The day Zelos returned was simultaneously a wonderful, and sad, day for Ionia. One thousand twenty seven people died in the attack on the Placidium, a little under two thousand were wounded.
Everyone had dozens of questions to ask him, but they knew better than to try and talk to him at the moment. He had a lot of catching up to do.
Zelos made his way towards Irelia’s room. Over the past few days he attempted to reacquaint himself with the layout of the Placidium. So far, her room was the only area of the Placidium he knew for certain. He was still confused as to which room was his, and how much had changed over the decade.
It was his time to check up on Irelia. He was about to turn the corner when he saw the shadows of two familiar women. They were muttering about something. Zelos paused for a moment, deciding if he should interrupt their conversation or-
“She is not showing signs of physical trauma.”
He heard Soraka’s voice reply, “I know. Her body is still catching up to the damage.”
“It’s not like last time, is it?”
“League matches are nothing compared to what she just suffered. It could show today, it could show tomorrow, or next week or the next year. We must prepare. Although it is not as severe as when she fought the Noxians, it is still severe enough for me to be very concerned.”
“She is resilient.”
Soraka and Karma started to walk away, the volume of their voices lowering with every step they took opposite of where Zelos stood, “But for how much longer? Her rate of deterioration has most likely increased because of this event. We will have to see in a few days, hopefully...worse symptoms...year or two?...who knows if...long...”
Zelos drummed his fingers against his arms. What in the hells were they talking about? He heard Irelia’s door open, and light footsteps leave her room. He spun around the corner with a wide smile on his face, "Oy, Irie! You’re supposed to be resting!”
The bandages around Irelia’s body peeked out from underneath her neckline and spiraled down her arms. The baos she usually worn were affixed firmly in her hair. She wore a simple, cotton dark red shirt with a pair of dark slacks that were held up by a belt, as well as a pair of tabi and wooden geta. The limp in her leg was only slight now despite the severity of her “sprained” ankle only scant days ago.
“I am fine, Zelos.”
“Says the girl who was bleeding in my arms a few days ago. Bed, you, back to it,” He playfully ordered.
“No,” Irelia shook her head. She walked of her room, her sword bobbed behind her as she spoke, “I am going to go insane if I have to sit in bed any longer. I need to walk a bit, I need to move a bit and it is almost lunch. I want to eat something with a little bit more body than soup.” She muttered under her breath in a dry tone, “If I have to drink one more bowl of soup I am going to murder someone.”
Zelos walked up next to her, “Well, if I can’t convince you to stay in bed, you have two options: One, I drag you back...” His smile widened, “Or two, I make you lunch and we can talk a bit longer than for a minute or two.”
Irelia raised an eyebrow, then shared his rather infectious smile, “Lunch it is.”
“Alright then!” He started to walk in front of her only to stop in his tracks. “...Er, maybe you should lead. I’m still gaining my bearings.”
Irelia took point and led her slightly confused brother through his home of the Placidium.
Oil sizzled. The smell of spices filled the air.
“The entire village...?”
“The entire village. I was one of the only survivors and the others...they were eventually claimed by the war. I am the last survivor.”
He sighed and rubbed his face, “And I wasn’t there for it. Dear gods, I am so sorry, Irie. I am so, so sorry.”
“You were there, Zelos...” Irelia tapped her chest, “Always.”
“Irie, that’s a wonderful sentiment it is, but we both know that’s bull. I’m not stupid.”
“How did you become the Captain of the Guards?” Zelos cast her a look as he flipped the contents of the frying pan over, “What happened to Captain Takeru?”
“He was killed during the battle of Placidium. He died defending Ionia.”
“Ah man, not Takeru...” Zelos sighed, “I gotta go pay my respects. So why were you made captain? I mean, congrats on it and all, But... why are you captain and why are you wearing the Mantle of Decorum?”
"I was honored for fighting in the war."
"Strange, they only issue that sorta honor to master debaters and political stuff. Wait a tick...how old were you when you fought? How long did the war last?"
"Two years. I was fourteen."
Zelos nodded his head. ‘Fourteen. She was fourteen.’ His tone was still light as he joked, "Damn! That's young! You deserve that honor than! Those Noxian scumbags didn't stand a chance 'gainst my little sis!" Fortunately for him, Irelia could not see the anger that seemed to want to burn the food in front of him.
"So... How come it was floating like..." He pointed with his chin at Irelia's floating sword, "That?"
She looked over at the sword and settled it in a corner of the kitchen. The other chefs that should have been here were herded away to give the two room. One word from Irelia was all that was needed to convince them.
"I learned the extent of the Hiten style in the war. I learned what it means to utilize father's technique and how it extends to anything that has a yearning."
"Kinda freaky if you ask me," he laughed. "Never expected to see it fly again. It's crazy you figured that out on your own! You've gotta tell me how..."
A peek from the corner of his eye made him see a look of melancholy spark across Irelia's face for a brief instant.
"You okay, Irie? The wounds acting up?"
"A bit. I will be fine."
Zelos shoveled the food onto a plate. It was a stir fry of various vegetables such as carrots, green beans, white beans, onions, and sweet peppers. Strips of beef were seared and assured to be medium rare. Thick cut noodles were pulled out of the boiling water and tossed in with the vegetable medley. He shuffled them about before he reached for a bowl of peanut sauce when her hand stopped his arm. His sleeve pulled back a bit, which allowed a scar that resembled a burn wound to peek out.
"That’s how life is sometimes, can’t expect everything!"
He quickly covered his arm back up, "Still like peanut sauce, right?"
Irelia rested her hand on his arm, "Zelos...what happened?"
“Ah...well...Let’s get the food on the table first, alright? Peanut sauce?”
“No, thank you,” Irelia walked over to where the chefs were, leaving Zelos dumbfounded. She came back with a bowl of finely crushed Galin region chili peppers. She shrugged, “They are not as spicy as the ones we had back home, but...they’ll do.”
Zelos raised an eyebrow, “You? Eat spice?”
“Who are you and what have you done to Irelia?” He chuckled, “You used to make the most sour face whenever dad and I ate his curry. The one time you tried it...” He puffed his cheeks out and laughed at the memory.
Irelia rolled her eyes, took a spoonful of the sauce and promptly swallowed it. She gave him a half smirk as she sat back down at the table she was sitting at.
He blinked, dipped his finger into the sauce, put it to his tongue and nearly screamed. His face went instantly red, he started coughing, gasping for air, “M-man! I haven’t had spice in t-too long!” He coughed and sputtered.
Irelia could not help but burst out in laughter. She grinned at him, “Maybe you should stick to the peanut sauce, huh?”
“Pft, if I hadn’t already eaten then I’d show you!”
Zelos promptly dumped the contents of the sauce bowl onto the noodles and the stir fry. He shoveled it back into the hot frying pan and started to toss it about. Eventually he put it back into the large plate and walked it over to Irelia.
“If your appetite is anything like before, this should be no small feat for you.”
He set a pair of chopsticks down in front of her as well as a spoon. With that done, Zelos began his story,
“We were a few days into our trip when our lookout spotted some Zaunite warships. We had to push a bit further north to assure we would not be spotted by them, and things were smooth sailing for a while. When we reached near the Freljords, however...”
He sighed, “The Gelid vortex. We had not expected it to be nearly as powerful as it was, since we thought it confined to a landmass. It had managed to stretch out towards the route we were taking, and made the waters rough. Funny enough, we weren’t in the heart of the vortex, we were a few miles on its outskirts but it was so harsh that it affected the sea for miles on end. It was not just an ice storm though, it was...everything, really. Lightning, snow, hail, sleet, rough seas, and then our ship actually caught...fire. Not from a lightning strike, oh no, we were at least that lucky. It was weird, it was a fire that encapsulated the ship. It didn’t burn unless you went near it. We couldn’t navigate by the stars, our compasses wouldn’t stop spinning, we were essentially useless. Once we thought we had reached the calm of the storm, we were redirected into the Veil.”
Irelia’s face dropped. The Veil of Storms. The reason why Valoran had so few visitors from other countries was because of this phenomenon. It seemingly encircled the Conqueror’s Sea and the Guardian Sea. The Shadow Isles were on the borders of the Veil. Its power and ferocity was myth, no one dared tried to cross it, no one sane. Only two had managed to do so: a champion named Olaf and a champion named Keghan, better known as Brand. To this day both refuse to speak of how they reached Valoran. There are many theories as to why this Veil exists, since it was not always there. The most popular theory is because of the increasing decay of magic and the lifestream in Runeterra due to all of the Rune Wars that took place, and this was just one of the many tolls that has been visibly taken on the environment.
“The ship was ripped and torn apart. There are...things that live in the Veil. I’m not really sure what, but there are...things. I barely managed to hold on to a board, the water was cold and...” He shrugged, “I don’t remember much. I...I didn’t want to die. I had a promise to keep. I floated for maybe days, or weeks? I don’t really know. When I was found, I was being poked in the head by a finger. Whoever this person was, they thought I was dead. I quickly proved this wrong the manliest way I knew how.”
He made the motion of regurgitating while smiling at the memory, “That surprised them! So, when I woke up, I found out I’m on...an island paradise. Literally, a pastoral paradise, full of beautiful women. Curvaceous, beautiful things. Green, yellow, purple leaves for hair, the most immaculate eyes and forestry, their skin as smooth finely spun silk, and these women? Seemed to be absolutely everywhere. That was when I realized, that these women? They were dryads, they were actually dryads. I couldn’t do much, I was pretty much dead, and they kept me from leaving the island to assure I was healthy.”
He stopped for a moment raised a hand to Irelia to excuse himself. He walked away and came back with a large, jug of milk. He did not pour it into a glass, and rather drank from it. After a large draught, he was about to talk when Irelia chastised him, “Zelos, other people drink from that.”
“And now they don’t,” he shrugged. “There’s more milk to be had.”
“What? Oh relax, it’s not life saving milk.” He leaned forward and continued,
“It took me about a year to recover from that episode. When that was done and I could properly walk again? They wanted me to stay with them, and...well, I couldn’t say no. Literally, I couldn’t say no, they didn’t want to lose the only male looking humanoid they had seen in centuries. They were too enthralled with me and my appearance. They also thought, and rightfully so, that if I went sailing without any knowledge as to where to go, how far I was or anything I would most likely die. I also couldn’t help but tell them how the boat was made, via lumber. They were really, really not a fan of that, or the fact that I use more trees, dead or not, to aid my escape. I didn’t have my swords, they were lost at sea, so there went that option. Besides, their magic? Absurd. Never seen anything like it, so I couldn’t try to fight them even if I wanted to. That was when...Heh...”
