Hi there! Back with another chapter on this one. Sorry for the late update, but I've noticed that my other two stories, the Mercenary and Death Korps of Justice, have been getting far more attention than this one. So I'm therefore prioritizing and focusing most of my attention on them. That doesn't mean that I've given up on Teen Titans Vengeance, just that updates will be exceptionally slower than my other two. Not to mention that I'm also in my first year of college, so any form of update on any of my stories will be slow and sporadic.

But enough blabbering on my part, let's start the chapter!

Jump City

Two days later

02:00 pm

Two days. Two freaking days of this new wave of madness. Two days of endless death and destruction caused by these two new faces in Jump City. Krystal and Carnifex had been on a near endless killing spree after the first battle, striking at random all across the city before slipping away. The death toll was rising, but neither the police nor the Titans could stop it. Their enemies refused to engage them. The people were losing hope and were fleeing en masse, leaving many homes empty to be plundered by greedy opportunists. Crime rate was rising faster than the police and the Titans could handle.

As it was, the whole team was deployed in the city, patrolling every street in a desperate attempt to keep order in the city. Only Cyborg remained on standby back at the tower, partially because of the grievous wounds he had sustained battling Carnifex. But it had also been decided that he should be the one to remain behind because with the T-car nothing more than a pile of scrap, he was the only Titan who lacked the means to quickly travel from one end of the city to the other. And in these times, speed was everything.

Currently, Nightwing was perched atop the Wayne Enterprises building, just waiting for something to go horribly wrong. It may be a bit pessimistic way of thinking, but it was the truth nonetheless. His eyes were constantly scanning across the city, never failing in his vigilance. A sudden explosion about three blocks away had him leaping off his vantage point, using a grapple gun to safely swing onto another rooftop.

"Titans, come in! There's been an explosion in downtown! Get here as fast as you can!" he shouted into his communicator as he leaped from rooftop to rooftop.

"No can do. I'm dealing with a pair of trigger happy robbers on the east side of town," Changeling replied sourly as gunfire could be heard in the background.

"I am also unable to offer assistance, since I am in the middle of…" whatever else Starfire said next was drowned out by an explosion on her end, causing Nightwing to come to a screeching halt.

"Starfire!" he called in panic through his communicator, fearing the worst.

"I am unharmed. The grenade only disoriented me," she suddenly replied, causing Nightwing to let out a breath he was unaware he had even been holding. Still, the message was clear. No aid from her either.

"I'm on my way, but it'll be about ten minutes before I get there," Terra responded. Well, at least one of the Titans could answer.

"Then you better hurry your ass over here, because I ain't waiting for you," Nightwing stated before pocketing his communicator. Barely a few seconds later, he leaped off a building and landed right in front of about ten robbers armed with Uzis and revolvers and wearing ski masks.

"Shit, it's Nightwing!" one of them burst out in panic, only to be roughly shoved aside by another one.

"Who cares? It's only one of him and ten of us! Let's just waste him!" he shouted while brandishing his Uzi. Roars of approval from his gang quickly answered him and ten weapons were aimed at Nightwing. Except that Nightwing was not standing still, he was in fact standing right in front of their leader. A blow to his nether regions, followed by a knee to his forehead as he doubled over in pain took the leader out of the equation. Barely had the remaining nine opened fire before Nightwing was in motion again.

Drawing his two eskrima sticks, he knocked the wind out of one robber, ducked under a spray of bullets from a second robber, gave said robber a back flipped kick to his chin, knocked the gun out of the hands of a third, sending the disarmed robber to lala-land with a whack to the head, sweeping the legs from underneath a fourth, flipped right over that robber to deliver a roundhouse kick to a fifth, ducked under a sixth's clumsy swing before smashing him back with two powerful blows to his stomach and finished up with slipping right over a seventh before grabbing him from behind and performing a judo throw that sent him careening into the fourth robber.

