"This is oddly nostalgic," Raven commented, Gecko by her side at an outdoor café.
"What is?" He replied, curious.
"Just…everything," She attempted to clear up, "being back in the city, in civilization, walking the world, that kind of thing, it's just making me think."
"About home and all?"
"Yeah, I know you're sick of hearing it, but I'm just so close to my goal, like I can see my destination on the horizon, calling to me, and everything I've been through and done to reach this point…I'd do it all over again. Yeah, there were some ups and downs, but all and all, it was…interesting. I figure the downs are sort of my retribution for the atrocities that I committed against my friends and in the name of what I refused to become, so I hope my debts to society have been paid in full."
"I'm more than certain they have been, no one, especially you, should have been put through what you have been forced to endure." Gecko pointed out, "Despite what resides in you, your heart will always counteract it and produce the pureness found in any hero of your caliber. Even I am humbled by you, Rae."
"Stop being so modest," Raven laughed, but her focus shifted back,"Yet, if I hadn't had to endure a living nightmare at times, I would have never met all the interesting people along the way and never would have met you. Again, I will gladly do it all over again to produce the same results."
"Whatever you wish that makes you happy," Gecko smiled, stretching in his seat at the table, "still, I'm finding that this little search of ours is proving to be a little more difficult than I perceived. It's been almost a week and not even a single lead. I don't wish to sound negative, but it's looking a little hopeless at the moment."
"Sadly," Raven huffed in frustration, "I'd have to agree with you on that, and I'm not one to be the downer either, well recently anyways. I know we've got to be really optimistic about this to even stand a chance of finding him; otherwise it will be in vain due to our lack of focus on the idea. This…situation is the only thing that stands between me getting home; it's like a last hurdle I need to clear or something to succeed."
"Otherwise you'll land flat on your face?" Gecko smirked.
"If you want to put it like that," she added in good nature, "then yes, I don't want either of us to trip on this last hurrah of sorts."
Gecko appeared as if something had crossed his mind at that very moment, an epiphany, better yet, a solution to the current conundrum.
"Instead of searching for him," he began, getting her attention as she enjoyed another sip of her tea, "why not get his attention?"
"It sounds good, but will it really work, I mean, what could we possibly do to get his attention?" Raven pointed out, hating to be the one to do so, but alas, she was the only one, and it was rather necessary.
"Doing what we do best, Rae," Gecko assured, watching traffic go by only mere feet away. "Saving the innocent, being all around heroes, that kind of thing, you know?"
"Again, David, how exactly?" Raven pursued, wishing to find an answer that retained more than hope, but actual truth. "It would have to be something pretty big to get his attention. The city is full of wrongdoing, so what would exactly stand out."
"A city full of opportunity, we've already been over this, Rae, you're such a pessimist," he laughed in a jokingly manner, "trust me, I'm yet to steer us wrong, and I wouldn't start now. All it takes is a little faith."
"That's all I've pretty much got left, so that shouldn't be a problem," Raven smirked, "you've yet turned us in the wrong direction, so I'm sure you wouldn't start now. Whatever you have planned, I'm sure it will work. Do you have any idea when though?"
"Honestly?" He questioned, leaning back in his char with a stretch, getting a nod for a reply, "I have not clue. I'm not trying to be the bringer of bad news, but I'm afraid you're right, what could we possibly do to gain his attention?"
"You know I hate it when you do that," Raven blandly replied out of good humor. "You seem to be rather…resourceful, so I'm sure you'll find something. In the meantime though, might as well continue with our predetermined plan of searching the less than ideal districts of this city."
"Sounds good," Gecko patronized in his usual manner with a matching smirk. "You sure you don't want to trade this time, I mean, things are a little rougher in the Shinjuku District, Rae."
"I've handled myself thus far, and nothing's happened, so I'm sure I can continue to do so, David," Raven informed in her usual manner, knowing that he did care, but it was sometimes too much. After the otherworldly experience with Slade behind them, maybe there wasn't such a thing anymore, and his concern was rightly placed. Despite all of that behind them and nothing could possibly ever surpass that in sheer terror or horror of that day. Both of them kept their heads held high, knowing that they managed to put it behind them and hope for the future. That was all that they had left, especially Raven, was what lay before them, keeping it in sight as inspiration for things to come, no matter the obstacles or treacherous conditions along the way. After what either of them has experienced in their short lives thus far, there was nothing that could sway them.
Unlike the past week or so, Raven decided to embark on her search for Bushido earlier than usual, during actual daylight hours, hoping the honorary Titan was in the area at an earlier time than she had predicted. It was actually welcomed for once, as the seedy undergrowth that seemed to sprout in the twilight was hours off and the area actually appeared civilized, almost as much as downtown Jump City if it were to be compared as such. It only proved that no matter where she was at, there were always people, but also the unwanted crime. It was just how the community dealt with it, and thanks to the lack of law enforcement in the area, it only ignited further instances of criminal activity. Yet, for some untold reason, Raven had a…feeling, like a spark of intuition. Much like any hero of her stature, her "sixth sense" of things was telling her something was awry, but it was yet to reveal itself.