He rubbed the wooden talisman around his neck, “I had a book in my satchel, along with my compass, the only things that managed to be saved ‘side from your gift. The satchel friggin’ froze to the board I was clutching onto when I washed up, and then I looked in, I saw I still had your flower. It was crushed between the pages, frozen, but preserved. I took a chance. I wasn’t sure how it work, if there was any pollen left, anything, but I had to try. I offered them a tree and blossoms they had never seen before, nor ever will, and in exchange I am allowed to leave.”
“How did you communicate with them?” Irelia raised an eyebrow.
Zelos’ response was in an indistinguishable language, which made Irelia tilt her head in utter confusion. If one were observant enough, they would see that the stems of the onions he left behind grew slightly greener upon hearing his language.
“I learned pretty quick. So, the deal was struck and I gave them the flower. One of them took the flower, kissed it, and foomph! Her hair replicated it, all pink and crimson petals and all, it was astounding! All the other dryads became jealous of how beautiful she looked. Her skin changed to a darker brown, resembling the trunk of the tree, and she essentially became a walking tree. My trade? I gave them a new plant, from a faraway land, and I can take one of theirs to sail with with all the fruit I can carry. It took two years to construct a boat that was able to sail. This is mostly because I found out I am terrible at making boats, the first ten boats or so just sank. Thank goodness I had more lumber than a single tree when I explained that I needed only dead trees to build the ship. Anyways, eventually I made a glorified canoe. Now, not the smartest thing, but I set sail with a week’s worth of fruit. I needed to find somewhere else, anywhere else that could help me more than those women.”
Zelos’ stomach grumbled. The food smelled good. He decided that why not, he would have some. He reached over with his bare hand to the plate only to find it empty. Irelia was apparently so enthralled with his retelling, and him speaking so much that neither of them noticed how much she was eating.
He laughed, cleaned the plate and utensils up and continued with his story, “So, my guess was that I mostly likely went northwards. Hoping my compass helps me go south until I hit Valoran, I get hit by another storm. This time, however? I’m saved by...Ah, pft, the Common name...”
Zelos snapped his fingers a few times before he remembered the name,
“They call themselves Lokfarans. I found out very quickly that when yelling at them in Common, they understood Common quite well. Also, broken rudders? Don’t scare them. This all earned me a punch to the face, I blacked out again, and when I woke up, I was on my way to Lokfar to be sold.They changed their mind halfway home, and I essentially became their slave, at first. Eventually I became a member of the community after a few years. I was exotic, something they had never seen before. They almost felt like it would be a waste to sell their only Mykblomst. I was used for everything, from farm labor to cooking to entertaining to training. They used me for anything and everything.”
Zelos pointed at the jug of milk, “First rule of Lokfar: You don’t let others steal your property. Second rule of Lokfar: You are willing to kill for your property and that is perfectly legal.”
He shook his head, “I was there for the remainder of my years, I eventually convince them that I need to get back to Valoran after I dueled one of the chieftans, ah...Olaf Thrymgaa the...Twelfth I think? They agreed to help me reach home on one condition: I find the Lokfar expedition that had come here some time in the past decade, and find out what happened to them. If I do not return to tell them the news, they’ll come and find their Mykblomst to ask in person. They sailed me to as close to the Veil as they could, put me on a raft and pushed me in a general direction. Yeah, not going back there ‘less I have to. Nice people, absolutely insane.”
Zelos leaned back into his chair as he finished his story, “When I woke up, I was sort of completely crazy from all the ridiculousness I’ve been through and found myself face up in a bed. At this point, I’m sick of waking up like this. So a stark raving lunatic, almost completely naked, screaming in several languages, and then I find out I’m on a Demacian ship that picked me up. From that point on, I was returned to Demacia, freshened up a bit, and Prince Jarvan had me doted on and checked on until I recovered. I recovered after a month or so, sorta lost track of time honestly, I got back onto another ship for the traditional Demacian embassy spiel, and we made our way to Ionia as soon as we could and...well, now I’m here.”
Irelia got up from her seat, her face downcast, “...Is that really what happened?”
“Yeap! Crazy, eh? At least I’m back now, right?”
Irelia’s shoulder shook. Zelos stood up from his chair and walked over to her, “Hey hey, what’s wrong? Aren’t you glad I’m back? Should I hitch a ride on another boat and go back to the dryads?”
“How...how did you manage to survive?”
Zelos raised an eyebrow. What an odd question to ask. “Wha? Uh...I’m not...really sure. Divine providence? The stars were looking after me? I really didn’t question it. I just wanted to come back, I wanted to see you again, Irie. That’s all that matter-”
“You said the bag was frozen the board you clung onto, right?”
“Same as the charm?”
“Well, no, that was fused to my...Uh...Hey is that a topic ch-”
Irelia reached over and flipped his shirt open. She could see burn scars that stretched out from beneath his collar bone. “Frostbite. How is your face not...?”
“The Dryads wanted to make sure my face was still handsome. They are able to completely remove scarring with their magic, no matter how bad it is. If I stayed another decade, they could have healed the rest of the scars.”
Irelia’s emerald eyes went wide. She stepped away from Zelos, “You...you came back. You actually lived through so much...so much hell...”
“Irelia, what’s wrong?”
She shook her head, “N-nothing. Just...surprised. I’m glad you’re still alive, Zelos.”
“Hey, if it helps, I am too,” he laughed.
“It’s not funny!” Irelia unexpectedly yelled back. Her hand slammed the table, a crack appeared in it from the force of the strike. She did not seem like she put too much effort into it despite the damage it caused.
The two stared at each other, the awkward silence rose with each second that passed.
Irelia’s arm shook slightly, “I...I think I’m a little tired, sorry Zelos. I-” Irelia stopped. Her nose twitched. “...What smells like horse?”
Shyvana stepped into the kitchen. Her draconic eyes flicked back and forth as she scanned the two siblings, “I thought if I followed the smell of spice I would find you two. Like sister, like brother. Prince Jarvan would like to let the two of you know that tomorrow tonight there will be a formal banquet. Irelia, he would like for you to attend, but you do not have to if you are still in the throes of recovery. It is in memory of those who died during the attack and a celebration for life and its miracles. Anyone who is able bodied and willing is welcome to join, including those involved in the attack. It will also commemorate the day that the wayward brother Zelos has returned, and for Demacia and Ionia’s continued alliance. It is going to be a large banquet.”
Zelos pointed at the Demacian woman, “Why do you smell like h-”
“I will gut you if you finish that sentence,” Shyvana snarled. “Do you know how hard it is to get the smell of horse sweat out of your hair? Do you?!”
He raised his hands defensively, “Got it, don’t state the obvious. I got it. But...how did you get horse sweat in your-”
Another snarl made him step back, “Got it, got it. Don’t ask questions ever.”
Shyvana calmed down and sighed, “Sorry, it’s more than...Sorry. Zelos, I do not mean to be rude, but I wish to ask Irelia something related to the pr-”
“What are you doing out of bed, Irelia?”
A woman in red heels walked in. She was wearing a nurse’s outfit, the white clothing contrasted with her black hair and emerald eyes. Akali motioned to Irelia, “You missed lunch. Why are you eating this instead of the soup?”
“Relax a little,” Zelos laughed. “Honestly, you make it sound like she was dying or something. And...Why are you wearing that kind of outfit, Akali? That seems a bit...how to say this tastefully?”
Her green eyes flitted. She seemingly stared into his soul as she spoke in a stern tone, “I am in this outfit because I am told that it helps relieve the stress of the wounded since white is associated with the idea of life. Apparently my normal attire perturbs those who are wounded or dying. Irelia's battle was harsh, she suffered-”
Unknown to Zelos or to anyone that could not see behind Akali, a bread knife prodded her kidney. Akali looked over at Irelia who shook her head, a pleading glint in her eyes. The ninja had never seen such a look from Irelia before. She sighed, “She is still exhausted. She should be resting."
“Yeah, I suppose but come on, soup? That's just mean, even for you.”
“Procedure is procedure,” Akali replied. “I was sent to make sure Irelia was not gallivanting about. She is. I have put paints, inks, brushes, paper, I have provided everything in your room that may warrant you to leave. You will have soup for dinner.”
“Can you at least put doufu in it?”
“If you will not leave your room, then yes.”
Zelos gave a quick wave to Irelia, “Not to interrupt anything, but I think I’m going to go for a walk. I’ll let you relax, Irie. I’ll pop by again tonight, alright?” He smiled. “No worries, I won’t be going anywhere too far.”
Shyvana slightly adjusted her armor in a somewhat awkward manner. She felt like she should have left a while ago. This was when Akali looked over and stated the obvious,
“You smell of horse. Why is that?”
The dragon woman growled as she palmed her face with a gauntleted hand, “Just...Look, the smell isn’t coming out and-”
“Have you tried tomato juice?”
“Tomato juice. Works on most foul odors.”
“I thought that was only for skunks?”
“I would try for horse as well.”
Zelos left the kitchen with a slight wave to Irelia before he parted.
The moment he was out of sight his jovial smile darkened. He started to mull in his own thoughts. So many things, so many things he had to consider. How stupid his mission to Demacia was, how stupid the expedition turned out to be, the fact that Ionia joined the League, the worried murmurs of Soraka and Karma, Irelia’s weird outburst, the extent of her injuries that Akali spoke of. Why was Karma with Soraka though? She was not a healer, although there was that wind barrier that saved the two of them. Did she gain an aptitude for magic? Wind magic? Why wind? Why was Soraka a blue skinned goat unicorn thingamajig? Was this all a result of the war?
Above all of this, he could not get the look Irelia gave that gravity woman out of his head. That look, that absolute hatred, the tone in her voice, all of that, he did not recognize them. He saw a familiar light in her eyes when she snapped at him just now. Was that who Irelia was now? Was he gone for so long that he could no longer recognize her? How much of this was his fault? What could he do? Was that who Irelia became? He was not sure. He had a lot to catch up on. After the celebration was done tomorrow, at least people would become less busy. Then he could pick up the rest of the shattered pieces of the puzzle.
Too many thoughts filled his mind, which promptly were pushed aside when a voice interrupted them.
"What is troubling you?"
A quick, cursory glance made Zelos see a white haired woman that wore a simple cotton shirt, a pair of beige slacks and work boots. Her skin was tanned and scarred, as though she had been through a war. He would consider such an idea if it were not for her eyes. There was something about her amber eyes that made him feel comfortable for some reason.