That only left two robbers still standing, and they were shaking in their boots. Nightwing slowly cracked his neck before he began to advance upon the last two, taking care to move as slowly and as menacing as possible.

"So…" he began. "How do you want to do this? Cooperate and avoid a beating, or resist and live to regret it for the rest of your lives?"

It took less than a second for the robbers to make a decision, as they threw their weapons down before raising their hands into the air in a surrendering gesture. Nightwing was quick to handcuff the two robbers, along with their unconscious, or in some cases barely conscious, comrades in arms.

"Now who would be stupid enough to commit an armed robbery against…" here, he paused in his lecture to glance at the building they had been in the middle of pillaging, at which point he had to bit a back a snort of disbelief. "… A hamburger bar?"

One of the two still conscious robbers shrugged his shoulders nonchalantly. "We were hungry." Was the explanation he offered. A shake of his head was all Nightwing had left to offer on the matter, just as Terra arrived. As usual, the girl was utilizing a flying rock as transport.

"What did I miss?" she asked as she jumped off her rock in front of Nightwing.

"Nothing important, if that's what you're wondering," he answered tiredly. They waited in silence for the next twenty minutes before police cars finally arrived to ship the robbers off.

"Took you long enough to get here," Terra muttered irritably. One of the cops gave her a sour glare in return.

"Well excuse us for not being fast enough to your liking when we're fighting just to keep order in one end of the city, only to hear we're needed in the other," he countered heatedly. It looked like it was close to escalate into a fight, so Nightwing stepped in-between them in an attempt to prevent that.

"Whoa, save it for the criminals," he said while placing a hand on one of their shoulders each as a way to keep them apart. Both did relent, but the cop snorted at them while roughly shrugging off Nightwing's hand before stalking back to his patrol car. Nightwing gave a tired sigh before he turned towards Terra.

"Try not to antagonize them too much. All our nerves are strung to the breaking point with all that's going on," he told her sternly, receiving a small nod from her. With that dispute settled, Nightwing used a grapple gun to get up on the rooftops while Terra took to the air again on her rock.

Two days of this madness. Nightwing was right, everyone was on their last nerves here. With crime spiraling out of control, it was a miracle that they were still holding out. But what really concerned Nightwing about now were two people; Slade and Iron Mask. Both had revealed themselves very recently. Well, in Slade's case it was more like revealing his apprentice. But it had been days since he had heard even the tiniest peep from them, and it unnerved him. It was not like them to just call it a day and go home.

No, they were up to something. And whatever it was, it would not be something good. Naturally, he would expect this from Slade, hiding in the shadows to strike when you least suspected it. But that was not Iron Mask's M.O. when committing crime. In a lot of ways, he was like the Joker when he did something; loud, over the top and meant to draw your attention. This sudden silence from him did not bode well in Nightwing's eyes.

"Just where the hell did you go?" he asked out loud, as if he expected an answer to come to him.

Gotham City

02:00 pm

"And if you go this way, you'll find our exhibit of weapons and uniforms from the American Civil War," the guide said as he led a throng of eager listeners around in the museum. Today was a crowded day for the museum, as dozens of newly dug-out artifacts had been shipped over to be catalogued and displayed for the city's enjoyment. Among them was a red stone with a strange rune engraved into it. What purpose it was supposed to serve, no one knew as there was no one who could understand what the rune meant. Still, it had been linked to some devil-worshipping cult from back in the 19th century, thereby granting it a small pedestal for itself among the occult artifacts on display.

Most people showed no real care about a mere red stone, but there was one in the crowd who found it quite fascinating. Had in fact been staring at it for nearly an hour and showing no signs of losing interest in the artifact any time soon. As a matter of fact, he had been so transfixed by the stone that some people were beginning to wonder about him.

"Can I help you, sir?" and it seemed like one of the security guards decided to see what was up with this individual. It took a few moments before this mysterious man turned to face the guard, his black eyes drilling into the guard with such intension that he took an involuntary step backward.