"Hey there, cutie," a voice called behind her.
Just as she had felt, she was correct by following instinct, and hated being right this time.
"You seem to be…intelligent," Raven sarcastically quipped at him as she turned to face him, finding a trio of shady looking individuals. "How about this? You go about your way, leave me alone, and I'll forget you said that. Trust me, it's for the better."
"Well, well, well," he announced, standing from his seated position upon a crate against the building wall, his apparent goons following suit, "looks like we've got ourselves a tough girl, boys, don't we?"
"Looks that way," one of his men agreed, if that's what he was. To Raven, they were nothing but scum trying to hit on her by the way things looked, but she's been wrong before.
"Last chance to use what brain you've got left and go about your business," Raven sternly informed, "I'm not responsible for what happens to you."
"What's with the hostility, babe? All I'm interested in is scoring your number."
"Hit the road, now." Raven ordered, becoming frustrated. Her instinct was telling her something bad was about to happen, but it was quite obvious by this point.
"Forget it, man," the other stated, "you know what we came to do."
Sure enough, the instinct was correct once more, as a trio of switchblades glistened in the evening sun.
"You're serious, right?" Raven commented blankly. "Do you really want to do that?"
"Shut your mouth, everything you've got worth anything, now bitch."
"Don't say I didn't warn you," she informed, quickly pulling the strap that bound the wrap around her sheathed sword she planned on taking home, allowing it to roll free, right into her hand. With expert speed, she drew the weapon, holding it in position.
"I do believe mine's bigger," Raven commented confidently, holding the katana aloft in a defensive manner, "now, last chance, beat it or you'll be walking away minus a hand or two.
With a smirk, the leader of the trio held his knife up, folding it, and put it away, but the look on his face didn't settle well with Raven.
"Alright, boys, she's got us beat," he laughed, snapping his fingers, only to have more individuals that seemed to match his description in terms of profession…thug. Easily more than 10 outnumbered Raven, and by the way things looked, a few of them sported guns beneath their jackets. In addition to the armament, many of them had fierce street weapons, such as a few bats, as baseball was common in Japan so it wasn't hard to find, a lead pipe or two, and a couple of chains wrapped around the hand and forearm, ready to be swung wildly. Street thugs or not, she was outnumbered, and not wishing to spill unnecessary blood, as they were just the common criminals being absolutely ignorant.
"Money, now, bitch," he ordered, "or we'll kill you."
Raven merely flipped the weapon around, preparing to use the less-lethal side that wasn't razor-honed, and an option other than killing an opponent that she greatly appreciated, especially at times like this.
She aptly dodged the first incoming slashes of the switchblades, shoving them aside with ease, watching the group begin to converge and entrap her. Despite the weighty swing of a bat, it more or less splintered cleanly against the mastercrafted weapon in Raven's hands, getting more than surprise out of the guy. With a sharp rap in the temple with the blunt edge of the sword, she easily knocked him unconscious, ducking to avoid a lead pipe, then rolling in time to watch a chain spark upon the pavement as it made contact where she once stood. The remaining thugs weren't about to give up, seeing they still had a numbers advantage, and she was bound to make a crucial mistake…or at least hoped she did. With renewed vigilance, Raven blocked an incoming blow of one of the lead pipes, parrying the attack, and delivering a vicious kick to the chest that send the thug careening into a trio of his apparent friends, sending them to the ground in a heap. Despite her abilities and prowess, she was unable to see, let alone sense the incoming blow to the back of her head with a bat, sending her crashing the ground, clearly dazed from the impact. Luckily she was still conscious…enough to realize the mess she was in at the moment. Still coherent enough to roll away as another bat-wielding cretin brought his weapon down, finding nothing but solid concrete. Raven made her way to her feet, still feeling the effects of the prior impact upon the back of her skull, finding it to be the most difficult thing upon the earth right now was to stand on her own two feet. Vision blurred and motor skills far from under her control to evade or even defend herself effectively, things weren't looking too good at the moment. Maybe splitting up wasn't such a good idea after all. The undefined shapes before her still closed in, and one appeared to be raising his weapon to strike, hopefully finishing her off for good and get what they came for. A lot of work for not too much of a reward, as Gecko had most of the winnings in the form of currency either with him or in the safe back in the hotel room. Raven had enough to use public transportation, maybe grab something to eat as well while she searched, but that was about it. It didn't even matter now though, as she was defending her life, not the money. Even in her current condition, she managed to keep a tight grip on her sword, a gift and useful tool on Master Hui's behalf that she truly held dearly, knowing she had rightly worked hard, dedicated herself, and earned it. The attacker struck, making contact with the sword's blunt edge, stopping solidly, but only to receive a kick in the midsection that put her on her back, losing the sword in the process as it skidded across the pavement to a halt not far from her.
"Hurry up and kill the bitch," the leader ordered, Raven attempting to climb to her feet, but the cheap, yet powerful blow to her head still caused her to be dazed. It was a miracle that she was still conscious, even alive at that. "I'm sure that sword of her's will fetch some pocket change."
"With pleasure," one of the larger apparent goons chuckled, raising his weapon as he slowly approached.