"...Riven, right? Thanks for the other day. I’m just thinking 'bout stuff." He smiled at her and attempted small talk, his cheery tone forced, “So are you going to come to the banquet tomorrow?”
“Banquet? Even if I did know about it beforehand, no, I will not be,” she replied. “I will be going back to the Navori province tomorrow. I am going to say goodbye to Irelia, see how she is faring and then be on my way.”
Zelos nodded his head, “Fair enough. She needs her friends, y’know? It’d be good if you came, but I understand. Have fun with those restoration efforts!” He laughed, “You’ve done more than I ever did already! Later!"
Before he could move, Riven interrupted him, “You should speak them.”
“Them?” He looked over at her, “Who’s them?”
“Whoever or whatever it is that is on your mind, you should speak about them. You should not let the emotions fester. The only way to disinfect a wound is to flush it out completely. A bandage will only cover it.”
He shrugged his shoulders, “Another day or two won’t hurt. They’ve festered for eleven years already, how can it get any worse?” Zelos started to walk away, “It can wait for after tomorrow. After the joke of a celebration is done, we can face reality again. Thanks for the talk, Riven.”
“We will meet again soon,” she replied. “We have to talk about-”
“Yeap, sure will. Later.”
With that, he walked away, he walked away with a fake smile on his face. Who knew what thoughts ran through his head.
When the sun rose, a mass funeral was conducted for all that died. Everyone attended, and speeches were made. Irelia was clad in her ceremonial crimson armor, the Mantle of Decorum hung behind her head, and when she spoke Zelos could not help but feel small. His sister had become a wonderful public speaker over the years.
After this, everyone prepared for the evening’s festivities. For Ionians, it was not distasteful to do such a thing, for death is but a part of life.
Evening came and it was time for the banquet.
Zelos was actually clean shaven, his hair was tied up into a long ponytail and he wore a simple, yet formal kimono. The gi was a dark hunter green, his undershirt was black while his hakama was a navy blue which matched with his tabi. His sandals were tatami sandals, he could not take the added height from geta. In a way, in this attire, he felt like his old self. He never had to wear armor from the sheer speed he was able to fight with. He always prefered the fluidity and the grace that only loose kimonos could give him.
He paced back and forth somewhat nervously. It would be pretty much his inauguration back into Ionia today. A lot of doubts filled his mind, there were a lot of issues, a lot of anger, a lot of questions he had to ask, but he did not want to dampen today. He had seen Master Yi the other day, his old friend. He wanted to punch him in the face for letting Irelia fight in the war. She was stubborn, she always was. If there was something she wanted to do, almost nothing could change her mind. She was one for action rather than words, always was.
He looked up and smiled at the two women.
Karma was dressed in her usual attire since she almost always wore formal clothing. Soraka’s royal blue dress covered her cloven feet, her chest was covered by orange silk blouse while a formal scarlet miniature cape wrapped itself around her neck.
Zelos walked over and tapped his head against Soraka’s forehead. It was strange, he remembered her being taller. He smiled as he said, “Hey you, you’ve been avoiding me or something?”
“Me? Never, Zelos.” Her arms wrapped around him in an embrace, “It is truly wonderful to see you. I am sorry, but we were busy with the wounded from the attack. I should have done this sooner.”
He patted the Starchild’s back, “It’s alright, I understand. Although, before we get too giddy, and please forgive my lack of tact ‘cuz there’s really no easy to ask this, but why are you blue?”
Soraka winced. Her tone had a slight shake to it as she replied, “The war took a terrible toll on many people, Zelos. This is my punishment for my actions.”
“You? Punished? What?” Zelos drew back from her. He scanned her face and shrugged, “I don’t see any punishment here. I see the same gentle, kind person who helped raise me, just a little bit more blue.”
Soraka laughed and playfully shoved his chest, “And I see you are still a little charmer. That tongue will get you in trouble one day.”
“I’m not in trouble now, I’m not in trouble yet so we’ll have to see,” he smirked. Zelos looked over at Karma, “And you, you have grown up so much. Duchess and a member of the Council. I shoulda expected that from you.”
"I am sure that everyone will be curious as to what...” Karma slightly tilted her head, a pained expression now on her face, “For lack of better words, happened to you.”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll tell you all about the beautiful dryads and the big bearded men who made me cook for an entire banquet while I danced on my hands.”
“Now there is no reason to be rude, Zelos.”
“I’m not. I have a lot of stories to tell.”
Karma gave him a polite bow as he released Soraka. He walked over and gave Karma a big, overbearing hug, “Come on, it’s been a decade! A hug won’t kill you!”
Karma’s face buried itself into his chest due to her bowed position. Her hair was slightly mussed as she straightened her attire. “Are you ready?”
“To go in? Yeah, a few hundred people, no problem. I’ve dealt with way worse.”
Irelia’s voice spoke up, “That is good to hear, Zelos.”
He looked over his shoulder and grinned.
Irelia wore a modest scarlet kimono with a white border which mimicked the baos in her hair. A white ribbon wrapped around her waist and nearly dangled down to her zori footwear. A pair of white tabi were snugly fitted into her sandals as she gracefully walked towards them. The Mantle of Decorum floated behind her head and their father’s sword floated at her side. When the fabric of the dress flitted upwards from one of her steps, a glimpse of a hemline of a pair of light pants could be seen above her ankles.
Karma sighed, “Well, at least I convinced you to put a dress on.”
“She looks much better in one,” Zelos laughed. He held his arm out towards Irelia, “Are you nervous? Want to go arm in arm?”
He laughed again and cricked his neck, “Fine fine, don’t hold my hand. I’m the one who’s nervous, not you. Don’t help me or anything.”
“You remember the procession line, right Zelos?”
“Yeah yeah, first the Council, then you and Soraka, then Master Yi and his student, then some Ahri chick and we’re last. The Council, Lee, the student and said chick come from that side, we come from this side. See? I remember things. I’m not dumb.”
Irelia rolled her eyes and reached over to his ear. She cupped the back of it and touched a scar that would be easily missed if one did not know to look there, “Says the man who fought a goose and lost.”
“Hey, that goose was tough! It pretty much fought like a rabid, magically enchanted bear! It had be a magic goose.”
Irelia’s lips broke into a surprisingly sweet smile, “Yes, the very same ‘bear’ you told father that attacked me.”
Zelos grinned, “Hey, so long as I’m around, I’ll be there to look after you, Irie.”
Soraka visibly tensed. Karma shot her a questioning look which made the Starchild shake her head.
Master Yi and a tall, lanky monkey walked into view. Master Yi wore his usual Wuju style clothing, except his trademark goggles were missing. The monkey was dressed in dark red armor with sanguine cloth parts, the metal was outlined in a dull gold. The monkey’s golden eyes carried a strange intelligence, almost as strange as the staff he held over his shoulder.
Yi grinned the moment he saw Zelos and walked over to him, “Sergeant Zelos, it has been a long time.” The Wuju master gave a quick bow, “You almost seem unchanged physically.”
Zelos shrugged, “What can I say? I got looks that can kill, and kill they did.” He looked over at the monkey, “So...is this your pet or something?”
“Ook ook,” the monkey chittered sarcastically and made a few hand gestures.
Zelos raised an eyebrow, “I don’t speak sign language. What?”
“Ook ook, me want banana. Me ask you for food. Me pet.”
“Oh okay, in that case can someone get the smartass a banana?”
“Smartass?!” The monkey chittered. “Why I oughta...Heh. How’d you figure out?”
“Aside from the talking bit? I’m quick on the uptake. Sorry, didn’t mean to call you a pet. With all the stuff I’ve seen you’d think I would be a bit more open minded. So who are you?” Zelos cheerily asked.
“I’m Wukong, student of the Wuju style!”
Now it was Zelos’ turn to be surprised. “You’re the student? I thought it would have been Sakura if anyone.” He looked around and clicked his tongue, “Now that I think about it, your sister rarely ever strayed more than a few meters from you. Where is little Sakura? Is she hiding or something?”
Everyone fell quiet, save for Irelia. Irelia spoke with perhaps a touch of too much bluntness, “She died.”
Zelos blinked. He clicked his teeth as awkwardly as his tone of voice became, “Ah...my bad. Sorry, Yi. Didn’t mean to, y’know...My condolences.”
“Let tonight be a joyous occasion, to commemorate the return of my old friend. There will be many days for us to reflect and to discuss what has happened in the past. Let us focus on the present, and on the future.”
They would have a lot to talk about, particularly about the promise Yi, Akali and Soraka made. That could come later though, seeing as how upset he was at the mention. Zelos walked over and clapped Yi’s shoulder, “Agreed. Let’s try and focus on the better things of tonight, but...can I speak with Irelia quickly? We won’t be late, promise.”
Karma nodded, “Of course, just one thing slightly bothers me. Master Yi, should Wukong not be on the other side?”
The monkey grinned cheekily, “I’m there, and here! Hah! Told you I’d gotten better!”
A puff of smoke, and the monkey disappeared. Karma rolled her eyes and let out a light titter, “You have a few minutes before things begin. We will give you some privacy.”
Master Yi nodded his head towards Zelos and Irelia, “I will let you know if you dawdle too long.”
Karma, Soraka and Yi walked towards the expected doors while Irelia and Zelos lagged back.
He bluntly stated, “I’m becoming a League champion, Irelia.”
Her emerald eyes flicked over at him. Worry and anger could be seen in them, “What?”
“Did you think I didn’t know that you’re all League champions? Do you think Jarvan and I spoke about meat, women and how fast we can drink our alcohol? Nooo, not at all, sorry to disappoint you but the man cannot hold his liquor,” Zelos’ jovial tone did not waver. “Even Soraka, our Soraka, is in the League. If you’re in the League, I’ll be in the League. Dad’s corpse can’t spin any faster, can it?”
Irelia’s knuckles went white, her hands balled into fists, “It was necessary, Zelos. I had to join.”
“And I agree with you, I unfortunately agree with you. But hey, if we’re taking a piss on our morals then I’m not going to let you sit on that sinking ship alone. I’m going to announce my choice to join the League at this dinner,” Zelos looked over at her with a broad smile on his face. “I’m not telling you this so you can dissuade me, I’m telling you this so I don’t surprise you. I’m going to be there for y-”
“No!” Irelia yelled. She stepped in front of him and poked his chest, “You will not join the League!”
“Oh?” He chuckled, “And why not?”
Irelia’s voice took a more commanding tone to it, “You came home, you fulfilled your promise, you don’t need to do anything else. You don’t owe me anything else. You will not join the League.”