"Non merci, monsieur. I'm quite content as it is," the mysterious man answered cheerfully while smiling widely at the guard. But while he sounded so cheerful, the guard could not shake the feeling that there was something truly sinister buried deep under this cheerful façade. And it was a façade, beyond a shadow of a doubt. You do not get to be a security guard in Gotham for well over thirty years without learning to see through a false front meant to lower your guard. Still, without evidence that this creep had actually done something illegal, there was nothing he could do but nod his head and return to his post.

He would just have to keep a close eye on this individual while alerting the boys that they should be on higher guard this particular evening. It never hurt to be prepared.

But as the guard walked away, Iron Mask dropped his cheerful attitude and sent a scathing glare at the guard's back for interrupting him in his reverence. Before him stood something he had been searching for more than two years. One more piece to the puzzle that would see his dreams becoming a reality. Already now, he could practically taste victory on his tongue, he was so close now. The problem that now lay before him was how he was going to steal it without attracting too much attention to himself. No doubt the resident Dark Knight would be on his trail the moment he had completed his heist.

While he was not overly concerned about Batman, given that he was just a mere human, it was another "hero" of sorts that dwelt in Gotham that had Iron Mask a bit on edge. Jason Blood, former knight in Arthur's court who was cursed with his soul and body forever becoming bonded with the daemon Etrigan. He would most certainly prove a hindrance should he show up. So Iron Mask needed to be fast here. He remained rooted to his spot for maybe another hour or so, simply admiring the prize that was just within his reach, before he swiftly turned around and headed out of the museum.

"Now I just need to wait for the couvrir of darkness before striking," he mused to himself as he happily strolled down the street. And besides, even though he needed to wait for the arrival of the night, he still had another errand in Gotham that needed to be completed before he could leave. Might as well get it over with now. But as he left the museum, he was completely unaware that a dark shape was observing him from the rooftops.

Jump City

03:00 pm

This day, Zacharious was not a happy Templar. Why, you might ask? Because their search for the Heartless had come to a grinding halt. No traces had been found, no clues as to where the infernal creature was hiding. And what was the reason for this sudden lack of advancements? Simple, two mass murdering psychopaths were on a citywide killing spree. With these so called Carnifex and Krystal running rampant across the city, killing indiscriminately along the way, it became all but impossible to determine which murders were committed by those two or their quarry.

But even with these setbacks, Zacharious and his Templars were not about to throw in the towel just yet. They would push onward with their quest, no matter what. For that reason, the Templar expedition squad was out in force today. Valdemar and Celestine had teamed up to scour the west side of the city, while the twins rooted around in the sewers and Gustaf was knocking a few heads together in the more rundown south side. They had agreed to forego the north side, since that was where their temporary headquarter was situated. That left the east side for Zacharious to investigate, while silently thanking God that he was not cooped up at their headquarter again.

His train of thought was halted when he stumbled upon yet another corpse in the silent alley he was patrolling. Kneeling down next to it, he muttered a silent prayer for this unfortunate soul while closing his still wide open eyes. Fifth one this day alone. There was no question about it, this city was going mad. But this one was different from the rest. Zacharious had found two victims killed by gunshots, one by being burned alive and one who had been crushed by a car. This one on the other hand had died of none of the above. In fact, what had killed this one was that someone had smashed straight through his ribcage and torn out his heart.

A painful and gruesome death, and the calling card of the Heartless.

Adrenaline spiked through him. Finally, a lead. It was not much, but it was the best they had found since arriving in this city. Without wasting any time, Zacharious brought out a golden pendant and began to slowly swing it above the corpse.

"By the will of our Lord and Savior, let thy spirit guide the way to thy killer. Let thy spirit find peace while thy killer find damnation," he chanted quietly. Suddenly, the pendant stopped swinging before it seemingly became drawn by some invisible force. The pendant pointed deeper into the alley and Zacharious could feel it struggling in his grip to move onward. Not about to disappoint, he hurried his steps to keep up with invisible force guiding him towards his target.