"Well, this is definitely not my day," Raven thought, "after all that training and whatnot, taken down by a bunch of street punks….at risk of sounding rather…unintelligent, I hate to admit it, but this sucks. I hope it's quick."
Just as she thought it was the end for her, a dark figure, more like the blurred silhouette of a person, came out of nowhere, knocking the would-be executioner back, off his feet, and crashing into the ground, sliding to a halt before his "boss", unconscious from the blow. The remaining members of the gang all looked up from their fallen comrade of sorts, finding what they could possibly contemplate to be the worst thing to ever happen to them. Raven's vision finally adjusted enough, racking into focus to find what looked like something out of an ancient scroll in front of her, a young, fit man in a martial arts gi, similar to David's, of white with blue borders, matching belt, and sword held aloft in his hand, ready to defend himself. There was no denying who it was.
"Surrender, or I will be forced to take action against you," his commanding voice ordered, "you will end up like your friend and well on your way to jail if you don't cooperate."
"It's going to take a hell of a lot more than just you to make that a promise," the leader challenged.
"That's why he's got me," Raven informed, crawling to her feet, retrieving her sword, and standing by his side, prepared to strike, "this time, I won't fall to another cheap shot."
Bushido only looked at her, his face instantly filled with surprise at who he saw, almost as if he had seen a ghost. Truth was, he wasn't far from it.
"I know," Raven stated before he said anything, knowing good and well he had more than a few questions for her at the moment, "it's a long story, trust me, I'll tell you, but let's take care of business first."
He nodded, focusing on the group once more, since it was on top of their priority list, or threats, whichever one chose to look at it.
In what seemed like a choreographed manner, the two of them advanced simultaneously, swords twirled in their forms, and prepared to finish what she had started. Of the remaining group of goons, at least half dropped their weapons and ran for it, fearing for their lives. All that remained was the leader of the failed group of muggers and a few of his loyal men, still ready to fend off these two apparent heroes. Without a single interruption, dodging the hasty attacks of the scum before them, Raven and Bushido struck true, using non-lethal attacks with their weapons, knocking the remaining goons, save the leader, out cold. It was at this time he realized the error of his ways, turning tail and sprinting as fast as he possibly could. Raven looked down by her foot, kicking up one of the impromptu weapons, a lead pipe, and caught it. In the same motion, she threw it with immense force, allowing it to twirl extensively through the air, nearly gliding to her target. Hitting him in the back of the knees, causing him to crumple and skid to a halt on the pavement, clearly defeated. She brought her blade around, expertly sliding it back into the masterly-crafted sheath that accompanied it. Bushido did the same with his own modest sword, finally looking her over, more in-depth.
"H-how is this possible?" He questioned, unbelieving at what was before him, "those years ago, we thought you-"
"I know," Raven respectfully interrupted, "like I said, it's a long story, but you have no idea on how…ecstatic I am to see you. For the past 5 years, my travels have finally brought me here. Bushido, you're literally my angel at the moment, prepared to guide me back home."
"Wait, what is this about five years, you're not making sense," Bushido replied, confused, "you've been alive this whole time, where have you been, what have you been doing?"
"Like I said," Raven semi-smirked, "it's a long story, a really long one at that. You wouldn't happen to know of a nice, little quiet place we could chat, do you?"
"I might," Bushido replied wholeheartedly, "I do have a question to ask you though."
"Besides my existence at the moment?"
"Yes, other than that," he confirmed, crossing his arms, "not too long ago, I've been hearing this rumor spreading like wildfire across the city about this black and green clad ninja going by the name of "Gecko" doing heroic deeds and whatnot, you wouldn't happen to know who it is, would you?"
"Actually, I do, I can invite him along, if you wish, I'm certain you two will get along nicely," Raven informed with a grin, still unable to get over the fact that her search was finally concluded, she had found who she was working for, and a mere pebble's throw away from her final destination…home. To Jump City, the Titans, friends, her…family. Hopefully, as time heals all wounds, this one was mended over enough for her welcomed return, as it would equal to nothing to come back and be the most despised person on the planet to them, as life would then be meaningless and not worth living any longer. If this was true, she would make sure that her healing abilities wouldn't have a chance to intervene and prevent the inevitable. Yet, something in the back of her mind continued to overcome this dreadful thought, and she could only remain vigilant on the ideal. That ideal was hope; it had propelled her thus far, so it had no reason to stop now. Despite Red X's chilling revelation of the fate of the Titans in Jump City, her will was strong, and couldn't believe such an atrocity could have befallen them. After everything they had been through, what could have possibly split the team up for good, as well as allowed the friendships to be nearly forgotten. Though the team's split may have been in their futures at some point or another, friends they would have always remained, yet, it just seemed so soon, almost too soon. Something terrible must have happened to cause this, and Raven's internal thoughts and feelings only hoped that it wasn't her deeply seeded deception against them that caused it. If she was the one that caused the indefinite split, then there was indeed no point in anything, now or ever. Not even David's caring and protective nature could save her from herself if it was to be true. She continually shook the thought from her mind though, remaining strong in the face of all the sheer conflict that she had endured so far, and it was finally coming to an end. Unknown to Raven, it was the mere beginning.
