I found her alone, in Juxon's study, silently regarding the wreckage. It was as if she had never left.
"Rai," I said quietly.
"Why are you still here?" Her voice was tired, and she lifted her head to look through the broken ceiling. The stars were starting to come out.
"Battle's over. We won." Rai didn't move at all, just stood there as we both watched the moon slowly rise into the sky. "You need to leave. Now."
I took a deep breath. "I want to join Nightwing."
"WHAT?!" The calmness in the air shattered like glass. "After all this, you want to join them? You want to betray your guild fight against the people you knew for years?" Her eyes were glaring into mine, and her voice was strangled.
I wasn't expecting her to be angry. Wasn't expecting for her to be hurt and confused. Maybe I could get her on my side after all.
"Look, I'm -" A huge warning sign went off in my head. NO!
Rai barely noticed the slip-up. She was staring at a pile of rubble, where Juxon's body lay, frozen in thought.
My mind was still racing in panic. I can't trust Rai with anything right now, not after what she did. And I was so close to telling her...
"You're what?" she asked absentmindedly.
I needed to distract her from that. "Was killing him really necessary?"
After a moment of thought, she shrugged,"I needed to prove my loyalty. I couldn't really say no."
"Did you want to do it?"
"It doesn't matter. Nightwing helped me." Her voice was slowly starting to rise, "They didn't care what was wrong with me, and that's why I joined them, alright? Supernova didn't even TRY." She turned away from me, her hands clenched into fists.
"I don't care about Juxon!" A tiny explosion of darkness burst out of her fists. "Don't try to make me feel guilty. I did it because I need Nightwing to -" Her words suddenly choked off.
Huh. I guess both of us have secrets.
She was shutting me out again. I wanted to feel sorry for her, I really did. The battle changed a lot of people.
But before I could speak, the door behind me slammed open with a loud bang.
"We're leaving!" The loud voice filled the room. There a short silence as she noticed me. "Oh hey, Rai, who's your new friend here?"
"Nothing. I'll get rid of her soon. She's -"
"A new recruit!" I blurted out, and turned to look at the newcomer.
My first thought was that she looked... cool. Her tank top showed off her impressive biceps and the beautiful elaborate tattoo across her chest. A dragon and a phoenix in battle, their tails twining around her arms. She flipped her braid over her shoulder and grinned at me.
"You a turncoat like Rai?" She asked.
"I, well..." I struggled for words as I stared at her.
"It sounds bad when you put it that way, huh?" She cocked her head sideways, "How about this. You trying to stay on the winning team?"
It was hard to say out loud. It doesn't matter that I was doing this for Supernova, I'd still look like a traitor, especially to the guild members Nightwing had captured. But I've already gotten so far.
"Took the words right out of my mouth," I heard myself saying, and forced a smile onto my face.
"Great!" She slapped my shoulder, and I winced slightly. "Nightwing always welcomes new recruits! I assume Rai would be sponsoring you?"
"Sponsoring?" That sound very different than mentors in Supernova.
"You'll see what that means when we get there," She turned to look at Rai's deadpan face. "Okay Rai, I'll take that as a yes!"
Rai's expression didn't change. "Don't look too excited," the woman said, and turned back to me. "My name's Vahni. Vahni Pyrros." She reached out a hand.
"Lara. Just... Lara." I couldn't risk telling her my last name. I can't put my family in danger. Her grip was strong, and her hand was unbearably warm.
"Rai and I are going to headquarters for initiation." Vahni was grinning widely, and put her arm around a poker-faced Rai. "Can't believe my apprentice is becoming a full fledged guild member!" She put Rai into a headlock and ruffled her short hair, laughing.
Rai's face broke into a smile, and she laughed with her.
I froze, catching myself smiling at them. They're your enemy, I said half-heartedly to myself. But I saw Rai genuinely happy for the first time in my life, and Vahni doesn't seem like a bad person. There's more to this guild than I thought.
"You'll come with us. It's perfect! When Rai's initiated, she can take you on as apprentice." Vahni was grinning from ear to ear.
"Yeah, I was her apprentice when I was new in Supernova."
"Great!" Her enthusiasm was almost uplifting, but I pushed away the feeling, and instead tried to focus on the looming dread of joining an enemy guild undercover. It didn't work, and I ended up with mixed feelings of curiosity, excitement, and fear instead.
"C'mon! Let's get going." Vahni ushered me to go before her.
"What about the portal?" Rai asked as she followed us.
"Portals. It was a giant network connected into one destination. A huge feat of spellcraft, really. But it's a one way trip, and where we're going is not accessible by portal." She took a ring of keys out of her pocket and swung it around her finger. "So we're taking a road trip!"
It was strange, being crammed into a minivan with the people you were fighting against a few hours ago.
Almost everyone was asleep, slumped in their seats and against windshields, some even on the floor. A healer was carefully moving among them, the aura of his spells lighting up his face in a golden glow.
"Ember," Rai said formally. He looked up, gave us a solemn nod, and went back to work.
Vahni pointed to her throat and shook her head. I couldn't read her lips, but I know what she meant. Mute.
I found an empty seat, while Vahni and Rai take the front row. "Is there anybody else?" I ask.
Vahni put her key into the ignition. "Nope, just the four of us."
"Four...?" I looked around at the other Nightwings around us, confused.
"Ah, shit." Vahni groaned, and Rai punched her in the shoulder, an accusing glare on her face, "Look, we'll explain this to you when we get there."
"Oh." I finally realized, as I stared at one of the still figures next to me.
They weren't sleeping. And they weren't breathing either.