A roar of laughter erupted from Zelos, “What’s wrong with your voice, Irie? I-”
“My voice? Nothing is wrong with my voice,” Irelia snapped. “Your voice, however, what’s wrong with yours? You’re laughing about this. Why are you laughing? You are not joining the League.”
Zelos looked over at Irelia, and shook his head, “Oh you do not want me to be serious, Irelia. You sincerely don’t-”
“I do. I really do. Take something seriously for once.” Irelia threw her hands up in frustration, “Why are you smiling and laughing like an idiot? This is a serious commitment. You came home, you did your duty, you do not need to fight anymore. You can relax-”
“You relax, I relax,” Zelos retorted. “And let’s look at my list of achievements, shall we? I was sent to go to Demacia, right? To go to them and ask them for help in the incoming war? I failed there. So let’s go to the next point, Demacia heard news of the war, right? What happened? They were stopped by the League. So even if I got to Demacia, it would have amounted to nothing. Did I return home in time to make sure you didn’t fight? Nope, sure didn’t do that! This celebration, we both know is a complete joke, it’s my big return! So let me do this, let me give today meaning, let me be your big b-”
“You trusted me to defend Ionia, Zelos,” Irelia’s voice grew louder and angrier. “I kept my promise and you kept yours, you came home. I’m glad to have you home, Zelos, I don’t want you to fight. Not now, not ever again.”
Zelos threw his hands up, his jovial tone still lit in his voice, “And what would you want me to do? Hm? What would you want me to do?”
“I want you to have a family,” Irelia replied. “I want you to be happy, Zelos. I want you to find someone you love, I want you to raise children, I want to see nephews and nieces and I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to fight, now now, not ever again.”
Zelos snickered and waved her off, “I thought I was supposed to be the one telling you to get married all this time! I’ve been gone for a damn long time, I’m sure you found someone! Come on, you got a head start on me! Why don’t you get married?”
Irelia went quiet for three seconds, two seconds too long.
He did not hear her reply, and kept the same smile on his face. Inside him, however, a growing feeling of dread grew ever larger. Something was wrong.
Master Yi peeked from around the corner, “Zelos? Irelia? It will be time soon.”
Irelia nodded, “Thank you, Master Yi.” She looked over at Zelos, and took his hands into hers. Her commanding voice cracked, for just a moment, as she appealed to him, “Please Zelos, don’t join the League.”
Something was definitely wrong.
Zelos grinned, “Eh, mayyybe...maybe not! We’ll have to see the mood I’m in, eh?”
“Come on, it’s a big decision. You can’t expect me to say yes or no right away,” he said as he winked at her.
They walked towards the door in complete silence. A loud voice introduced the two, “And today marks a special day! Today, we officially welcome back to Ionia our wayward sergeant! We welcome back the last son of the Hiten art, the son of Master Lito, Sergeant Zelos Lito!”
A loud round of applause roared. Irelia and Zelos walked into the banquet hall. Zelos gave everyone a big wave and made his way to his seat. Irelia sat at a table with all of the remaining Ionian guard, with a young man to her left while Zelos sat her right.
He scanned the room, trying to find other notable figures.
At the head table, with the Council sat Karma and Soraka. next to them, the Demacians sat with. Jarvan was closest to Karma and sat at her right. The Prince of Demacia was dressed in a surprisingly modest royal blue formal attire, Shyvana while sat his right She wore a dull gold dress that she seemed to feel incredibly embarrassed in as a dark blue tint could be seen on her cheeks. This tint apparently only grew when Jarvan leaned over to mutter some words to her. He looked like he was trying to reassure her to no avail.
Master Yi sat a table with the monkey, as well as a strange fox woman who had nine white, furry tails and long black hair. She wore a short, white kimono bordered red, which helped accentuate her sexuality. Zelos could see her fox ears twitch with every sound as she chatted away with the monkey and any man who attempted to speak with her.
The first dish that was served was a traditional fruit salad. This made Zelos scream in horror.
He backed away from the bowl placed before him, shaking and yelling as he pointed at it, “Not the children! Why the children?!”
“Chil...dren?” People murmured in confusion.
No one knew what was wrong with him. Irelia leaned over and whispered to him, “Zelos? Why are you insulting our cooks that worked so hard to cook us this excellent meal?”
He rubbed the back of his head awkwardly, red bloomed on his face, “Ahhh...well...hm...How to put this...” Zelos picked up a glass of wine and tapped it with a spoon which made it ring noisily.
Irelia wanted to either bury her head into her hands, or his head into the wine glass.
Zelos cleared his throat, and started to talk, “So, I can guess you all know that I’ve been gone for some time. I’m not going to be partaking in this first course because fruit has forever been ruined for me.” He laughed, trying to entice others to join him. It did not work. He continued, “You see, when I was shipwrecked, and when I woke up, I was on an island full of mystical women. They called themselves Dryads. Now, the thing about them, is that they were more akin to trees than to any other plant. Eating fruit, meant eating their children.”
He laughed, “It didn’t help that Dryads love to play tricks! When I finished eating a bunch of strawberries, a few apples, a pear or two, first time I had solid food in weeks, one of them came up to me and started screaming that I was murdering her children! Yeah, if none of you find it funny, I didn’t at the time either. Apparently, male Dryads are trees, female Dryads are them. They didn’t fault me for eating the fruit, oh no, that’s the way animals work. They have grown to accept it, though they do not want to see me eat in front of them.”
Zelos’s grin grew wider, “But the other reason why I have spoken up, is because I wish to apologize now for how some of my behaviour may be. It has been a while since I’ve been with such esteemed and polite company in my travels, and I hope you do not bear any ill towards Ionia or the Ionian people for my actions. I am still adjusting, strangely enough, to the culture I grew up in.”
He sat back down handed the bowl of fruit over to the person that sat at his left. The soldier shrugged and did not mind being given more food. Irelia leaned over to Zelos and whispered, “What did you eat before fruit?”
“Seriously,” Zelos grimaced. “Don’t ask.”
The next course was a simple soup, with various vegetables and tofu. It was made from fish stock. Zelos motioned to the server to come closer. He held out an empty wine glass to the man and asked, “Can you bring the bottle? I haven’t had stuff this good in years. Also...a loaf of bread.”
“Yeap. An entire loaf.”
The server nodded and walked away. Irelia nudged Zelos’ side, “Bread? Why bread?”
“To eat the soup?” He raised an eyebrow.
“You have a spoon.”
He picked up the utensil and waggled it about, “It feels weird though. I’m already trying not to use my hands to just dig in. C’mon, a bit of slack?”
“Even Ahri is using a spoon,” Irelia replied.
The two looked over and saw Ahri essentially hold the bowl up to her face and used the spoon to shovel in any solid food from the bowl into her mouth. It was strange, she did not breath as she inhaled the soup. Wukong seemingly mimicked her, the two laughed as they motioned for seconds. Master Yi reached over and cupped the back of Wukong’s head.
“...So I am allowed to do th-?”
“Oh thank the heavens. I don’t think my gag reflex is that far gone.”
Irelia nearly coughed up her food, and actually smiled, “That is rude.”
“There we go. Finally got you smiling.”
“Just, please, do not dunk the bread into the soup.”
Zelos whined at her, “Can’t I do once? Pleaaase? It’s gonna drive me nuts otherwise.”
The bread and the bottle of wine was placed before him. Irelia sighed and looked away. She gave him a wave of her hand as if to give him permission. Zelos promptly grabbed the loaf of bread, dipped it into the soup and took a voracious bite from it. Two bites and he swallowed harshly, which made his sister sigh louder.
Irelia raised a hand to her mouth. He could see that her body shuddered with a silent cough. She got up from her chair and bowed, “Excuse me, I will return shortly.”
She walked away, her sword floated in tow. Zelos could see Jarvan stand up and start walked towards the presumed exit she was intending to make, followed by Shyvana becoming downcast and even more embarrassed.
The next dish was an assortment of raw fish on rice. Any kind of fish one could imagine and it was here. With Irelia not here, he simply reached down and scooped the food into his mouth with his fingers. He was very hungry.
The guards and the Ionians near him felt now was an apt time to ask him questionsm
“What did the Dryads look like??”
“How beautiful were they?”
“What happened after?!”
“How did you survive?”
“Did you find love?”
At this last question, Zelos burst out in a fit of laughter, “I was in love the whole time I was gone! With my country, my family, and my countrymen, of course! There was nothing else that mattered to me! Gimme a sec...” He took a long drink from the wine bottle and focused his attention back on the questions, “Okay, okay...The Dryads were stupidly beautiful, too hard to describe in words. I got kidnapped by a bunch of bearded guys after I tried coming home, spent nearly a decade with them, and I survived because I guess I’m pretty great!”
Another man, Kenji, asked, “Bearded guys?”
“Yeah, Lokfarans, big brutish guys. You learn quickly from them, lessons like don’t share your food unless you don’t want to eat it.”
The people would have peppered him with more questions if the next dish was not served.
The dish afterwards was a variety of lightly fried seafood, vegetables and other light delicacies. Zelos had begun to drink his second bottle of wine, and Irelia nor Jarvan were anywhere to be seen. Well, they had taken this long, he might as well announce his decision.
He had eaten, he had drank, he mulled over the conversation Irelia and he had earlier. What did she mean by that? Did she not find someone in all of this time? Should he be concerned? That was when Jarvan and Irelia suddenly returned quietly and stealthily.
Upon closer examination, his emerald eyes focused onto the two like a hawk. A cheeky grin spread across his face as Jarvan went to sit down. He could see the shirt was slightly ruffled. He could not help but let the thoughts jump about his head, a prince and a pauper. Okay, not a pauper, but he was a bit of a poet at heart.
However, this helped confirm his suspicions: She had found someone. That meant that his initial choice was the best one. Sure she may be a bit angry at him at first, but he had to make sure she was happy. He would protect her. He shifted his body weight as he prepared to stand. Now would be the best time to announce his candidacy to join the League as a champion.
Irelia managed to take only a few steps when her eyes went wide. She spun around and quickly walked away, her shoulders quaking. If one did not know to look, they would not have seen her actions. Her sword flew to her side, as if it were waiting to give her support.
Zelos’ chair screeched back as he catapulted himself over the table and towards the door, not caring of the scene he just made.
Outside the banquet hall, he looked about the trio of corridors that branched away. He was trying to figure out where she had gone, when an echoed cough could be heard. If one’s ears were not sensitive, it would be nearly impossible to discern where it had come from.