"Well," Bushido sighed, leaning forward from his seat, the two of them overlooking the Tokyo skyline from a comfortable building top, well into the hours of darkness, "That is quite a story, Raven, I can't imagine what you've been through over these past few years, but it appears you've made the best of your situation. I'm thankful I picked up on the communicator signal, it was weak, but I still followed it and found you, and it appeared in the nick of time as well."
"That it was," Raven added, "things were looking pretty bad there for a moment, if you hadn't shown up, I would have been in big trouble. In any case, I do need to know this though."
"Go ahead," Bushido nodded, awaiting her information.
"Do you trust me? Does anyone trust me anymore? I understand what I did was a terrible thing and I deeply regret it everyday, knowing that I must live with it on my conscience the remainder of my days. My atrocities against my friends, the entire Titan order, cannot be forgiven. I need to know that if you have faith in my redemption, hoping to gain back the respect of my peers and protect the innocent and all that I nearly shattered with my actions."
It was abundantly clear that Raven was becoming emotional, something that Bushido had never seen her ever do, knowing that what she was saying was indeed true. She hadn't given him a reason to suspect her yet, so why start now, especially since she so deeply regretted what she had done so long ago. He placed a hand on her shoulder with a matching smile of warmth, causing her to raise her head and meet his eyes with her own tear-laden ones.
"Raven, you have paid your debts to all many times over in your hardship and literal suffering over these recent times. You've made up for the lack of your abilities as you explained to me through rigorous training and dedication to the arts to make the best of your situation. Preparation and planning in such a manner, as well as your inner drive to succeed, despite your predicament, only calls upon this even more. Anyone who still shows resentment towards you does not know the weight of what you have been through. In my eyes, Raven, you are redeemed, and deserving of forgiveness. Those who refuse it are heartless, colder than any winter this world has ever seen anywhere. Knowing your friends, I am more than certain they will take you back, even forgiving themselves for failing you."
"Failing me? How are they the ones that failed me? I'm the one that turned into this…this…monster, and savagely turned against them without remorse. What they consider failing me couldn't possibly be compared to what I did to them." Raven regretfully admitted before him, almost in a confessional manner.
"Even our combined efforts weren't enough to pull you from that inhuman beast of a man, his grip only tightened as we approached. Even in the throws of death, his stranglehold upon you seemed to remain, forcing you through this gauntlet that has lasted this long, one conflict leading to another, almost all ending in a pyrrhic victory. Our failure forced you to endure the suffering pain that has been your life for the last five years, and we are to blame. I apologize with all my remorse that I failed you so."
Raven couldn't help but feel honored, yet jaded in a way, as it was her choice to combat him on her own, proving that she could break the bonds locked tightly upon her life to that man, but her solo, heroic, and nearly brash gesture landed her into the life that she had lived thus far. If anything, unknowingly halting their rescue of her, Raven's actions had good intentions, but did not seek out the consequences beforehand. Despite having somewhat of a truth to a degree, the only person Raven had to blame for the outcome of the circumstances ever since that fateful day was one person and one person alone…herself. With that in mind, Raven rested a consoling hand upon his, getting his attention from looking down in almost disgrace.
"The Titans came to my aid in my darkest hour, no matter the outcome; it was not in vain and far from failure, Bushido. Indeed these last few years have been extremely difficult, challenging, and very trying at times, almost too much for an individual to deal with, as I felt that way from time to time on my travels, but I kept my goal in sight, realizing that it was all for a cause, one that my life was to be about, nothing more, nothing left. Even then, my travels may have been complicated in general, I have learned much in many places along the way. My hosts so long ago when I regained consciousness, they nursed me back to health, providing shelter, food, and much more that I could ask for. If not for them, I would have never regained my strength to even begin my trek home. When I made my way to the big city, I found one of the most insightful friends I could ask for, as well as a mentor in a way, providing me with a new techniques and abilities, as well as conditioning that I never thought possible, preparing me even farther to continue. The sights along the way, despite my situation, were absolutely breathtaking, as well as informative, as I stumbled across several items in text that may help me regain my powers to a degree. With renewed vigor, I set out and sought the one known as the True Master, and she bestowed upon me what I needed to make my technique flawless, a literal master of the arts, and hopefully remain a productive member of the Titans as well. I have learned and gained much over the past few years, if not for them, I wouldn't be here. Wise, and providing me with what I exactly needed at the time whether I knew it or not, I hate sounding evangelistic as I have rather different views on religion, but I could almost feel as if it was divine in nature, all where they were, when they were, it was all too coincidental. My mother has spoke of this being my prophecy, my life, but I feel it has come from a different source. Yet, I hope this is all not in vain, especially from what I have heard from….questionable sources about the fate of the Titans."
"What have you heard?" Bushido cautiously questioned of her, "rumor or not, I can tell by your tone that it isn't anything positive in nature."
"I heard that the Titans in Jump City have disbanded over some…incident about three years ago," Raven regretfully explained, "I don't know this to be true, but like I said, my source isn't too reliable, as he is a common thief after all."