"Beware, Heartless. I'm coming for your head now," he vowed to himself, never realizing that someone was standing on the roof above him, yellow glowing eyes narrowed in utter hate and contempt at the Templar below him.

"He's on the move, master, heading straight towards you. Shall I intervene?" he called into a walkie-talkie he was carrying, a thick German accent coloring his words. An animalistic growl bubbled up from his throat as he could smell the sweet aroma of flesh and blood. His mouth even watered as he imagined sinking his teeth into the Templar's soft flesh. Every muscle in his body tensed up in preparation for a mighty leap down on his prey. Any second now he would have his meal. But like a dog getting its leash pulled, he recoiled from the roof edge when he felt a dark and sinister force penetrating his mind. Any thought of fighting back were hastily expunged as his warped mind recognized the foul aura invading.

"Let him come," the hollow voice of his master whispered in his head, promising a fate worse than death should he dare disobey. With his meal denied, he gave a disappointed hiss before slinking away, searching for something to sink his teeth into.

Jump City

03:00 pm

Leaping from rooftop to rooftop, eyes never ceasing in their tireless search for danger, Nightwing was rewarded with a terrified shriek from a jewelry store right beneath him. What few people who were out on the street wasted no time in bolting away in panic as Nightwing landed in front of the store's doors. He pressed himself against a wall and peered inside through the windows. Inside he found two hostiles, both dressed head to toe in thick black clothes that hid their bodies completely, along with black masks for their faces. One of them was casually leaning against the desk while his partner was kneeling next to a man and woman, both lying in puddles of their own blood.

"Welche soll ich beginnen mit?" the one kneeling asked excitedly in a guttural tone as he pulled out a knife. His partner just shrugged his shoulder.

"Wählen welcher auch immer Sie mögen, aber beeilen! Wir haben nicht den ganzen Tag. Der Meister wird nicht sich freuen wenn wir ziehen zu viel Aufmerksamkeit uns dies bald."

"Wen kümmert es? Es ist nicht wie jemand wird sein in der Lage, uns zu stoppen."

"Sie sagen, dass jetzt. Aber du wirst es bereuen die vorliegende der Meister wird missfallen mit Ihrer Arbeit."

Outside, Nightwing was having a bit of a difficulty piecing together what exactly these two were saying, but he summarized it as these two were just grunts working for someone else. And Nightwing was going to find out whom while sending these two into the deepest and darkest cell he could find. With that, he leaped straight through the window, catching the murderers by surprise. He barreled over the one leaning against the desk while sending a birdarang at the second, disarming him of his weapon. But as Nightwing began wrestling with his opponent, the second one took his chance and bolted out the backdoor.

"Your partner has abandoned you here," Nightwing taunted as he managed to straddle his opponent, who only grunted in response.

"Ich nicht brauche seine Hilfe mit dem Brechen ein bloßer Mensch wie du," was the answer Nightwing received before his opponent tore loose one of his arms from Nightwing's grip and punched him straight in the chest. And that one blow was enough to slam all the air out of him, along with catapulting him off his opponent. As Nightwing impacted heavily against the floor, his opponent was already back on his feet. With a very inhuman growl, he leaped right at Nightwing, meaning to tear his throat out.

Nightwing somersaulted right over him and drove a steel tipped boot into his back. He just snarled and swung around way faster than Nightwing could react. Within seconds his throat was in the grip of his enemy and he was roughly slammed into a pillar. He tried boxing his opponent's stomach with everything he had, but he never so much as flinched. In a desperate bid, he slammed a fist into his opponent's face, causing his grip to loosen but a return blow quickly followed. Nightwing barely dodged underneath it, but the punch shattered the concrete pillar like it was glass.

Burying his shock for later, Nightwing struck out with both legs, managing to knock his opponent back into the desk. Even as he tried to regain his balance, Nightwing came at him with a flying kick that knocked him right over the desk and into a display case behind it. Though that only seemed to anger him further as he was quickly back on his feet, breaking off a wooden leg from the display case to use as a club. With furious steps, he rounded the desk and threw a savage swing at Nightwing. He dodged the first, sidestepped the second, ducked under the third and yet again dodged the fourth.

