Elektra rushes across the rooftops with her sais drawn. She means business. In her time, she has been a law student, an acolyte to an arcane order of mystic martial artists, an assassin for an occult ninja clan and a Broadway star. Lately, she can add freelance adventurer and an itinerant foe of inequity. Each night from the rooftops, Elektra pursues the evil that permeates the mean streets below. Tonight, she has returned to find that evil has reached into her home.
A fire blazes in her apartment block, and a fire crew struggles to douse the flames. Elektra crashes through her window and lands to find a ninja of the Hand inside, and he has Nina McCabe captive with a chain tightened around her neck. On one end of the chain is a large scythe. He introduces himself as Kuroyama, the black mountain. He has come to claim payment on Elektra’s debt. Nina calls out for help. Kuroyama explains that he grew tired of waiting for her return, so he set the place alight to amuse himself, and to act as a lure. He asks Elektra to watch as he redeems her pledge with Nina’s innocent blood.
Elektra replies that Nina is her responsibility, and he can’t have her. She lunges at him, sai first, and catches his scythe between the forks. The chain is pulled which yanks the sai from her grasp, but she uses her sword to attack. Her much larger opponent informs her that her outstanding account with the Hand has been audited and a schedule of restitution has been drafted. It is payable in full, and the only acceptable tender is a beating heart!
Metal strikes metal as the pair fight, but soon Kuroyama gains an advantage as he wraps his chain around Elektra’s neck as well. She falls to the ground, struggling to breathe, and he then uses one of her own sais to pin one end of the chain to the ground. With his scythe, he pins her arm, leaving her effectively helpless. She warns him angrily that she’ll get free and kill him, but he gloats that, if she struggles against his razor-honed scythe blade, she will only succeed in severing her hand. Did she think she could simply walk away from the Hand? Did she think that her debt was cancelled?
He now has Nina by her ponytail. Kuroyama asks Elektra if it was worth being brought back from the dead. She replies that she’s not afraid to cross the River of Woe again, but the girl has nothing to do with her debt to the Hand. She asks him to let Nina go. Her blood alone is payment in full. Kuroyama disagrees. He reaches behind him and pulls out his sword. He informs Elektra that there is interest accrued and penalties. Nina’s belabored death is but the first installment. Nina cries, begging the assassin that she doesn’t want to die. Kuroyama threatens to cut the beating heart from her chest, and Elektra shouts out, “Noooooo!!” She thinks that she must be dead and this a torment from Hell. But, the geysers of bright steaming blood are all too real, and the screams…
(three days later)
It is the day of Nina’s funeral. The screams are still reverberating through Elektra’s head. They drown out the muffled sobs of Nina’s grandparents, and the worn platitudes of a stranger in an ecclesiastical collar. Mac mumbles his amen’s just like he did when Nina’s father was laid to rest at the same cemetery. Elektra bears the guilt for that death as well, but she wears that guilt with forbearance. She is beyond tolerance and restraint.
She approaches the funeral party carrying a red rose. Nina’s grandfather sees her coming and orders her to get out of there. They don’t want her throwing her filthy flowers on her grave. Nina is being buried without a heart. What kind of depraved monster does a thing like that? asks her grandmother. She slaps Elektra hard across the face and snarls that she knew the danger she was in. She knew it and didn’t send Nina away. “You killed her you evil tramp!” She slaps her again.
It’s evening and the rain pours down on Elektra as she walks the streets, still carrying the red rose. She doesn’t remember leaving the graveyard, or how she got back to midtown Manhattan. She slowly becomes aware that her feet are blistered from walking aimless miles, and then she realizes where she is. She looks at the theater which has a ‘cancelled’ sign over the show’s name. A passing cab’s headlights throw light into the shadow of the marquee and she sees something. “Stick?” she asks. She glances around and finds the sidewalk empty.
She somehow finds her way to the dojo and bangs on the door. Mac shouts out of the window, without realizing who it is, that he is coming. He is surprised to see Elektra when he opens the door. He asks why she is knocking when she owns the place and everything in it. He sees how wet she is and asks her to come inside to get dry, but she replies that it would be too easy to do that. Mac says that the first step is never easy. She stepped across into his heart, and he swears that he will love her forever. “There,” he adds, “I said it.”
Elektra sighs, seemingly appreciating the sentiment, ill-timed though it might be. She notices the stick he is holding and asks where he got it from. He replies that he just grabs the Bo-Staff instinctively when he has to answer the door in the middle of the night. Elektra tells him that it wasn’t instinct tonight. It was something else. She tells him that she has to go away and might not be back for a very long time. As she walks away, Mac says that he can wait forever.
