The Heralds could prepare two shuttles for travel in absolutely nothing flat, Aria had to say she was impressed. Presently, the Champion was standing with her arms crossed at the foot of the loading ramp of one of the spacecraft, conversing with her apprentice after she’d seen off their questions about their other teacher with a few of her trademark glares.
“But… Master, Ethan and I are worried about Yerbol too!” Kytra protested, however by now the Selonian was smart enough to figure out that if she wanted ANY sort of answer out of her mentor, she would have to avoid using the phrase “what is wrong with” precisely and instead go in from a slightly different angle, “I mean, is he...you know, OKAY? Do we need to be REALLY worried?”
The shorter woman arched an eyebrow at Kytra quizzically, answering with.
“He’s not going to die, I promise.” she didn’t know how to explain it to her apprentice in a way that wouldn’t make the youngster panic, so Aria had been avoiding having to do so at all costs. “Things might...change quite drastically, but he’s going to be...fine. We’ll figure it out.” The Selonian’s whiskers twitched, and she didn’t look particularly convinced, but it would appear the reassurance was enough for her for the time being, so she nodded and turned to disappear up the ramp and into the shuttle. As Ethan joined them once more and hurried up to fire up the shuttle’s engines, Aria turned to check on her husband one last time, managing to catch the gesture he had directed towards her and respond with a brief smile in return before she had to hurry up the ramp to join the two apprentices.
It would be at least a few days’ journey before they arrived at their destination, so the trio spent some of the time gathered around Aria’s holoprojector going over the data Yuno had sent to the Champion regarding their destination, and the rest of it divided as evenly as possible between lightsaber drills (of which Aria was a merciless instructor, likely due to a combination of her father’s no-nonsense approach to training her and Renso’s more...unorthodox training methods. Luckily for Kytra and Ethan, though she barked at them like a military drill sergeant every time they made a mistake, Aria’s tutoring was far less life-threatening than the Sith’s teachings had been for her) and meditation in order to center their focus within the Force.
As one such meditation session drew to a close, Kytra had broken the silence between them to mutter softly.
“I know you said not to worry, Master ...but I AM worried. Maybe even afraid.” Ethan made a little noise of agreement in the back of his throat, looking towards the older Qyaari with a questioning glance.
“And that’s okay...it’s a difficult thing for me to teach you, but I CAN teach you to use that fear as strength. And I’m going to try.”
From the surprised looks on their faces, they’d been expecting her to snap at them again, Aria couldn’t help but feel a small stab of guilt. Perhaps she’d been a bit too harsh with them since they’d set off, but it was the only way she knew HOW to teach them; she filed that away and resolved to make an effort to try and be a bit more like Yerbol. Stern without being overly aggressive. “But being afraid isn’t something you should be ashamed of, it’s natural. Do you think Yerbol and I weren’t scared during the whole thing with Bracknell, or that I wasn’t terrified when we lost him on Nar Shaddaa? I was a mess. But I had to learn to use that to do something productive if we were ever going to find him again, so I did.”
“I never thought of it like that…” Kytra mumbled, her small ears flicking backwards, then forwards again as she thought about it. “You really think I can do it?”
“Hey, kid, if an unstable, murderous powder-keg of a Sith Apprentice like me can figure it out, I’m sure you can.” she offered the Selonian another smile. “You don’t give yourself enough credit.” her dark gaze travelled across to Ethan, next. “Either of you. I’m very proud of how far you’ve come already, and I’m sure Yerbol is, too.”
On the other shuttle, Revan and Yuno had remained at the controls long after it was necessary, mainly due to Revan’s suspicions of their current passenger. The Sith beside him glanced over his shoulder at the Mirialan hunched over in one corner with her head in her hands, then looked back at the Heralds leader.
“Do you believe she’s dangerous, Master?” he asked, keeping his voice low so as not to be overheard.
“I don’t know.” Revan muttered back, his brows knit together in a tight frown. “But she could be. So I want you to be careful…”
Vano could hear them muttering in the cockpit, she couldn’t make out the words they were saying from this distance, of course, but the lorekeeper was all but certain that Revan and the Sith were talking about her. Likely about how suspicious she was. She huffed out another sigh, dropping her head back into her hands once more as she tried to drown the noise out.