Taking his chance, he once again ducked under a wild swing and stepped in under his guard and delivered a haymaker to his chin. His opponent's head whipped back from the unexpected attack, but suddenly snapped right back and head-butted Nightwing with such strength that he crumbled to the floor as the world refused to sop spinning like a roller-coaster in his vision. He did not fully see, but he more than felt when a pair of muscled hands grabbed the front of his shirt and hoisted him into the air.

"Es ist nicht vorbei noch, Schönling," his opponent snarled in utter contempt into his face before Nightwing was hurled like ragdoll through the store, slamming right through another display case before he came to a painful stop against the wall. With a pained groan, Nightwing forced himself up again, even as his opponent approached him yet again. At least now the world was standing still again and Nightwing took the opportunity to hurl two discs at his opponent. They both exploded at his feet and encased them in ice, freezing them in place to the floor. He merely grunted at this minor nuisance and with a few tugs, the ice broke. He turned his sight once again towards Nightwing, just in time to see him barreling down towards him like a madman.

A powerful kick to his knee forced him down on that knee before a roundhouse kick to the side of his head slammed him hard into the floor. Nightwing struck out with a third kick, but his opponent caught it and threw him into the glass doors leading into the shop before staggering back to his knees. But Nightwing was not down for the count yet as he threw another disc that exploded like a flash bang straight in his opponent's face. He was left blinded while roaring in anger as Nightwing drove a fist into his face, followed by a knee to his chin and a spinning kick to his head again.

This seemed to have finally knocked the fighting spirit out of him as he fell to the floor, panting and coughing. While Nightwing was also worn down from their scuffle, he at least could still stand upright. In the distance, they could hear police sirens closing in on their position.

"They got here sooner than I expected," Nightwing commented off-handedly to himself before turning towards his opponent. "Seems like you'll be going to your new home earlier than anticipated. But don't think I'm done with you. I'll be back later to ask you some questions,"

If anything, that only infuriated him even further as he glared hatefully at Nightwing. At which point Nightwing wondered if he had seen wrong, or had the man's eyes glowed yellow?

"Sie und Ihre Art wird nie imstande sein zu halten, die gerne von mir!" he roared out before he leaped forward with newfound strength. Nightwing was caught completely by surprise and was smashed aside with a simple backhanded slap. Out on the street, the police had just arrived when the man came rushing out of the store. One of them tried to demand his surrender, but the man rushed him and with one punch cracked his skull wide open before rushing past. Guns were quickly drawn and a torrent of gunfire poured out at the man. A few found their mark and buried their way through his flesh, but he just roared in fury even as he tore the arm of a cop right out of its socket before using the still alive and screaming cop as a makeshift shield.

Breaking through the cops' stunned ranks, he threw away his barely conscious shield and leaped up on a balcony before he began to rapidly scale the building. Nightwing meanwhile had just barged through the door in time to see his quarry disappear over the edge of the building. And as he set off in pursuit, there was one thought that went through his head; what was he?

"Starfire calling all Titans. I have located a large gathering of criminals at a chemical plant. I am about to engage them," Starfire suddenly called through the communicator. Nightwing instantly felt queasy about it. His girlfriend going up alone against of most likely armed criminals. Even though he knew that she could more than hold her own in a battle, the overprotective boyfriend in him still did not like it.

"Hang on a second, Star. I'm not that far from where you are. I'll link up with you and we take them out together," Terra suddenly said, causing Nightwing to mentally thank her for her offer.

"You two do that. Report back as soon as the threat has been neutralized," Nightwing ordered the two girls before addressing the fourth member of the team. "Changeling, I need your help over at my position with a possible meta human,"

"New bad guy in town?" Changeling asked humorously, something that did not sit well with Nightwing. Not surprising, given how this newcomer had given him quite a trashing.