She finally finds Stick in a stinking, litter-strewn alleyway. He is a master of the order known as the Chaste. He was Elektra’s mentor, before he died. He warms his hands around a brazier and tells Elektra that fire is like a solid thing to the blind. It has weight. It can be your friend or it can hurt you. At a certain distance, it feels warm and comforting, but don’t get too close. Elektra asks if he’s talking to her or himself. Stick replies that he was talking about fire.
Elektra is still clutching the red rose. She tells Stick that she was expecting him to show her the tortured revenant of Nina standing on the other side of the River of Woe. Stick spits and asks who he is. Teiresias the Seer? If he is, then where is the goat she owes him? He grasps the rose from her fingers and tells her that he can’t tell her what she doesn’t know or can’t figure out herself. All he can do is point the way.
He tosses the rose into a puddle and points at the rubbish nearby. “Ya want the River of Woe?” he asks. He explains that it isn’t flowing on the far side of the Pillars of Hercules. It’s right here in the alley. Those are the shades of yesterday standing on the other side of the river. Garbage. That’s what yesterday is, and that’s all ghosts and revenants are. What Elektra must deal with is tomorrow. She has to finish what she started.
(the next night)
Elektra meets Wolverine at the Brooklyn Bridge, atop one of the towers. She informs Wolverine that Kuroyama cut out Nina’s heart and was laughing as he did it. Logan figures that this is why she called him and asked him to sniff out any possible Hand hot-spots. There’s one in his own neighborhood, the East Village. He offers to show her. As they set off down the bridge’s suspender, he says it must be pretty heavy for Elektra to be asking for help. He wants her to know that he’s down for whatever it is.
Elektra tells him that she just wants him to watch her back. She was totally unprepared for Kuroyama and she doesn’t want to be caught off guard again. Wolverine informs her that the Hand has been a thorn in his side for a good long time. This is good. It’s time for payback. Elektra says that this isn’t simply revenge. She wants them to give her back her life. Wolverine tells her that she can’t ever get her old life back. That’s just grasping at smoke. She should just concentrate on kicking butt, taking names and getting answers.
Elektra takes his advice to heart. The seemingly abandoned tenement is virtually infested with ninjas. A while ago, Wolverine had succumbed to the animal that lurks inside him and she was tasked with returning him to humanity. “Put his feet back on the path,” Stick had asked her. Together, they walked the way of the Righteous Warrior. Tonight, she fears that they have strayed from that noble path. Tonight, her hands are red, her soul is black and anger burns white as an arc lamp in her breast. The two of them wade through the tenement, killing ninjas by the dozen. Each time, they fade away upon death.
Wolverine warns Elektra not to start liking what she’s doing. That’s a place she doesn’t want to go. Elektra jumps on Kuroyama and places her sai at his throat. She asks why now. Why is the Hand calling in its marker at this time? Why did they wait so long? she demands to know. The ninja replies through clenched teeth that the Hand need not justify its actions to one such as her. She pushes her sai harder. “Answer dog!” Wolverine warns him that she’s playing for keeps, and he should start flapping his jaw.
The ninja cries that the Hand is simply taking back what it gave her on loan. Did she think that the essence of life is that cheaply restored with no payment due? Each day she has been alive has interest added to it. Now that the note has come up, she so blithely reneges? Elektra replies that it is a lie. She owes the Hand nothing. She found her redemption through the Chaste. The ninja laughs. He believes the Chaste to be liars, cheats and deceivers. He can’t believe they never told her. The blind man, the one with the stick. He never told her? Elektra demands to know what. The ninja adds that when the dire necromancers of the Hand put her back together, they held something back.
Elektra is shocked at this revelation. She thinks it is a lie. Kuroyama asks if she hasn’t wondered why she can’t feel the way she used to. Why there is always an emptiness within her? That which can make her whole again lies hidden between mercy and wrath. Kuroyama then vomits up a chain and tells Elektra that this is of no consequence, since she shall not live to see it restored. He attacks, and is joined by two more ninjas that appear from nowhere. Wolverine asks her to take him down. He has her back covered.
Wolverine’s claws sink into the first ninja to drop down on him, and he slashes at the second, leaving Elektra to go one on one with Kuroyama. This time she is prepared, and she grabs his chain with one hand and shoves her sai through his chest with the other. All three ninjas fade away as their life essences leaves their bodies.
Elektra wonders what he was babbling about. Mercy and wrath - is that some kind of Biblical thing? Wolverine replies that they are mountains in Japan. Between them is a mist-shrouded valley that was the ancestral home of some major bad ninjas who later became known as the Hand. That place is bad mojo. Ninja central! Elektra sheathes her sword and tells him that she came back from the dead and she climbed the mountain of the Chaste. What’s a valley full of ninjas compared to that?