Zelos ran down the hallway. He heard another cough, he could tell it was wet. Their father’s sword was in sight one moment, then out of sight the next as it went around the dark corner.
He had no weapon on him save for the knife he took from the table. If someone had tried to hurt her, or if Jarvan did something... Oh man, if Jarvan did something, prince or not, it would be too bad that Zelos would have to gut him in front of everyone.
As he ran, he nearly slid across the floor from the pool of crimson that covered several tiles onto it.
‘What in the...?’
He reached down and touched the puddle.
Where would she go? Where could she have gone? There was really only one place he would expect her to go to. Quickly enough, he came to the door to her room. He gripped the handle and pushed on it. It was locked.
He booted the solid wood door, only to bounce off of it.
‘Trying that again.’
He aimed at the lock and shattered it open with a strong kick. He pushed the door open and he was confronted by something he had never expected. It confirmed a few suspicions and raised dozens of more questions. He dropped the knife and his face was drained of all color. What was he looking at? What was going on? Why did it have to happen to her? Why?
All he knew was that he had come across a similar scene like this many years ago, before the war. He thought it was an isolated incident.
“...Not again...Oh no, no no, please, not again...”
Ten minutes earlier, Irelia had gone out to get some air. She muttered angrily aloud, "Less than an hour and he's...urgh! How does he pull off that smile and be so...that?" Her sword hummed, a little vermillion energy crackled as if to show the annoyance she was experiencing.
She stopped walking and looked behind her. Jarvan had caught up to her. "Is something amiss?"
"No...yes? I don't know?" She threw her hands up, "This does not concern you, Prince. Please leave me be."
"It does concern me when I see a friend distressed," he politely replied. He motioned down one of the hallways, "I believe there is a balcony there. May we speak there?"
"Now you want to discuss political matters? Can that not wait until we are rejoined with the Council-"
Jarvan raised a hand up, "Do forgive me, I do not mean to be rude and I am aware you will probably skewer me for interrupting you, but I wish to talk to you." He pointed towards his intended destination, "May we?"
The Ionian woman sighed and nodded, "Lead the way, Prince."
"Inside the Institute, during matches, during speeches and what other formal gatherings you can think of, you have to refer to me as prince. When it is just you and I? Please, call me Jarvan," he requested.
The two walked side by side for the short distance they had to walk. Jarvan towered over Irelia, easily over six feet in height. He would easily weigh two of her, and his muscle mass was ridiculous, but even he knew better than to doubt the strength of this lithe Ionian woman.
Once outside, Jarvan motioned to the banister. He leaned over it and stared at the dark landscape that stretched out before them.
"You discussed with Luxanna about what happened in Kalamanda."
Irelia nodded, "Yes."
"I was concerned. Many think you would act in such a manner, but you have matured since your induction to the League. That was not you acting."
"How can you say this for sure?"
Irelia shrugged her shoulders, "Because you would not endanger your people in such a reckless manner, not for your own personal prejudice against Swain. I know that much of you."
"But I do not remember what happened, it is all...hazy, that time. Yet if I tell you that I did not do it, you believe me?"
Jarvan then asked in an overly formal tone, "What do you think of Zelos?"
"He is my brother," Irelia replied. "My brother who finally came back. After all this time, he came back. I am still having a hard time believing it, and when he acts like...that, it is harder to believe."
"You value my word?"
"Yes, I do."
"He loves you, Lady Irelia," the prince firmly stated. "He was found on a glorified canoe in the middle of the Conqueror's Sea. He was near mad and barely coherent. He was screaming about birds at first, admittedly, but when one of my the crew touched him they were reportedly knocked into the ocean. The entire crew was subdued. It took an hour to bring him on board. Do you know what he was yelling the entire time?"
Irelia shook her head.
"He was yelling that he had to get home, he called them a few expletives and a few other words in foreign languages and said he would kill everyone if they stopped him from getting home. Nothing was going to stop him this time. He would not let her down, he would stop the war and he would kill everyone who got in his way," Jarvan nodded his head. "He almost killed forty men. The only reason they did not die is because they had a healer onboard, luckily. It took a lot of guesswork, and he was not particularly coherent, but eventually your name calmed him down. He loves you, Irelia, but you need to understand his position."
Jarvan pointed at the dark horizon, "He was out there, with no one. He had nothing out there. The first question that he asked me, when he regained his senses, was if I knew Irelia Lito. I said yes. He asked if you were still alive. I said yes. He burst into tears. Never, have I ever seen a man as happy as him even on their wedding day. He was alone this entire time, Irelia. You became a strong woman in all of these years, but you have had people. You have friends, comrades, associates and so forth. He? He had no one. He is a good man, he just needs some time to acclimatize back in your culture. His stories may sound glorious and his adventures amazing, but he suffered greatly."
Irelia nodded and let out a sigh, "I know, I know...I love him too. I just, I just wish he was not so...so badly affected. I really wish he just had some magical adventure bull and took so long to come back because of...I don't know, less severe reasons? Did you see his wounds? I saw his arm and some of his chest, I can only assume there are many more."
"Yes, there are."
"How bad are they?"
"Frostbite burn scars cover his chest, his stomach, and patches of his arms and his legs. The scars from bladed and piercing weapons stretch about his body, a few scars from where bone had snapped and pierced his skin, and a few bite scars from creatures that bit him. I do not think I have to mention how he managed to survive despite the severe level of dehydration he suffered from. That alone makes it a miracle that he is alive at all. He came back to Ionia, and to you. Give him time, and be patient with him. He needs you now more than ever. He may be a bit rough at first, but he will settle down soon enough."
Irelia tapped the banister, quietly reflecting on what the prince said. She replied, "I never did thank you for bringing him back."
"I think a banquet-"
"That is formal gratitude," she interrupted. She pushed away from the banister and moved towards him, "Excuse me, I'm going to be informal now."
Irelia wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged the prince of Demacia, "Thank you, Jarvan. Thank you for bringing him back. I will never be able to repay you for this."
When she pulled her head back, her bao caught onto his a button on his shirt. Irelia muttered aloud, "And this is why I don't hug people." She reached up and unlatched it from her hair. She attempted to readjust his shirt into proper order only to mess it up more.
Jarvan handed it back to her, "You should show that more often."
"That warmth," he replied. "It suits you, Lady Irelia."
Irelia smirked at him, "I can say the same to you."
"You and I know what it is like to put an image on for people. We hold our country's safety, reputation and well being over almost everything else. That is why I hold nothing but the utmost respect for you, Lady Irelia. I am glad that I can make further amends for the transgression of Demacia during the Ionian War. It is one more of the many steps to restoring Ionia to its proper grace," Jarvan bowed towards her, a strange thing to see from a Demacian.
Irelia's smirk widened into a toothy smile, "You are a good friend and ally, Jarvan. Do not forget that."
The prince smiled back at her and nodded his head, "Same to you, Lady Irelia. Your man is certainly very lucky."
"We are not...it is complicated."
"When is life not complicated?" Jarvan shrugged. He looked out to the distance one last time before stating, "We have been out here for a while. If we stay any longer, people may get suspicious of us. Come, let us make our way back to the banquet. I think I-" A loud rumble roared out from his stomach. Jarvan coughed and sheepishly explained himself, "I think I may be a bit famished. The fruit and soup were delicious but I need a bit more...meat in my meals."
"Lead the way, Jarvan."
Jarvan started to walk ahead of Irelia when he asked, "By the by, how improper would it be for me to ask for a painting?"
"I am not sure what it is you mean."
"A painting, made by you. How improper a request would it be?"
Irelia shook her head, "For you, or for Demacia?"
"For you? Not improper at all. Consider it as a favor for a friend."
Irelia's sword hummed behind her in response.
Upon re-entering the banquet hall, Irelia saw Zelos who was enjoying himself. He was laughing and talking with the other Ionians, and despite his somewhat brutish manners, he looked happy. She would talk with him. She took a few steps back towards her seat when her body shuddered. Irelia spun around and pressed a hand to her mouth. Something was wrong.
Irelia rushed out of the banquet hall. Her sword flew down to her side and prepared itself to catch her. Her stomach lurched. Her breathing shortened. She coughed but managed to swallow the contents of whatever she coughed up back. She could taste metal in her mouth.
Irelia took off running as quickly as she could when she had to stop yet again. She let out a wet cough which slapped the floor with a pool of blood. She pressed her hand to her mouth, trying to stem the blood that flowed from it. It dripped between her fingers. A hard swallow stemmed the flow, for now.
Soon enough, Irelia reached her room. She closed the door and locked it with a simple thought. She needed to be alone for now. She would recover from this quickly enough. She tried to control her breathing, inhale, exhale, inhale, ex-
A violet cough made her splatter her window with blood. She tried holding it to her mouth again and tried swallowing it, but it was to no avail this time. She started to cough even worse than before, barely able to stand as the blood soaked her dress and the pooled onto the floor around her.
Irelia took a breath in and tried to control her breathing once more. She closed her eyes and held onto a chair for support with one hand while she pressed her chest with her other hand. Irelia breathed in and out slowly. She did not notice the blood that started to flow from her nose. She was calm, but she could feel another surge of coughs well up from her diaphragm. She just needed to calm down and try to-
Then she heard someone try to kick her door down. Irelia looked over and winced, this was not good. She could not be seen like this. She moved to try and speak, but instead she started coughing more blood.
The door burst open. Zelos walked into her room, knife in hand. His eyes went wide when he saw the blood drenched woman.
Her body stopped quaking for a moment, she thought it finally subsided. Alas, before she could say anything, she vomited a violent torrent of blood and crumpled to the floor. Her sword, which usually floated and hummed about her, promptly clattered to the floor completely lifeless.
A young Zelos walked down the Placidium hallway, dressed in the training clothes of the Ionian military. He hummed loudly as he made a turn and walked into a familiar room. He knocked on the door to gain the occupant's attention and grinned, "Hey dad, you busy?"
"Zelos?" Master Lito looked up from his desk. "Should you not be training with the others?"
"Eh, I'm done for the day. They couldn't keep up with me so I was asked to take a break. Figured I could get lunch with the old man at the very least."
Master Lito sighed, "If you call me an old man again, you're going to make me feel like a true bureaucrat."
"Pft, please, I've heard you say your choice words about paperwork."
Master Lito chuckled, "So long as you don't tell your sister those words, alright?"
Zelos jerked his head towards the door, "Come on, a little break won't kill you."
"My illness may," he retorted.