"Nothing to joke about. He just tore two cops to pieces and threw me around like a ragdoll before I drove him off. He's now on the run, and I'm in pursuit of him. Track my signal and try to intercept him," Nightwing clarified coldly, cutting the link afterwards before Changeling even had a chance to respond. Within seconds, his grapple gun was in his hand and he was off in pursuit. Unfortunately, when he landed on the rooftop, he had lost sight of his prey. Fortunately, he had thought well ahead and brought out a small GPS tracker from his utility belt. In the heat of the battle, he had managed to place a tracer on his opponent. It soon had a lock-on on the tracer and Nightwing was off.

Meanwhile, the one he was hunting was leaping from rooftop to rooftop at a speed that no human could ever hope to compete with, while swearing with such a creative vocabulary that no mother would ever want their children to hear. The reason was that even though he had put a great distance between himself and Nightwing, the annoying hero was still on his trail. Even now, he could smell his flesh miraculously keeping up with him. What the hell was he supposed to do now? He could not slip back to the hideout with that hero still on his tail.

"Bring him to me," an insidious voice whispered in his mind. Though stunned by the request, he was not about to question the master's will and instantly altered course, leading his would-be hunter straight towards what was undoubtedly a certain death at the hands of the master. Despite his loathing and hate for this disgusting mortal, he could not help but feel a small twinge of sympathy for him. After all, if there was a fate worse than death, it would undoubtedly pale in comparison to what the master's twisted mind could conjure up for you.

Jump City

02:50 pm

While scouting and tracking was anything but Valdemar's forte, it was more than compensated in Celestine's abundance of experience. Currently Valdemar was lurking in the alleys, away from the public eye, while Celestine was scouring the area for clues. Where exactly she was, Valdemar had no idea. The girl had no equal when it came to concealing one's presence and move around unseen. Batman probably came in on a close second, but he had never needed to go up against beasts and monsters with senses far surpassing that of humans on a daily basis. Celestine had.

But even with her skills, this search was proving fruitless. Two days of constant search and they had found nothing value. He would never admit it out loud, but Valdemar was beginning to have doubts about just the five of them completing this task on their own.

"I've found something," Celestine suddenly stated from right behind Valdemar. How in the world she got there without alerting him, he never wanted to know. Thankfully, Valdemar had been subjected to far worse surprises in his life, and thus looked as if he had known she had been behind him all the time.

"What have you found?" he asked as he turned around, his single remaining eye drilling into Celestine's ice cold ones.

"A large concentration of criminals is gathering not too far from here. The one known as Carnifex was sighted among them," she revealed monotonously. Carnifex, the murderous fiend who was caring the mark of Scath. While he was not their primary target, he was still a threat that needed to be dealt with. Besides, he might in some way be connected to the Heartless.

"Very well, Celestine. We will take action here and eradicate this beast before he causes more trouble for our team," Valdemar decided. So it was that the two of them together moved towards their new target, hiding out in a chemical plant.

Gotham City

03:00 pm

Sitting with his feet slung up on a table, Iron Mask's already short patience was burning up faster than a piece of paper on fire. The one he was seeking to make contact with was already half an hour late, and Iron Mask hated it when someone was late. Particularly now of all times. He idly toyed with a serrated knife, even going so far as cutting his palms open and slicing his fingers off, only to regrow them later and do it again. The things a man would do when bored.

"Normally, I would say that such behavior could be dangerous to your health. But given your unique set of skills, I would have been mere empty words," a dark and raspy voice suddenly spoke as someone else stepped into the dark room.

"You're late, Monsieur Scarecrow," Iron Mask muttered furiously as he glared at the insane criminal dressed in black western preacher clothes with a noose around his neck. The self-proclaimed master of fear only gave a grin with his mask as he took a seat opposite of Iron Mask.