As if to confirm her suspicions, THAT voice suddenly chose this precise moment to echo in her head, the son of a Hutt seemed to take great delight in mocking her, and had done for quite some time, though she had yet to tell any of the Qyaari about it.
“Do you really believe you can trust them?” Vitiate chuckled. Vano scowled sourly, thankful that her head was in her hands so neither of her companions would see the gesture as she thought back furiously.
“I didn’t ASK you.”
Nevertheless, the former Sith Emperor had decided that was an invitation for him to continue needling her,
“They don’t trust YOU.”
“Really? Hadn’t noticed.” the Mirialan scoffed back.
“How do you know they won’t betray you?” sometimes, it wasn’t just his voice. Sometimes, she could envision his spirit in her mind’s eye, those piercing yellow eyes boring critically into her as he spoke. This was one of those times.
“I have to trust them.”
“Mmm, yes,” Vitiate mused, an edge of false sympathy dripping from his tone, “and how well did that serve you last time, my dear Wrath?”
Just what she DIDN’T need to think about right now. But his question prompted the memories to rise to the surface, unbidden:
The space station, above Corellia. Captain Quinn had asked her to come alone, more discreet he said, less trouble that way. Vette, Jaesa and Pierce had all warned her not to go alone...tried to tell her he was up to something. She hadn’t listened. She’d loved him too much, trusted him entirely, after everything they had shared, to ever conceive the idea he may try to hurt her, or worse.
She’d been a karkin’ fool.
“...No.” Vano truthfully hadn’t believed what she was hearing at first. This had to be a joke. “No, Mal...please. This...this NEVER happened. You know Baras is crazy! If he threatened to hurt you Mal, I can...I’ll protect you!” she had pleaded. “Just, come back to the ship. No-one else has to know.”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, my Lord.” Quinn’s voice was as level as it had ever been, he had the ability to do that; be so stern and stoic while at work. His brows pinched together in a frown, the only break in his character. “My debt to Darth Baras surpasses many things...even my feelings for you. I’m sorry.”
“Mal, PLEASE.” Vano pleaded, her voice cracking at the mere thought of it. “Don’t do this….don’t...make me HURT you.”
There had to be a way to talk him out of this, she’d desperately tried, even as the droids trundled in and he proclaimed there was no way she was walking off this station alive. For a moment, as she had to dive behind a stack of containers to dodge shots from the droids’ laser cannons, Vano believed him. Quinn had fought by her side longer than anyone else on her crew, save for Vette...he knew how to counter every one of her moves.
She’d tried so hard not to hurt him. But she’d expected the droids to be the thing that ended her, after all the bravado she had expected that he might at least love her enough not to shoot at her himself.
She’d been wrong.
The adrenaline and the anger had all but blinded her to the pain of the almost point-blank shot to the face, she wouldn’t realise until Noctis tracked her and her crew down later, how lucky she had been to only lose the eye and not end up worse off. When she’d thrown the Captain into the wall, some primal part of her had wanted to snap his neck for everything he’d done. But she couldn’t do it. Not to him.
Instead, she had simply screamed back at him.
“Don’t. EVER. Try. To. Touch. Me. Again!!” and left him there for Intelligence to pick up.
The Mirialan growled in annoyance, raising her head sharply and shaking it from side to side as if that would somehow dislodge his presence from her thoughts.
“This is different.”
“Is it? Even SHE doesn’t trust you. She would rather side with him, with them.” Vitiate had her on the ropes, and he KNEW it.
“You leave Aria out of this!” she did, however, glance to Revan and Yuno once more. They must think she was crazy. But then, even Noctis had thought that for a while. It’s why she hadn’t said anything to any of the other Qyaari, even if she probably should have. They’d call her mad, put her in the medbay and she’d never leave it again. Had she not done enough, taking herself off the field and staying in the archives so she would never run the risk of hurting another ally, ever again?
“But you know I’m right, Wrath, she can’t care half as much about you, if she would side with a Jedi over you.”
“Do not worry, this will all be over soon…” mercifully, with that ominous warning, his presence faded away, and Vano could only let out a choked huff of relief. Finally, a moment’s peace. Focus, she had to focus, couldn’t let Revan and this Sith chew her out for this...if they found out, she didn’t know what they would do.