"You? Die from a little cough? Please, you move so fast that you can stay dry during a thunderstorm. You can outrun the cough before you have to cough."
Master Lito shuffled over to Zelos, his movements looking painful. His sword waited for his touch. Once he touched the blade, it sprung to life and seemed to float within his hands. He used it as a glorified walking stick if anything these days. The halls were bustling with people as father and son walked in tandem.
Zelos motioned to his father, "See? You're doing better. A bit more and I'll have to start running to keep up with you again!"
"Don't forget, you have to train Irelia and I tomorrow. She's excited to show you her progress. She's really working hard, and she hasn't seen you since last time! She can't wait to see you again, she's even hoping to have some of your red bean buns-"
"Zelos, do you think she would be a good heir to the Hiten style?"
The adolescent blinked, "Dad, really? Irelia? No, don't do that to her. Don't give her that responsi-"
"Do you think she would be a good heir?"
"...Of course she would be. She's making quicker progress than I ever have. In another year, she'll be on my level. Another year after that, she'll surpass me. You and I can see that. That's how she always been though, give her something to do and she'll not only excel at it but perfect it," he answered in a serious tone. "But don't do that to her, dad. Please don't."
"She will become the next heir because she wants to, Zelos. I cannot stop her path."
Zelos snorted, "I will not let her become the heir."
"Zelos, you cannot be so selfish-"
"She will not bear the responsibility of heir alone," Zelos snapped at his father. "You trained us both, we are both the heirs."
" The lineage of the Hiten style is long and ancient, Zelos. Our history is somewhat of a tragic one due to how it was once used. Our art is considered to be the epitome of sword mastery, and because of this frightening power that even I do not understand, it can have only one successor. There cannot be two."
Zelos laughed, "Then training two was really dumb. No, she is not going to be the successor, at least she won't be the lone successor. That is final."
"What do you mean?"
Zelos thumped his chest while grinning, " I'm her 'big bo', remember? Can't let her down that easily! She's not going to be alone in this!"
Master Lito smiled, "Yes, I remember...her first words. She recognized you as her brother before she recognized me as her father. I still remember that day."
"We're both trained to be your successor. If she is to be the heir, your successor, then I am too, and I'm going to be there for her. I know my role in life."
"You do? Then tell me, Zelos, what is more important: the sword, or the scabbard."
"The scabbard, of course."
Master Lito blinked. He looked over at his son, and his smile grew wider. "...It is such a shame that you both had to be born in the same lifetime, you would have both made wondrous success-"
Master Lito stopped mid sentence. His body twitched, and he vomited a violent torrent of blood onto the floor.
Master Lito could no longer keep himself standing, and crumpled to the floor. His sword that usually seemed to float in his hands clattered downwards, completely lifeless.
Zelos knelt down and tried shaking him awake, "Dad? Dad?! "
The adolescent looked around and started yelling, "Someone! Anyone?! Help! Get help! Do something!"
Any person who was nearby and had recovered from the shock of the scene started to run and follow Zelos' suggestion.
A calloused hand reached up and grabbed Zelos' shoulder. Master Lito's breathing did not match the convulsions in his chest. Blood flowed from his nose, mouth and ears uncontrollably. He was paler than death itself, any shine in his eyes had disappeared but he struggled to live.
Zelos looked around, then back at his fallen father, "What? Tell you why what? Is that really a concern now?! Save your strength dad, help's on the way. Come on, a cough-"
It was only because Master Lito raised a hand to his mouth that he did not cover Zelos in a torrent of blood. He was not too old a man, he was in his forties yet looked fitter than most twenty year olds. He shook his head, "T-tell me why... w-why is the scabbard...m-more important th-than the sw-sword..." He took a breath in, turned to his side and vomited more blood before he pleaded once more, "Tell me why..."
“...Not again...Oh no, no no, please, not again...”
Zelos rushed over and shook Irelia's still form. Her head rolled about listlessly, blood flowed from her mouth, nose and even from her ears. "Come on Irelia, this isn't funny, come on Irelia...wake up Irelia..."
She coughed, her sword sprang back to life and she started to breathe again, albeit harshly. She struggled to get back up, "Zel...Zelos...I'm...I'm fi..."
"Don't talk, save your strength, stay awake, I'll be right back. Promise."
Zelos tapped the side of Irelia's face and rushed out of the room. He looked down both ways and bellowed, "Is anyone here?! Anyone?! Hello??"
'Soraka. Soraka can fix this. But...she couldn't help dad. Oh gods, is this a family sickness? Is what killed dad going to kill Irelia? Oh gods please no, please no. Please not her. Anyone but her.'
"Anyone at all?! Are you ****ting me here? No one in the hallways?! No one?! My scene wasn't enough to bring running out of concern or a, 'hey he's acting kinda weird let's send a guard at the least to make sure he's okay?!' Anyone at all?! You have got to be turning me upside down, left to right bending me over and just fu-!"
He suddenly heard footsteps. Master Yi hurriedly walked down the hallway, "Zelos, what is going on? Why did you leave like that, why is there blood on the-"
"What in the hells took you so long?! Get Soraka, get Karma, get the entire army here, I don't care! Get someone or some people who can help her!" Zelos pointed into Irelia's room, "She's sick! She needs medical care right now!"
Master Yi sighed and shook his head, "I thought she was feeling better...I thought she overcame it."
"You thought she was...You thought she was feeling better?!" Zelos dashed forward and grabbed Master Yi's gi. He yelled at his friend, "This happened be-fore?!"
Master Yi nodded albeit too calmly, "Yes, though it was many years ago, she reassured us that she was feeling b-"
A solid right hook struck his face. Zelos proceeded to shake Master Yi violently, "Many years ago?! Don't you think you should have told me as soon as possible?!"
Wukong finally caught up and pointed his staff at Zelos, "Oi, drop the master and walk away, man. No need to get violent. You got Miss Swordsalot there to be concerned about."
"I'll deal with you in a second, monkey boy! Yi! What the ****?! For future reference, this isn't doing a very good job looking after Irelia! Blood everywhere equals bad friggin' job!"
"Zel...Zelos...enough." Irelia let out another horrid wet cough, splashing herself with more blood. She attempted to stand, her sword weakly shaking as it struggled to hold her up.
He instantly released Yi. Zelos rushed over to her, knelt down and leaned his sister down onto his lap, "Hey hey, I said don't talk, don't waste strength, just be quiet for once and relax, alright? I'm here. You'll be fine."
"I...I am fine...Let me up. You see...? This...This is what is going...going to happen. All I want...is f-for..." Irelia struggled to get up once more, "Is for you to...to be-"
"I swear to every loving god and every friggin' star if you finish that sentence as your final words I am going to double kill you! How that works is beyond me, but I'm so angry now I think can confidently ignore the laws of nature themselves! Keep quiet and save your strength!"
Irelia smiled at him and attempted to laugh. She got out a few chuckles before she violently coughed a heap of blood onto his clothing. She winced and reached over, grabbing at the wet stain, "S-sorry...didn't..."
"At least you're laughing, that's good! I think! I'm not a doctor! Seriously, Yi, why haven't you freaking gone and grabbed...!"
Zelos looked around, and saw that Yi had disappeared. Wukong stayed behind as he looked around whistling nonchalantly. "Did he go to get Soraka?"
"So here's a question, where is Akali? I thought she was supposed to be Irie's nurse."
The monkey shrugged, "No idea, guess she had Kinkou work t'do or something."
"Zelos...don't..." Irelia struggled to get up. "It's okay...I'll get up..."
He kept her pinned to his lap, "You're not moving. You're resting and relaxing and staying here. You're not moving."
Irelia convulsed again so harshly that her limbs were rocked with spasms. Her sword flew over and rested itself under her left hand in an effort to comfort her.
Zelos reached down and started brushing her hair away from her face, "Keep with me, keep with me, Irelia. Breath with me, keep your breathing steady with me: In, out. In, out. In, out. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Keep it up."
"I am not a child, Zelos," Irelia snapped, her voice returning to its former strength for a brief moment. She attempted to stand up to no avail, her legs buckled and she fell backwards. Zeloas had managed to catch her gently and rested her back on his lap, keeping her elevated.
Irelia groaned, "I...I look so pathetic...This is not...befitting."
Her brother shook his head, "No, no you don't look pathetic. You're fine. You look fine. You'll be alright, you hear me?"
A nod of her head made her body convulse once more. Blood dribbled out of her mouth. She was as pale as death now.
Wukong pulled himself away from the wall and waved at Zelos, "I'll let you know when the master gets back, kay?"
"No problem. This is gonna be really borin' though," Wukong sighed.
Zelos closed his eyes and laughed, "Alright, Irie? Listen to my voice, cause I'm just going to talk now, and I want you to listen to my voice, alright? I want you to respond."
Irelia did not reply, her eyes were glazed over, her breathing slowed.
"I think I fell in love with Wukong, I'm going to have chimpettes with him."
She sputtered out droplets of blood and started to laugh while a look of mortification ripped across Wukong's face.
"You are...so silly sometimes..."
"Yeah I know, but if you don't respond I'm going to have to use Wuk there as the brunt of my jokes."
Irelia attempted to smile again, "F-fine...for his sake...I'll respond..."
In a few scant minutes, Master Yi brought Soraka with him.
There she saw two blood soaked siblings, Irelia laying down on Zelos' lap while he was talking about sharing certain bananas with Wukong. Wukong, to say the least, was not amused. Irelia was barely conscious but her breathing slow and steady and she nodded her head every time he asked her to acknowledge that she can hear him.
Soraka rushed over and allowed healing magic to flow from her hands. Zelos leaned Irelia towards Soraka and assured his sister was secured by Soraka's embrace. The Starchild muttered aloud, "It is getting worse...The symptoms should not have been this severe. This is-"
"Just like our dad," Zelos finished her sentence. "When did this start, Soraka?"
"Zelos, we must act quickly. I am sorry but now is not-"
"When." His voice became cold.
She had never heard him with such a tone of voice before. It was strange, it almost reminded her of Irelia. When she looked over at him, a horrified expression came across her face. She slowly replied, "...During the Battle of the Placidium."
"What happened at the Battle that could cause this? What did she contract? Did she just start showing the symptoms? Is this a family thing?"
Soraka rubbed her face, "I...I cannot explain now."
"Because I need to look after Irelia as quickly as I can. Send for Karma the moment the banquet is over. Zelos, you need to go back and assume Irelia's responsibility and help entertain the guests."
An obvious lie. She was hiding something from him.