"My apologies, I was preoccupied with other matters," he offered as an excuse, "And besides, it was not like I was expecting the infamous Iron Mask to pay me a visit," as he said this, his earlier smile vanished and he leaned forward in his seat, curiosity overcoming him, "Which begs the question, why are you here?"

Now it was Iron Mask's turn to smile, not that Scarecrow could see it, as he brought out a piece of paper which he held out for Scarecrow to take.

"Business, mon ami. I would like to make a purchase of your spécialité," he offered as an explanation. Though still vary of the madman, Scarecrow still reached out and grasped the offered paper. And as he unfolded it and read its content, his eyes widened in astonishment.

"This is… a hefty order," he finally managed to get out, still in a bit of a chock. Eventually he turned his attention back to Iron Mask, eyes narrowed in suspicion, "Why would you need such a large quantity, and an even better question; why should I supply it to you?" it was a valid question, given with whom he was dealing with. But Iron Mask just laughed at his suspicious tone, probably used to such reactions by now.

"That is for moi to know and for you to guess," he teased lightheartedly, as if they were longtime friends, "As for your deuxième question," here, he reached underneath the table, causing Scarecrow to tense up and reach for his gun, "you will be richement compensated for your efforts," his statement was punctuated by a black briefcase being brought up on the table and shoved over to Scarecrow. Being careful to keep Iron Mask in his line of sight, Scarecrow opened the briefcase and peered inside. His eyes were close to falling out of their sockets at the sight of the insane amount of money packed inside.

"Half now, the rest when the job is fini," Iron Mask stated as he stood up from his seat and reached out with a hand, "Do we have a deal?"

It only took a few seconds for Scarecrow to make his decision and shake hand with Iron Mask, "We have a deal,"

Jump City

03:15 pm

Okay, Nightwing had to admit, this guy was fast. He was barely keeping up with him as he jumped from rooftop to rooftop. If not for the tracer, he might have lost his quarry by now. But as the chase continued, he could not shake the feeling that he was in fact being led somewhere. His prey was not even really trying to shake him off, he was going in a continuous straight line. He obviously had a very specific destination in mind, but what? His target suddenly came to a stop and Nightwing quickened his pace. Finally he reached the building his target had taken refuge in. The old clock building that they had faced Slade in during Raven's birthday four years ago.

A quick stab of sad nostalgia struck him as he thought of that day, but he buried it deep within himself and pushed on. Though instead of just waltzing in like last time, he decided to be a little bit more discreet and snuck in using the windows. It was not long before he found himself in that all too familiar room where the battle had taken place, crouched on one of the catwalks. While it had been repaired years ago, Nightwing still felt it strange to see it in such a pristine shape after how it had been so demolished.

But those were thoughts for another time, for now he had a mission to focus on. His target was currently kneeling in the floor below, head bowed in submission. But it was not him that held Nightwing's attention, it was the thing he was kneeling in front of. What it was, Nightwing could not even begin to fathom, for there was no form to it. As far as his eyes could discern, it was nothing more than darkness drawn together into one form. No wait, there was one feature that could be discerned about it. Its right eye was visible, but even that did not look fully human. All black with a red symbol, shaped like an eight-pointed star circling a serpent's eye. 'What the hell is it?' he asked himself in disgust.

Down below, no words were spoken by the master and servant, for that was obviously their relation, but Nightwing could not shake the feeling that words were indeed being exchanged between them, given how the servant would occasionally flinch as if reprimanded.

"How long are you planning on spying on us from up there, Mr. Nightwing?" the shadow creature suddenly spoke, his voice like a hundred agonized souls speaking in synch. Nightwing stifled a gasp of surprise from the creature's statement. 'How did he detect me?' he asked himself in bewilderment. Accepting that his cover had been blown, Nightwing abandoned stealth and jumped down. The shadow creature did not turn to face Nightwing immediately, instead staring at nothing in particular.

"Leave us," he suddenly ordered, the servant more than happy to do just that as he scurried out like a whipped dog, leaving Nightwing alone with the creature. At last did he turn to face Nightwing, his single eye drilling into him with such intensity that he had to struggle not to show his unease towards him.

