Healed and full of determination, the party returns to Nexus with the hopes of winning the city over to their cause.
With a renewed sense of purpose and ambitions of taking the fight to Nexus, Val, Rey, and Jorek, along with Ember and Summer Blaze, journey into Nexus. Rey is planning on speaking to Kanna, and Jorek provides her with some diplomacy pointers. Val wants to look for Speaks-of-Silence: she is worried that since the Deathknights were speaking in her voice that she may be in danger. Jorek and Summer Blaze speak about the danger of Exquisite Tide possibly waiting to “get the drop on them”, but she hopes that he, and all of them, will not be afraid and will seize their destinies.
Rey and Ember arrive at the now-burnt out warehouse, the site of their fight, and Val’s with Starlight Dove, what seems like a thousand years ago. It appears that the area, far from being empty, is having a stone stage erected there. Arriving at the pit where Kanna now works, Rey charms her way past Jento, the simple apprentice guarding the door. When confronted by a much tougher-looking woman, Rey uses her newly-attuned orichalcum headband to present an “appointment slip” to her.
Kanna is wary of Rey, who, all smiles and “channeling Jorek”, describes her offer: he can have all the profits of a series of fights in which she would face Ember and any other challengers they could find. Kanna, though, has bigger plans: by fighting once against any challengers in his pit, she will get enough recognition to move up to the “second circle”, and then eventually to the “Centre Circle”, Nexus’ most renowned fighting pit. Kanna will take a cut of 15% of all revenue from the fights up until she makes it to the Centre Circle, with an additional 15% to pay for access to, and command of, the Golden Tigers. They agree to the terms, and Rey is ecstatic to have successfully bargained with Kanna. Ember is surprised that Rey signed him up to fight her, but she promises: “We’ll be fighting, and I’ll kick your ass if you hold back.” Making their way back to Ember’s rooms in Blue Sky, he shows her a single feather: it was Exquisite Tide’s wedding gift to him, in absence of herself. He reveals that even though they’ve known each other since childhood, he hasn’t seen her in seven years. He calls Exquisite Tide arrogant and stagnant, and nothing like the ambitious and exciting Rey. For her part, Rey reminds Ember of his good deeds: standing up for the girl in the ring, helping Rey save her father and hundreds of people in the warehouse… and especially buying her pork buns. They start to kiss… and fade to black.
Meanwhile, Jorek, Val, and Summer Blaze arrive at Jorek’s Guild offices. The over-eager stable-boy, Jakey, tethers their horses and is totally smitten with Val and Summer Blaze. The woman at Sheanne’s desk, Maya, is hesitant to give details to Jorek about Sheanne’s “assignment” in the presence of Val, until learning that Val is the Angel of Nexus. Completely flustered, she provides the name of someone who can give more information to Jorek about Sheanne’s whereabouts: Peaceful Hand, one of the Council of Nine of the Guild (trading mainly in luxuries). And at the request of Maya, he sends Jakey off on a “very special mission” to retrieve a key he dropped in a sewer… a “special mission” that will most likely take him all day. Jorek takes a few hours to get an overall economic picture of the Guild’s interests in Nexus: it is a prosperous time, although there is probably going to be upcoming strife with the slow decline of the Realm’s control of Creation. Hoping to make a splash, Jorek sets in motion several deals to bring building supplies from the South to Nexus, and uses his Solar powers in secret to speed the deal.
Looking for answers about the whereabouts of Speaks-of-Silence, Jorek heads to the home of Peaceful Hand. Hoping to get her on their side, and the Guild in a favourable position with the Solar Exalted, he asks her to propose that the Council celebrate Nexus’ new heroes, Val and Rey. Sensing that Jorek is not telling her the whole truth, she implies that he may be more than meets the eye, but that if he feels himself to be a hero, she will support him in his actions. Asking about Sheanne’s whereabouts, Peaceful Hand reminds Jorek that she is off in Nexus, trying to learn what people think of the Circle.
Val, meanwhile, heads north to a new neighbourhood to spread the word of the Unconquered Sun and his Chosen Ones. Noticing Entropy watching her, she approaches him, and he, taking her back to his rooms, shows her a letter in the hand of Val’s sister. It appears someone has been practicing her writing style. Fearing that Exquisite Tide may be planning something, Val asks Entropy if he would help them if they needed it. He agrees, on the condition that Val goes out and breaks a promise. Val flippantly asks Entropy where he got the letter, breaking a promise she had made earlier to not ask, but Entropy feels that it’s cheating, and sends her out to do so.
On her way to sit and ponder the kind of promise she could see herself breaking, Val is accosted by a little boy. The little boy is upset because his mother is not eating anymore. Sensing a trap but unable to turn down the boy’s cries for help, she heads back to his home, which now has a kitchen overgrown with vines. Exquisite Tide emerges from a pool in the floor, but without any aggression, although she doesn’t offhandedly mention smashing the boy’s mother’s skull in for not complimenting her new “improvements” to the kitchen. Val, naturally, is incredibly defensive and tries to leave, but Exquisite Tide warns Val that a friend of hers, Pearl, meaning to draw the Solars out from hiding, has unleashed a deadly disease on Nexus. Seeing as how Val is a physician, perhaps they could work together to eradicate it… and perhaps even be sisters one day? Val demands that Exquisite Tide call Pearl back to Nexus for questioning, and gets out of there as fast as she can. Looking for the child’s father, the captain of a trading ship, the Whispering Dog, it is discovered that his wife has been dead for three years, and that Exquisite Tide must have disinterred her body, brought it inside, and then smashed her head in! Heading back to Bacon Day’s Pork Buns, Val wonders how she is going to tell the other members of the Circle about this new development…
There are many kinds of Exalted in Creation: the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun, of Luna, of the Five Maidens. Nearby in Nexus, though, one Abyssal Exalted is suffering more pain than she ever has in her life….