"You mean Red X, don't you?" Bushido commented, getting a nod out of her, "I ran him out of the country the other evening, he used his last bit of immunity attempting a theft in my city. He is very….eccentric in his line of work, not good by any means, but yet retains morality. He respected my order no less. In any case, Raven…I'm afraid he speaks the truth."
Raven's eyes shrunk to near pinpricks out of surprise, as well as fear, dreading this to be true, feeling all she had accomplished and experienced had been for…nothing.
"In the same timeframe he speaks of, Nightwing sent me a message, much like he did to the other Honorary Titans, a message of his and Starfire's formal resignation of the Titan order. He did not say why, but said he would remain in contact for emergencies of grand nature, but was no longer active in service. The remaining Titans, Cyborg, Changeling, and Terra attempted to keep the team going, but without the leadership of Nightwing and righteous fury Starfire possessed in combat, they could not properly function as a unit. After failure after failure at stopping event he most common of criminals, Cyborg, the impromptu leader after Nightwing's departure, disbanded the remaining members. I know this is most regretful news, Raven, but they are still in contact with us as a safety manner, just in case. To the best of my knowledge, they are still located in Jump City beneath aliases, leading normal lives."
"So i-it's true then?" Raven unbelievably asked, getting a solemn nod from Bushido in reply, the last thing she wished for at the moment. "They have split up?"
"I'm afraid so, Raven," he informed, seeing her somewhat optimistic spirits shrink into nothingness, "but fear not, they are still in contact, and will be quite pleased that you are indeed alive and well, even in this passage of time, I'm sure you can reunite them whole once more."
After a long sigh, Raven finally made eye contact with him once more, knowing that his words were true, as upon the revelation that she was indeed alive, it could quite possibly change everything, especially the devastating news that had just been placed upon her to dwell on. Yet another thing she had within the confines of her already fragile mind, near the point of shattering beneath the stress. If it had been anyone else in the same circumstances, they would have folded beneath the great weight long ago, but Raven's spirit remained alive and well. Yet another hurdle to pass, but another step closer to achieving her long-term goal that she has longed for what has felt like an eternity from her departure.
"I can only hope, even beg, that you are right, Bushido," Raven admitted, looking off across the cityscape, the gentle breeze at their elevation whipping her locks of violet hair about. Despite being trimmed for the most part, it was much longer than she was accustomed to, longer than she wished at that. "If not, I have nothing left…nothing left to live for…nothing to die for. Much like I thought how life was before, but now finding all these secrets to my life in a sense, working so hard, and it all be for nothing, it would all become meaningless. I hate to sound so dreary, even for my disposition, but it is the cold, hard truth I have come to face in recent times. Again, I really hope that your positive outlook proves correct, Bushido, especially for my sake."
Bushido only meekly smiled, knowing that no matter what he said, Raven's experiences had hardened her mindset into the way it was molded. Far from a bad thing, but nearly impossible to sway her from at the moment, possibly not at all in the future, as being quite stubborn to her decisions, good or otherwise, had become a staple in her thought process. Even then, he knew that whatever her path was to be, whichever was chosen, she would follow through with it. The outcome, no matter how things appeared, would be a positive one, no matter what. If it wasn't to be enjoyable, Raven would see to the end that it was, the cost not a factor. After what she has been through over the past half decade, there was nothing that could affect her in such a way…if she only knew.
"So," Raven began, an unusual smile about her face, still gazing across the cityscape before her, "how long you been standing there, David?"
Bushido was slightly confused, but turned around, finding the figure of Gecko appear from the darkness, nearly fazing into existence before their very eyes as his form manifested from the shadows. Despite his mastered evasion abilities, Raven's heightened senses made them nearly useless.
"You're getting pretty good at that, Rae," he commented with an uneasy laugh as he approached, "a little too good."
"I learned from the best," she beamed in her own way, facing Bushido once more, "Bushido, this is my…colleague, Gecko. His name is David though."
Bushido stood, turning to face him, extending his hand.
"So you are this mysterious ninja I have heard about the past few days," he greeted, firmly shaking his hand, "I am Bushido, protector of what you see before you. It isn't much, but can be trying at times for a single individual."
"It is an honor to meet you," Gecko nodded, releasing his grasp upon Bushido's hand, "I am humbled in your presence, as you have been somewhat of an idol to me, a physical representation of what I wish to become, a hero incarnate."
"From what I have heard," Bushido commented with a respect about his voice, "you seem to be well on your way."
"How so?" Raven questioned, getting their attentions, "we've been separated nearly all day, what have you been doing besides not looking for Bushido, David?"
"It's not like that, Rae," Gecko laughed, knowing she was joking, "I was looking where I was supposed to, just like we agreed on, and it just so happened that this group of scary looking guys decided to hold up a bank, well, let's just say that I "neutralized" the situation with extreme prejudice. Apparently I've become some kind of cult hero for the neighborhood, and it kinda spread."
"Exactly how far, dare I ask?" Raven humored him.
"I was across the metropolis when I overheard these rumors," Bushido commented, "apparently he's become favored among many."
"That's all you need is to get an over-inflated ego," Raven laughed, "even at that, moving in on Bushido's turf, David."