"You're either very brave or simply ignorant if you dare come before me alone," he said condescendingly. Nightwing however was not about to be baited that easily.

"Who are you?" he demanded of him. For a brief moment, he got the feeling that the shadow creature was smiling at him.

"My apologies for not introducing myself earlier. You may call me the Heartless," he introduced himself with what Nightwing assumed was meant as a theatrical bow. Heartless, not a name he was familiar with. Most likely a new face, like Carnifx and Krystal. And that brought out another question in his mind.

"Who are you working for? Slade? Iron Mask? Or those two murderers running loose?" he questioned harshly. The answer was immediate as it was unsettling. The Heartless started to laugh. A cold, cruel laugh that froze the blood in your veins.

"Me? Working for someone? The thought is just ludicrous! I serve no one but myself," he declared. Nightwing's hands tightened into fists as he glared at him.

"Then why are you here, then? Your goons were caught murdering innocents, so don't even think about giving me some bullshit about not wanting to cause trouble," he snarled out at him. A deep chuckle leaked out from the deep parts of this shadow creature.

"You are correct in your assumption. My reasons for being in Jump City are far from benevolent," the Heartless answered humorously, obviously amused by this discussion.

"Then what's your plan?" Nightwing pressed on. In response, a patch of shadow rose up and formed the shape of a finger waving back and forth while a "tsk" was repeatedly uttered.

"Now now, do you really expect me to reveal that much? After all, what sort of a fool would reveal his strategy before the game is over?" the Heartless inquired mockingly before his temporarily formed finger disintegrated. Nightwing bristled at that.

"A game?! Is this all a game to you?! People's lives are at stake here!" he furiously shouted at him, to which yet another blood chilling laugh bubbled out from within the darkness.

"Lives are always at stake. That's the beauty about human life, it can all end so suddenly. Besides, it's not like there's a shortage of humans around," the Heartless countered. Nightwing was about to give a scathing retort when the Heartless suddenly turned his back to him, "As amusing as this conversation has been, I really must be going now. Ta ta," barely had he moved a few inches before a birdarang embedded itself in the floor in front of him.

"You're not going anywhere. I don't know what you're up to, but I'm stopping it right here," Nightwing declared with conviction. Slowly, the Heartless turned to face him once again, a bloodthirsty gleam shining in his eye.

"You really think you can stand against me, boy?" he questioned mockingly, most likely smiling if he even had a mouth, "After all, you barely stood a chance against Raven," that last bit struck a sensitive cord in Nightwing, who barely restrained himself from leaping right at him.

"How did you…" he questioned in astonishment, not even trying to deny what the Heartless was implying.

"Enough with all this talking. You wanted a fight…" something started to emerge from the shadows cloaking the Heartless as he spoke, "… so you will receive a fight," as it was fully emerged, Nightwing could see that it was an arm clad in black armor with claw-like fingers, twice as long as normal fingers, adorning its gauntlet. Seeing as battle was imminent, Nightwing brought out his eskrima sticks and crouched low in a combat ready pose.

"Now then, shall we begin?" the Heartless questioned jovially before, with speed far greater than Nightwing had anticipated, he lunged at him.

Jump City clock building


"Now what would the Heartless be doing in a place such as this?" Zacharious asked himself as he stood in front of the backdoor. The pendant had led him straight here, but there was no sign of anyone or anything of value here. Still, it had led him here, so there must be something here. He was proven right when he heard two thuds right behind him. Slowly turning around, he found two persons wearing all black clothes and ski masks. Zacharious would have even bought the charade that they were human if not for the yellow glowing eyes they both had.

"I take it you're servants of the Heartless," he mostly mused to himself, not really expecting an answer from these daemons. With a resigned sigh, he drew his claymore and held it at the ready.

"So I guess I'll have to kill you two before I can proceed," he never even waited to see if they would say anything before he charged them.