Zelos grabbed Soraka's shoulder, "They can all go burn and die in a ditch. You are telling me right now what's wrong. Why-"
Irelia's sword floated in front of her, wobbling as it did. She rested herself against it, breathed in and attempted to speak, "Ionians...are not bad hosts. Please...Zelos...I don't...I don't want you..." She coughed yet again, this time just spittle. "I don't want you...to see me like this...Please..."
"I saw you choking that purple chick with blood everywhere. I don't care how you look, Irelia. I-"
"That was duty...This is...this is..." Irelia swallowed hard.
He could see something in her eyes: She was not frightened. She had a look of acceptance. She looked like she accepted her condition, her fate whatever it was. Zelos drummed his fingers on his leg. He closed his eyes, he did not want to say yes. She could die like their father did in a moment's notice. But she asked him to do something, she asked him to do something for her. His eyes opened as he asked in a stern voice, "Do you promise that I will see you again?"
Irelia nodded her head.
"Will I see you again in this life?"
She nodded her head again.
"In that case, fine. Soraka? You, me and Karma, we're having a very, very long conversation about what's going on here."
Zelos pointed at Master Yi, "And you, are going to help Soraka transport Irelia to wherever she needs to go.” He quickly jerked his finger over to the monkey man, “Wukong, you are going to go inside Irelia's room and you're going to block it from the inside. No one gets in or out, got it? You'll jump out the window and meet me in my room in ten minutes. After that, Wukong, you are going to help me get a new outfit for the banquet so we do not alert the guests the severity of the situation.”
He stared Yi dead in his eyes as he spoke, “Tomorrow morning, Yi, you and I? We are going to talk. I want to know what happened while I was gone to the most minute detail. I want you to tell me how many damn blades of grass blown on the fourth day of the fifth month of the sixth year I was gone. Am I understood?"
Master Yi nodded, "Yes, Zelos."
Zelos looked over at Soraka, "How long will it be before Irelia is well again?"
"Maybe a few weeks, maybe a month? It matter how much damage was inflicted and how much rehabilitation is needed to repair said damage."
"Fine," Zelos nodded. He pointed at Wukong, "You, let's go" Before he went, he walked over to Irelia and kissed her forehead, "I'll see you again soon, Irie. Don't worry. I'll be there the moment you need me."
Zelos walked out of the room, livid beyond reason.
Soraka's head hung limp as she walked alongside Master Yi and the unconscious Irelia. They left her sword behind in her room. There was no reason for it currently.
"She is still alive, Soraka. Zelos and you intervened at the crux of the moment. She is saved. Why do you look as though you are in mourning?"
The Starchild looked at the fleeting figure of Zelos. She replied in a sorrowful tone, "Because I see the same cracks in his soul."
"The same cracks...? That makes no sense, Soraka. Was he afflicted by a necromancer as well? From what Olaf had told us, the Lokfarans do not utilize magic. Maybe it was the dry-"
"It was not the necromancer, Yi. Not even for Irelia. That man simply pushed the catalyst forward and made the condition become realized sooner."
Master Yi's face dropped. "I always thought it was the necromancer...What are you saying?"
"We promised her we would not tell anyone..." Soraka drew a breath in and attempted to calm herself. "But...there is a reason why there is only one successor to the Hiten style. That is all I can say without her permission."
Half an hour later, Zelos walked back into the banquet hall, dressed in the clothes of the Wuju style. He grinned wildly and started to make his way back to his seat. As he passed by Karma, he muttered to her three words, "See me after."
He could hear murmurs of concern, of surprise. Zelos laughed and raised his hands, "Sorry about that, people! Sorry! There's nothing to be worried about, I'm back and I'm ready to eat and drink some more! Now, who wants to hear more about the sexy Dryads?"
Zelos reached over, grabbed a bottle of wine, and grinned, "Come on, come on, no need to be so stiff! It's not like someone's dying, right?"
“...By this point, the Ionian people had all but given up. The Council came to me and told me their plan of surrendering. I was less than pleased with the idea. They asked me to disarm and to come with them, to show that we will not fight anymore. The Noxians had surrounded us with two legions worth of men. The Zaunite machinery was incoming and would arrive at teh PLacidium soon, hence why we were on such a constrained deadline. When it was time to surrender, Karma attempted to sway the people. To ask them to fight again. No one moved. They bowed their heads. Like beaten animals, they bowed their heads. Karma asked who will still fight? That is when young Irelia spoke up, saying she would.”
Master Yi held a cup of steaming tea in his hand. The teapot rested at his feet, and Zelos sat next to him. They were in the Lotus Gardens, at the base of a marble fountain. Master Yi took a sip before he continued, “Her words still echo in my head. She said, ‘Who are you people? Are you Ionians or are you pigs for the slaughter? Are we just cattle, waiting for the day of our death? We are Ionians! I will not be subjugated against my will! Just because they have bigger weapons and more bloodlust does not give them permission to trample over us! We are Ionians! Pick up your weapons! We are now all defending Ionia!’"
He smiled at the memory, “That was all she had to say to convince me. I left at that point of her speech to get my sword. By the time I returned, the gates started to open, the people were moving and readying to defend themselves and she was missing. Soraka was in a panic, trying to make her way through the crowd towards the opening gates. I made my way across the parapet, jumped over the wall and joined in the fray. I saw Irelia surrounded by both corpses of Noxian infantry as well as many alive and very angry soldiers. It was one against thousands. She looked sick, almost dead, though the only visible injury she sustained was a cut to her forearm. I killed those men and went off to kill more. I should have realized something more was amiss when I saw the corpse of the necromancer, but I was too focused on fighting to connect anything.”
Zelos asked in a hushed tone, “What did the necromancer do?”
With complete lack of tact, Yi replied, “He killed her.”
“According to Soraka, he attempted to rip her soul out. He had only succeeded in partially doing so, but the damage was severe enough to kill her. She should not be alive. Soraka anchored her soul to her body, and through a miracle, she returned to life.”
“...You let, a fourteen year old girl, fight in a war, against such numbers, and you let her die. I’m following you correctly, right?”
Yi nodded, “Yes. I did.”
Zelos looked at his cup of tea, contemplating what was just said.
Yi quickly assured him, “You would not be able to beat me to death with the cup, old friend, as much as you may want to try.”
“I may just strangle you. How could you let her fight? How could any of you let her fight?”
“It was her choice to. She chose to-”
“So what if she chose to? If she chose to slit the throats of every Ionian official would you let her because it was her choice?” Zelos growled. “No, you let her because it helped those idiots move to action. Did all of Ionia truly surrender?”
Master Yi closed his eyes, dejection evident in his body language, “You were not there, Zelos. If it were just the Noxians, we would have fared well. But it was also the Zaunites and even the pirates of Bilgewater joined them in their war efforts. My village...” Yi bowed his head, “I left to pursue a spotted Noxian squad, I came back and found out my master was killed. My master was killed when a Noxian platoon had found them. Despite them being Noxians, their commander had apparently given him an honorable death. My sister called her a monster. She may have had all the traits of a human, but her eyes...Her dead, amber eyes...”
“She had no need for a weapon to fight my master with. She fought him with her bare hands. He made a deal with her: If he fought her, then her platoon would leave the village alone. If she refused, he would kill every one of her men save for her. He was an old man, but he was still strong. She agreed. Why, we are not sure. She fought my master without any weapon, and though she was almost defeated, she killed him. She warned the village that if they did not move, more Noxians were sure to come. She had apparently kept her bargain. I chased after her and her squadron, I wanted to know how, where, and truthfully? I wanted to avenge my master. If it were not for my narrow mindedness, I may have been able to save my village. When I returned...no one was alive. Not one soul. The damage done? No one dares go to the area, in case they are poisoned by the toxins that now plague that land. That was what we were against. I wanted to continue fighting, but I was told Ionia will surrender or we would all die and suffer the same fate as my family. I was blinded by anger, by rage, at myself and at them. I failed my promise.”
Zelos continued to laugh as he shook his head, “Alright, so you had it rough, I get it. So you couldn’t fulfil your promise really. Tell me this: do you know why she is sick?”
“Soraka said one thing that made me worry.”
Yi nodded, “I spoke to Soraka for a bit last night. She said that though she was not able to speak of it, she felt it would be improper without Irelia’s permission, she did say one thing. She said that is why there was only one heir to that of the Hiten style. It was more than just tradition as to why only one successor has to be chosen.”
Zelos looked over at Yi, as if he were attempting to drill into Yi’s skull by his glare. The man shook his head, “I do not know what it is. I did not even know that Irelia was suffering from the same illness as your father. My master said that the philosophy of Wuju is exactly that, a philosophy. That is why it can be taught to someone who uses a blade, or someone who uses a staff, to someone who uses their fists. Anyone can learn Wuju, and it is meant to be shared with all. The Hiten style has a single successor because of how powerful, how deadly it is. The Hiten style, The Flying Heaven art, the Sovereign slayer.”
Master Yi stroked his wispy beard as he spoke, “One thing I never associated, was the fact that my master knew your father, and your grandfather...”
“As well as your great grandfather.”
Zelos raised an eyebrow, “So your master was really, really old. Your point?”
“He was eighty four years old when he died.”
“...That’s...that’s still pretty old...” Zelos tried to poorly justify.
“Old enough to know four generations of Hiten users, including you?”
Zelos fell quiet. He eventually asked, “Did they all suffer from the same sickness?”
“I am not sure of that, but I do know that none of them lived to be more than sixty. He was talking about how time goes on, how people die and the next generation come along. It was a conversation we had many years ago, when I was young. We were discussing about the fragility of life. He was your great grandfather’s age, he knew his son, and his son’s son, and now his son’s son’s son and daughter. They had all died of natural causes. Awake one day, dead the next. Your father’s sickness, though undiagnosed, was not unnatural. It was not magically induced nor did the flesh itself seem to wither.” Yi sipped at his tea again, “I realized this last night speaking with Soraka. I also realized that there had not been more than one child to the Hiten lineage prior to you and Irelia. Humor me, recall the history of the Hiten to the best of your knowledge.”
Zelos shrugged as he replied,
“Dad used to tell it thus: The first Sovereign of Ionia was powerful, almost a god upon Runeterra, but he still needed someone to guard him as he grew older. A competition was held, to find who was worthy to guard the Sovereign. A man with a strange weapon emerged. He had defeated everyone save for his own brother, a man who had trained his entire life to become a weapon and utilized both light and shadow chi in his technique. He dubbed this the Silver Fang art. In all practicality, it should have easily trumped the other brother’s technique. Despite this, the two fought for a week to a standstill. No victor could be claimed.”
