The party returns to Nexus, and Rey's long-delayed fight with Ember takes place. Who will win? Who will break? Place your bets.
“Just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean the rest of the world will wait for you.”
The party returns to Nexus, hoping to accomplish a few tasks and charter a ship for Chiaroscuro, but are surprised to find the city unguarded and the gates open.
Rey’s first stop is Kanna’s office. He seethes with anger at her for abandoning the prior arranged fight with Ember, but she and Jorek convince him to schedule a new one for tomorrow. Jorek calls Rey out for her snarky attitude towards Kanna, and she begrudgingly admits that she gives him a hard time because she resents his role in her success: “I don’t want him to be the only reason I amounted to anything.”
Meanwhile, Ember gives Valeria a pep talk about taking control of one’s fate, and, sensing the tension between her and Speaks-of-Silence, confesses that “she [Speaks-of-Silence] has great taste in women.” Val also tries to comfort a fighter, openly weeping: he was dumped by his love after beating her in a fight. Although this is worrisome to Val, with obvious parallels to the possible outcome of Rey & Ember’s fight, she tells him to chin up and even plays matchmaker, her Solar Essence inspiring him.
Jorek makes a stop at the temporary Guild offices (since so many of them were destroyed during the Circle’s battles and subsequent riots), and discovers a changed Nexus. The Guild has bought out the Ziggurat, and while trade is on the rise, especially at the harbourfront, the current temporary Council of Nine is due to be replaced in elections soon. Jorek also hears about groups of labourers capitalizing on the destruction to rebuild, including a small band in Jorek’s name.
That night, Rey and Ember are forced to sleep apart from each other, and Valeria dreams of a goat.
The next morning, Rey is awoken before dawn by two attendants who lead her to a Colosseum for her fight against Ember, where almost 30,000 have gathered to watch this rare entertainment. While the odds are 4:1 for an outside event forcing a forfeit, Jorek, still unrestrained from his dealings with Illuma, bets all of his liquid assets on Rey to win the fight, a not insubstantial amount. Valeria and Jorek offer to announce the two combatants: as the challenger, Rey is announced by Val with her usual dazzling flare as a Nexus fighter and chosen of the Unconquered Sun; Jorek proclaims Ember as “the Mountain, a Blaze”. The crowd comes to Rey’s side, and Ember chooses to make the fight political by declaring that it will prove why the Terrestrial Exalted were given dominion over Creation.
The fight between the two is indeed a clash of titans, and although very intense, the fight is over almost instantly. After a mere twelve seconds, Rey slams Ember in the head, knocking him out cold. The crowd is stunned by this turn of events, and Valeria takes the opportunity to turn the victory into a message of peace from the Chosen of the Unconquered Sun. Having defeated her lover so easily, Rey, rather than being elated, is paralyzed by the knowledge of the full extent of her power, and instantly wavers in her confidence. A woman steps forward to offer her a reward for defeating her opponent, and Rey enters limit break, wanting nothing more than to disappear. Jorek senses the change come over her and believes that Rey has given up on all Solar Exalted.
Taken to another room for her “reward”, the woman reveals herself to be Velvet and accuses Rey of being an imposter. Meanwhile, in the arena, a sorcerer scrys a portal to show the the people of Nexus this exchange, as well as another woman that seems to be an older version of Rey, who Velvet names “Kaisann the Derelict”. Rey, still in a state of deep doubtfulness, is not sure what to make of this, and makes Velvet promise to not harm her friends if she continues with her.
Seeing this, Valeria chases after Rey, finding herself in a maze. Unable to save her friend, she also crashes into Limit Break. Three Fates Shadow takes off after Val, and Ember regains consciousness just in time to see three armoured guards block off the exit to the arena. “Jorek, we need a plan….”