"Oh, no, no, no, I don't mean to impose," Gecko began to defend himself, not realizing that he may have offended Bushido by merely helping out.
"It's alright, I assure you," he smiled, placing a hand on his shoulder, "you and I are very similar, that is all that matters. Besides, I need all the help I can get around here, it's a very difficult task for one individual."
"It always is," Raven added, but her focus shifted to what her original intentions were to begin with, "but I have come with somewhat of a…request, Bushido."
His attention was taken from Gecko, who was more than enjoying the presence of his nearly idolistic counterpart.
"I have a small…issue at the moment, both of us do. I require…a ride home, anything, back to Jump City. Money isn't an issue, especially here lately, but technically, I don't exist anymore after what happened, and identification is rather…haphazard. I was curious if you could help me out in any way."
"I see," Bushido nodded, taking in the weight of the situation, "well, despite your…disposition at the moment, I will see what I can do. With my placement with the authoritative administrations in this country, I might be able to help you out. If not, worse comes to worse, Raven, from your tales that you have dwelled upon me, you seem to be rather…ingenious when put into a pinch, who is to say I'm not to aid you as well?"
"So you will help me find a way home one way or another?" Raven optimistically questioned, feeling a great burden be lift free from her shoulders.
"I will do as much as I possibly can within my power, even attempt to obtain more than that, especially for you," he assured, only to be caught off-guard as Raven nearly lunged forth, wrapping her arms around him tightly, embracing him in a hug.
"You have no idea on how grateful I am," she managed, tears of happiness ready to fall upon her cheeks, something that hasn't happened in a long time, too long.
"No need to be, Raven," Bushido humbly informed as she released him, "you are more deserving than anyone of aid, especially in this hour. As a fellow Titan and hero, I cannot stand idle and refuse you what you absolutely need. It may take a few days, but both of you are more than welcome to stay with me if you need a place to call home."
"We would be more than happy to join you until then, even help if you need it," Raven assured, feeling as if she had owed him greatly for his assistance. Bushido's attention returned and met with Raven's, a minute, as well as rare, smile graced his lips.
"Welcome back, Raven," he commented warmly, making it known that she was indeed, and always will be, one of them, now and forever.
"It's good to be back," she managed once more, the welled-up tears finally slowly strolling down the curves of her face.
After what had seemed like an eternity, even longer than that at times, despite the impossibility of the thought, Raven had made it. All the hardship, the experiences, training, and nightmares, had attributed and manifested into this goal, and it was within reach. Nay, she had a grasp upon it finally, as with the aid of a fellow Titan, she finally was able to obtain passage back home, so close she could almost feel it once more. The nostalgic euphoria that she experienced at the mere thought of the idea almost pushed everything else, especially the past, out of her mind. Mixed emotions and feelings, as well as dreaded thoughts, were overcome by great relief and joy, even a touch of nervousness, as if she was meeting them for the first time all over again. In truth, after what has happened to her, even from what she had heard about them, it wasn't far from the truth. Still, hearing that the team had disbanded troubled her greatly, curious to what could have caused such a large rift between them to call it quits for good and leave the city to fend for itself. Five years is a long time, absence only adding to it, and there was only one word that Raven could really sum it all up with upon her arrival back home: Interesting. That was exactly how it was going to be. Hopefully for the better, but a small part of her still retained all the negative energy of what could happen and surfaced from time to time. Indeed she had changed, nearly transformed and ascended into a new being of sorts, knowing what it was like from the common person's point of view, experiencing the true grit of life by living it, something she would have never seen as a hero, and if her fate hadn't intervened, Raven would have continued the lofty perspective of a hero that she held, overlooking the smaller details. With a new outlook on nearly every viewpoint of life itself, as well as a multitude of techniques and abilities to make up for the loss of her powers, remaining a Titan, as well as reunited with her friends and family, was the only thing she had left. If they still had jaded views and doubt, even rejection on her part, then all that she had been through, the determination, hard work, even the pain and suffering on a vast scale, both physical and emotionally, will be all for…nothing. In her mind, the true goal had only begun, and it was a time of reckoning upon her. Judgment day in a sense was upon her, and she was to answer the call, no matter the cost, as nothing, not the common people, heroes and villains alike, not even the Elders of Azarath, were going to get in her way. Raven has proven to be a dangerous individual in the past, and if someone were to cross her in such a way to hamper her completion of a nearly epic quest of sorts…well, let's just say it wouldn't be the most desirable outcome on their part. Despite having the control, Raven's rage was something not to be tested, nor wished to be unleashed.
