Part 5: Bonding

"Where is Spicer?!" Raven cried in aggravation. "He was supposed to have arrived an hour ago!" She was pacing back and forth on the edge of the forest, her hands balled into fists and the shen-gong-wu in a pile by one of the trees.

Mini-robo floated by the shen-gong-wu, watching Raven's progress back and forth. "Have patience. The Evil One will be here soon."

Raven stopped. "I am... wait... the EVIL one? You cannot mean-" Raven literally fell over laughing. "JACK?? Hahahaha, I cannot- hahaha, breath-" Raven was cut off by the sound of hover-jet engines being propelled in their direction. She scooped up the shen-gong-wu and stood as the thing came to a stop in front of her. "Oh 'evil one', where have you-" The top opened- and Raven did a double-take to make sure she was seeing right.

It was Jack, all right. In a tux. Wearing a very sour expression.

"Should I inquire...?" Raven slung herself into the hovering craft.

Jack said nothing, clenching the steering wheel tightly and wearing a scowl that obviously meant NO. They took off into the sky, and Raven looked out the glass at the scenery below them. It really was beautiful, once you stopped to look at it...

"Boy... what is on your mind?" she relented about a quarter of an hour later. Raven saw Jack flip a switch and a light come on that read "AUTO PILOT."

He laid back in his chair exhaustedly, but didn't turn around. "My parents... I had to explain where I keep going when I'm supposed to be at school."

Raven's eyes went wide. "You do not attend school?"

"It's not like I need to go! I already know it all! They-"

"-have not taken notice of your 'brilliance'' and do not believe when you say that you are on a quest to obtain magical objects in order to 'rule the world', correct?"

"They think it's an overactive imagination..."

Raven couldn't blame them, but couldn't bring herself to say it. She had always seen Jack as a big-headed, whiny, cowardly little mama's boy; it was strange to see him actually upset about something so personal. "What did you tell them?" She crouched down beside the boy.

"Well, it was at one of their dumb parties. They asked me about it, and I didn't want to embar-" he cut himself off, then said, "I told them that I had a private tutor. They were thrilled, and now they want to meet him." He sunk lower in his chair.

Raven would have normally gotten silent and waited for a change in subject, but now- "Is there anything I can do?" she asked sympathetically, laying a hand on his shoulder. Then she realized she had said it and mentally slapped herself. Why didn't she just let him figure it out on his own? It was his own fault, anyway... but somehow, it felt better to try and bail him out. She realized that moment. with a jolt, that she had made some kind of connection with Jack over the past weeks. She wasn't exactly sure how, but she felt like they shared a common bond...

"That's it!" Jack cried, sitting up suddenly, grinning widely. "You can pretend to be my tutor!"

Raven's eyes went wide as she came to her feet. No way, she thought. I won't do it. Not for him, not for anyone, I wouldn't do it if I was paid- she froze. ...well, she thought, at least it'll be just me and his parents...


"A party?! No, a banquet...? A ball? WHATEVER THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE!!" she paced back and forth under her tree.

The invitation was lying at the trunk innocently.

"Why me?? WHY??" she yelled at it, throwing her hands in the air with aggrivation.

A formal ball was being held to honor something-or-another, and all the important people would be there. From the President of the US to the Prime Minister to the Queen of England... it would be easier to name who wouldn't be there except for the fact that THAT list would be empty. Hundreds of important people would be there, from rulers to famous actors. It was likely that a hired fighter in the midst of all this wouldn't sit well. Not just that, there were two other problems as well: One, she distrusted people in general. In her opinion, every human being on earth or off it was a threat to her. Two, she had to wear a dress. She didn't DO dresses. Not anymore. Not since... she couldn't remember. When was the last time she had worn a dress...? And it would be harder to disguise herself if she were completely exposed. She could never tell where They would be. They could find her- this form wasn't good enough to hide her. Who were They again...? It was strange... she couldn't remember...

She dropped to the grass and crossed her legs, allowing her head to fall into her hands. Now what?

The place would be crawling with security guards and bodyguards, so she wouldn't be able to take her weapons with her. She couldn't take chances with the guards...

Who would also be protecting her, she realized suddenly. She didn't like to once again be on that side of their duty... had she been before?

One week. That's all she had.