some of what Lei-Kung had asked of her though. Turning around, she spoke, “Do you know what you’re doing?”

“Not really,” Xander said, smiling grimly as he moved to the bed and sat down. He moved to the side a little to let Jenny sit next to him. “I know that I have a responsibility to you too.”

“Lei-Kung came by to see me today,” Jenny said, turning slightly to look Xander in the eye. “He wanted to talk to me about what happened earlier. “With Davos.”

Xander’s face grew tense. “What did he say?”

“He said that your quest for vengeance is blinding you,” Jenny said, putting a hand on Xander’s arm. She could feel the tight muscle underneath, the tension and stress he was under evident. “And I have to say that I agree with him.”

“What Davos did…he can’t just be allowed to walk away from that,” Xander said.

“I know, and he won’t,” Jenny replied in a soothing voice. “But, it may not be at your hands. And you need to accept that. I know what vengeance can do, and we both know that it almost tore us apart. I know the harm that it can do, even to those that were wronged. You need to let go of your need for this. If he finds justice at your hands so be it, but I don’t want you going after him for your lust for revenge.”

“I…I don’t know if I can do that,” Xander said, head down.

“I know that you can,” Jenny said, palming his face and turning his head towards her. “I’m not asking you to let him go. Just to let this go. You have enough on your shoulders without adding the guilt of Orson’s death. It was not your fault. And this will not bring him back.”

“You think that was what I was-“ Xander started to say.

Jenny smiled sadly. “I know you. You take on so much. Trying to save everyone. Sometimes it means taking a chance on people, and sometimes it means that you get so hurt when you fail. You need this, you need to let your hate of him go.”

Xander looked in her dark eyes, knowing how troubled she was by it all. He didn’t know exactly how he was going to be able to do it, but he knew enough to know that she was likely right. He was just too close to it all to be able see it clearly. It didn’t mean that he wouldn’t go after Davos, but it would be within the realm of the Tournament. Within the rules. With honor, the real honor that the City of K’un-L’un needed to gain once again.

“Okay.” Xander nodded at last, breathing out.

“Good.” Jenny smiled, leaning in and kissing him gently. There was still the other thing that Lei-Kung had told her, but that could wait until another day.

Xander smiled back at her. He couldn’t say that a weight had been lifted, but knowing that it was okay to stop on his path of vengeance was something. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the rings that he had kept there since earlier that day. “I picked these up. They belonged to Wu Ao-Shi, one of the Iron Fists, and her husband.”

Jenny stared at the silver rings that lay in his hand. They were not the most intricate jewelry made, but the emotion that went into them was what made them so valuable.

“I’m not asking you to marry me or anything,” Xander blurted out, feeling his age. Despite whatever he had gotten from Orson, he knew that he wasn’t ready for that step yet. He chuckled nervously. “But, I wanted you to know how I felt. About us. And that this isn’t just…”

“Really really great sex?” Jenny said wryly, her lips twisting in a smirk. She reached up and picked up one of the rings, watching it glow golden for a moment. She put the leather cord over her head, the ring coming down to lie against her chest. “I know. And, thank you, Xander.”

Whatever happened in the future, Tournament fights or the fight to reclaim the heart of K’un-L’un, it could wait.

The Iron Fist just smiled at her as she placed the other leather band over his head.
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