As Bushido had instructed, Raven and Gecko remained in his companionship of sorts for a few days, calling his humble base of operations, unlike the monolith of technology that she called home once, the Tower, not only aiding him in his constant struggle with the villainous scum that plagued Tokyo beneath it's shining exterior that it seemed to be well known for. It was only fair on his behalf, as it wasn't easy to accommodate two more individuals at his place of stay, so it could have been considered paying rent sort-of-speak. It was a sight to behold though on patrol, a modern-day trio of Feudal Japan's warrior castes of lore, a samurai of values leading a duo of ninja against the evils of the night. Definitely something to remember and relay as part of her story to the Titans when she makes her triumphant return or she hoped anyways. It seemed that the events of her very life were so outrageous at times at this point, it was very possible that it could be mistaken for a tale, a story of frantic proportions, yet, this was as real as life could possibly be for her, whether she liked it or not, living a nightmare was something accustomed to her, and the return home was her wake-up call, and a much welcomed one at that. Yet, despite it all, through thick and thin, if it was to have the exact same outcome, just to bring her to this monumental moment at this point in time…she was absolutely positive that she would do it all over again. Even though peace had finally been found in such recent, chaotic times, Raven knew it wasn't over. Bushido finally placed the final peace into her puzzled life, giving her an option home. A mere passage upon a cruise liner destined for Jump City was better than nothing, especially the dwindling thoughts of "illegally" making her way home by any means necessary. Time was the only thing standing in her way at this point, the more she thought of it, the longer it seemed to crawl along. It was quite clear that the waiting game was the one thing that Raven could not stand, but her thoughts and feelings of joy and never ending happiness flooded over her impatient demeanor. Time finally passed, only mere hours away from departing, but she was to go alone, as not only did she intend it to be so, but Bushido could only do so much and was fortunate to even acquire a single ticket under the circumstances. David understood though, and would wait until the end of eternity for her heed upon arrival and the reuniting of her friends. Yet, it was difficult for both of them in their own ways, being apart for the first time in easily 3 years, even with such a strong mental connection through astral projection, it was going to be…different, but a worthy sacrifice of the moment.
"So, you all packed up and ready to go then?" Gecko questioned of Raven, standing before him with a backpack and duffle bag, both nearly busting at the seams with her personal items and affects that she had acquired and used on her travels, from clothing to gifts, it was all there, ready to make the return with her.
"It appears so," she replied, a somewhat of a forced smile upon her face. Not that she was returning home by any means, as she was literally ecstatic over that, but the fact that she was leaving David's side to travel halfway around the world once more, alone. "I've awaited for this day for so long, it just seems so…surreal. Everything I've done and accomplished in the past few years, culminating to this."
"You've rightly earned it at that," Gecko commended with a nod, "are you sure you're going to be fine, I mean, I could pull my usual ninja abilities and sneak along with you after all."
"I'm sure I can handle it," Raven laughed at his manner, knowing that was indeed concerned. She wished him along so dearly, but it was necessary he remained behind; as it was something she must do on her own. "We'll keep in touch until I send for you, so don't worry. Even if I'm having a bad day, trouble focusing and what not," she added, holding up a new and improved communicator, fully-functioning at that, "I have this. These new communicators are very impressive to say the least. In any case, I will be sure to contact you, okay?"
"Alright," Gecko nodded, still feeling the pangs of regret allowing her to go by herself, unable to protect her from anything being thousands of miles away. "I know that you must and there is no other way, but I just don't like the idea of letting you go by yourself, that's all. I just…I just care about you, Rae. I don't want nothing to happen to you."
"I know you don't, David, and I'm know how deeply you feel about it," Raven sympathized with him, "but I am more than certain I can handle myself, but I do appreciate your concern. You seem to be the only one that has ever shown me compassion in my current dilemma, the last thing I would do is turn my back on you."
"You're more than deserving of it, honestly, I think that many underappreciated you and what you do for them, but that's just my opinion of course," he voiced in a slightly embarrassed nature, still expressing feelings for her. She merely welcomed it with a light peck on the check, accompanied by a smile.
"I think it's very sweet of you to think so," Raven informed, sighing afterwards, "I understand how you are feeling though, as am I. This is indeed the first time we've been apart for well over three years, and it will be…different without your companionship along my travels, David."
"This isn't farewell, Rae," Gecko pointed out as he moved a lock of her hair out of her face, tucking it behind her ear, "this is only goodbye for now. Until you inform me of what your situation is, I will await here, aiding Bushido in his heroic quests of the night. No matter how long, I will be patient, just to hear your voice once more." He informed with a smile, but quickly began digging in his backpack as he took it off, "I do have something for you though, something to remember me by until we meet again." He added, "Close your eyes, it's a surprise."
"Alright, David," Raven played along, covering her eyes with her hands, smirking at his antics, "Oh, I wonder what it could be."
"Let's just say it could be a little piece of me in a way," Gecko commented, "okay, open them."
Out of amusement, Raven did so, laying eyes on what was quite possibly the most interesting thing she had ever witnessed, especially from him. It was a miniature version of him, an action figure at that, constructed of the usual plastic and all. Every detail was down to a realistic nature, idolizing him into a kid's play thing.
"Are you serious?" Raven laughed, taking into her hands, looking it over, "since when do you have your own action figure?"
"Since yesterday," he proudly revealed, "this toy company wanted to make a new action figure, so why not on this new ninja hanging around town, his name's Gecko or something. It even comes with a little sword and everything. It's like a little me." He smiled jokingly.
"So let me guess," Raven began, turning one of the figure's arms, watching it perform what she assumed was some kind of "super kick" that most cliché action figures had, or something along the lines, "you have a little version of yourself, right?"
"So does that mean you play with yourself?" Raven queried with a cocked eyebrow out of amusement, knowing the innuendo she spoke of.
"Uhh….yeah, I guess so," Gecko replied, embarrassed beyond no other, realizing what he just agreed to, "Oh, no, no, no, not like that, of course not like that, I mean…"
"It's okay, I'm just playing with you," Raven smiled, placing the plastic figure into the last remaining pouch on her backpack that wasn't ready to burst, "or am I?"
Gecko's face remained beet red with embarrassment at her comment, nearly refusing to speak any more on the subject, fearing he was digging a hole he wasn't to escape. All Raven could do was laugh at his innocent nature. Even after all they had been through together, he still retained it, as it was a staple that emulated his true essence. His eyes shifted to Bushido behind Raven, evading the question to the best of his ability.
"Are you ready to go, Raven?" Bushido called from behind her, getting their attention, "your boat leaves soon, don't want you to miss it, now do we?"
"I'll be there in a minute, just wrapping things up, that's all," she called back, facing David once more, a face of near regret meeting one of perpetual sadness.
"Well, I guess this is it, Rae," Gecko managed, the pain present in his voice at the thought of her leaving, "I wish you safe travels and try not to forget about me, okay?"
"Trust me, I won't," Raven assured, looking into his emerald eyes, "besides, like you said, this isn't farewell, but goodbye for now. You do the same though; don't get into any trouble while I'm away."
"You know me, so don't worry," he laughed
"That's exactly the reason why I am," Raven smiled out of humor, knowing he was one of the most pure-hearted individuals she had ever met. "I know you won't forget about me, it's impossible, but I will be sure to do the same for you, David. Just stay in touch with Bushido, as well as me, and I will send you my message as soon as I am sure of it, alright?"
"Will do," he assured with a nod. Gecko stepped forth, wrapping his arms around Raven the best he could, despite her luggage upon her back and in her hand, holding her tightly, feeling her warmth, "be safe, Raven, and I wish you the best of luck."
Inside, Raven refused to leave, but she knew that this was quite possibly her one opportune chance to complete what she had originally dedicated herself to in the first place. It was now or never, and her mind knew it to be true. Destiny called, and it was now her time to step forth and answer. It was known to her that she and David would meet again one day, the sooner the better, but until then, she needed to be alone and complete this leg of her journey by herself. As Raven released him, a smile of happiness, contradicted by the single tear of departure rolling down her cheek, swallowed hard as she prepared to turn away and separate from her closest and most caring companion she has had for what has seemed like an eternity. In truth, despite being calm on the outside, Gecko felt remorse course through his body, almost refusing to let her go alone, if at all, feeling as if they had all that they needed in one another to continue, but that was extremely selfish of him in general, definitely something he wouldn't personally do, so keeping his voice to himself on the matter, he only watched as Raven slowly followed Bushido out the door, not to be seen for what he assumed a long time, possibly longer than he hoped.
"Don't turn around," Raven kept telling herself in her mind, "it's already hard enough, I couldn't force myself to leave if I see his saddened expression, what I've witnessed is already enough as it is. Stay strong, David, as will I, and will continue to do so until we meet again."
Each step grew heavier and heavier as she pressed forth, an invisible resistance nearly forcing her to turn back and refuse, but her iron will that had displayed thus far and pressed on continued to do so in spite of the uncertainty before her. The distance to the door, despite being short, seemed to go on forever and ever, almost taunting her, as well as tempting her to return to David, to certainty, to safety. Without taking this chance, she would never know her future fate or the fates of her very friends and family that she held so dearly and hoped to make amends with. A stronger person had emerged and rose from the ashes that was once her body, proving once and for all that she was not about to give up hope, no matter how bad things seemed, especially since all that she had been through couldn't even compare to the usual stresses of a normal day-to-day life, hero and member of the Titans or not. This was the culmination of all her efforts, no matter where they were placed. The aid she received from Heinrich and his mother, mending her broken mind, body, and soul back to health, the inspiration and guidance of conditioning on Alexa and Hans' behalf, even Dr. Light's assistance finding passage to China. Yet, in that timeframe, she lost faith in herself and her cause, and did the unthinkable, but found it impossible to follow through with. Then upon her discovery, she found Master Chu Hui, known to the world as somewhat of a legend going by only "The True Master". Endowed with her teachings, as well as meeting and making quite possibly the closest friend of her entire life, as well as companion, she set out to find the one known as Bushido. Night after night of nothing made it appear hopeless and just as it all seemed lost, he appeared, much like a guardian angel to heed her calling. Now, the end is in sight, passage home is now a definite thing, no longer a hope. All had finally come to a heading, that heading was her rebirth. Raven had indeed died, not physically, but the Raven the world knew at one time. Her fruitful efforts rebuilt a talented, strong willed individual seeking redemption and forgiveness. This was her journey. This…was her resurrection. With home on her mind and nearly in sight, all Raven could do was fight the nervous feelings in the pit of her stomach for a few days passage, and not have a care in the world, knowing that the danger had passed, all that was left was the healing…or was it?