Zelos downed his cup of tea in a single gulp, then reached down to pour himself another cup. Once he had done so, he continued the story,
“In order to see who was more worthy, the two brothers were asked to fight the First Sovereign himself. The Silver Fang brother was defeated soundly. The other brother, with the strange weapon? He defeated the First Sovereign. When asked why he could not defeat his brother, the man said that he could not harm his own flesh and blood. This caused a feud for many centuries. When asked what his technique was, he claimed that in order to touch a god, one must transcend their flesh for flesh is weak. To transcend flesh, one must have the willpower and belief to do so. When one has done that, one can fly. When one flies, they can touch the heavens themselves. This is the Flying Heaven art, or Hiten style. Until the fall of the Sovereigns, all Hiten heirs protected the line of Sovereigns until they fell prey to corruption, greed and other vices. A Hiten practitioner guarded the First Sovereign, a Hiten practitioner killed the last Sovereign.” Zelos rolled his eyes in annoyance, “What’s the point? You heard this story almost as much as I have.”
“Notice what you said? ‘When asked what his technique was, he claimed that in order to touch a god, one must transcend their flesh for flesh is weak. To transcend flesh, one must have the willpower and belief to do so. When one has done that, one can fly. When one flies, they can touch the heavens themselves.’ What is the price of such a power, to be able to oppose a god?”
“Eh?” Zelos shook his head, “It’s a story, a myth. The Sovereigns were mortal. It’s not about opposing gods it was more of a way to show how awesome and strong the H-”
“What is the price of having the power to fight a god when you are just a mortal, when you are just human?”
“Ah...” Zelos shook his head again, trying to think of a response. He mockingly replied, “I don’t know? That seems to be a fairly redundant question since there are no gods to fight. At least dad didn’t tell us when he went out to slay gods on his day to day life. ‘Hey kids I got some fruit, picked up some meat and slew the twenty headed dragon god of super ultimate power.’”
“Yet he performed superhuman techniques, such as staying dry in the heart of a thunderstorm. How many mortals can fathom to do such a thing?”
Zelos smiled at the memory as he recalled it, “I remember that day. It was his final test before he could join the Council. He was asked what he was willing to do to serve Ionia. He said that for Ionia, he would make the impossible possible, if he was asked to. The Council did not know what he meant, and he told them that next time it rains, he will stand on the roof of our house, and he will not be touched by a drop. He will not move, nor will he use magic or anything but his own speed and skill to avoid the raindrops. We watched him go up, his face was marked so we knew it was him, and his thoughts could be heard the entire time.”
“And that is a normal feat for a mortal? Zelos, how did you survive?”
“Me? I was really lucky and determined. I wanted to live. Should I question fate?”
“And others do not want to live? Let me rephrase this. Irelia only truly started to participate in the war at the Battle of Placidium. At that battle, she killed more than a cohort of men with your father’s sword, and single handedly fell a Zaunite tank with just a single blade. She is able to forge literal swords out of her chi and is able to make as many as she wishes with just a thought. After that battle, the war lasted only a few more months. Irelia went on to kill not one, but two legions worth of Noxians and Zaunites herself. She has the blood of thousands on her hands. The last time she was wounded during the war was at the Battle of Placidium. During the battle and afterwards, no foreign weapon could come close to her. Many weapons rebelled against their masters in an impossible manner.” Yi shook his head, “How did you survive for not just a day, but possibly a week in freezing water? How did you not succumb to dehydration? What other feats have you performed and not told us? How much luck can you possibly have?”
Zelos drummed his fingers together. He slowly asked, “What are you saying, Yi?”
“Soraka said she can see the same cracks in your soul. Your father suffered from a strange illness, Irelia is suffering from something similar...I am not sure what I am saying. I am mostly inferring. I cannot say for sure what this means, but I am worried, old friend, for your health and hers.”
Zelos shot Yi a smile, “So, quick question, Yi. Do you know why Irelia is in the League, then?’
“She wishes to defend Ionia.”
Zelos let out a burst of laughter before asking, “So what if she wants to defend Ionia? Why let her continue fighting? You could have stopped her and it seems a lot of this could have been avoided it seems.”
“Because we failed her. The Southern provinces were under Noxian control even after they had left. Soraka and I joined the League so we could try and win them back. We lost,” Yi admitted. “Irelia felt betrayed by us. She believed only she can take back Ionia. Without you, responsibility fell on her shoulders. No one else could step in and take Ionia back, according to her. She trained, she became a champion of the League, and she wanted to win those provinces back. We almost managed to dissuade her, thanks to Master Lee Sin’s sacrifice, but the people...they begged her to fight for them. The people of Ionia begged her. So, she complied with their wishes. She would not let them down. She saved them once, she will save them again.”
Zelos muttered, “To save a country is not an act of a person, but that of a hero, of myth...”
“Yet? Yet what?”
Yi admitted, “Yet, Irelia is limited in the League. Severely so. She was allowed to join the League on the condition that the Summoners do not let her use her full potential. They have had to drag her back bit by bit to assure that she would not exert herself. I never thought of why before, but now it makes sense. Even her sword stops her from fighting too hard. She may suffer mortal wounds, but we know she is able to recover from them due to the Battle of Placidium. Your father’s sword itself stops her from fighting any further once it has deemed she should fall when a normal person would fall. I thought it was for her training, but the more I think about it...”
“That makes me feel so much better. She impales herself to stop her from fighting. That doesn’t add credibility to the why you still let fight question I asked!”
“Despite her training, despite all of this, she did not fight in that match.” Yi let out a harsh breath, “She was surprised and attacked by the beastman of Ionia. He took her place and won the match. She was taken away by Karma and Soraka, similar to this time, but I never put any thought into it until now. I-”
“Enough,” Zelos barked. He threw his cup away and stood to his feet, “I have two more questions. One, what is the name of this beastman, and two, who was it that destroyed your village?”
Yi drew back in surprise, “Udyr, and why?”
“Aside from the fact that you did not reply with she’s dead it’s not a problem? Because you said amber eyes. Call me paranoid, but tell me what the chances of meeting a amber eyed woman, with a non-Ionian accent, the other day is. Riven, I think is her name? A very distinct word with its etymology in Noxian language? I assumed she’s a foreigner displaced by war or something. There is also the fact that you have not yet corrected me which only adds more substance to my credibility. I gave her the benefit of the doubt. So let’s stop insulting my intelligence and have you explain how she is friends with Irelia when she wronged you so badly, and why you haven’t killed her.”
Yi winced as he spoke. He was surprised at Zelos’ thought process. “Because despite the wrongs she perpetrated on me, the Ionian people and Irelia, she is trying to make am-”
“Wait, she wronged Irelia?”
Yi went dead quiet. He had misspoken.
“What did she do to Irelia, Yi? You better tell me now or I find out when I meet her.”
“...She was the commander of the extermination squad that destroyed your village.”
Zelos blinked several times. He put his hands to his face and screamed into them. He lowered his hands from his face and yelled at Yi. While he yelled at Yi, the master could not help but notice the strange glint in Zelos’ eyes. He was not angry, not truly angry. It was something else.
“Did you all get stupid while I was gone?! Does this sickness make Irelia slowly more retarded or something? Is Riven some sort of witch that has cast you all under her spell? Why isn’t she dead?!”
“No!” Zelos roared. ““No excuses! I’m going to go right now, find this beastman, kill him and then go to Riven, kill her, and anyone who tries to stop me? I will kill them! Noxians that are lingering about and are thinking of looking at her improperly? They’re next! Apparently I’m needed to come back to try and fix all this **** that you guys seemingly skipped over! All I have gathered from this conversation is that Ionia let Irelia wither and to become this thing! All I hear is that it’s all of Ionia’s fault for being such sniveling little-”
“Do not insult me or the people, Zelos.”
“What should I do, congratulate you on the job well done? Here you go!” Zelos gave Yi a mocking clap while he spoke, “You’re a bigger failure than me! You let your own family die not because of duty, so you don’t even have that ****ty excuse to hide behind like I do, but out of your own anger! Congratulations! One thing, all I asked you is one thing: to look after my sister! The very people she is supposed to protect send her out to her death! You let her fight, Soraka at least tried to not let her fight but she joined the League anyways, Akali I am going to have to slap, and all of Ionia? From what you told me? All I understand is that Ionia deserved to burn!”
“You are overstepping your boundaries, Zelos.” Yi warned. He got to his feet and stared at his friend threateningly.
“What country thinks it’s a good idea to let a little girl like her fight?! What in the hells is wrong with such a country? Did none of you value courage over life? Did it take an adolescent to show you what courage is? If she died then what would you have all done? Would you have still surrendered? Even you gave up, Yi, or else you would not have stopped fighting! She’s not a hero, Yi! She’s not a ****ing hero! This is not a story where you go and slay the god of all that is evil and bad, she was made into a martyr! You all would have cried if she died, but would any of you cared?! You would have kept her image up and everything, oh sure, but did you all forget that she’s just a little girl?! What would you have done if she gave everything she has? She was asked to give her life for the people, to lend her power, to do everything for them! Do they deserve it? I don’t think so! She’s only human, like the rest of us! You want to know what I learned in my travels, Yi, what my traveling and all of my stupidity taught me?!”
Zelos started to shake, “I learned that a man, that a hero, or however you want to categorize them, is only someone who knows they are free to be who they want to be! I wanted to come back to Ionia! I wanted to come back to Irelia! There, I’m a hero! She should not have become the heir to the Hiten style! She should have found a nice beau, she should be planning a family and whatever else! She should be happy! And what do I hear? I hear she was forced to play roles she never wanted to! I asked her to defend Ionia while I was gone, but at what cost? Her life?! I would rather you all burn than she become this...this...whatever she is now!”
Zelos waved Yi off, “We’re done here. I’m going to town. I need a drink stiffer than tea.”
“Zelos, you should not r-”
“**** off,” he calmly replied, his entire angry demeanor now completely washed away. Zelos shot his friend a smile, “We’ll talk when I’m in a better mood, alright? Apparently I gotta go and make things right. First a drink, then a sword, then it begins.”
With that, Zelos walked away from his friend. Yi sighed and moved to go after Zelos.
“I would not do that if I were you,” Akali said. The green clad ninja stepped out from behind the fountain. “I will take it from here,” Akali firmly stated.
“Is this what the Kinkou want-”
“No,” Akali shook her head. “This is what I need to do. He wishes to act this way? Fine. Let him try acting this way.”
With that, she disappeared in a puff of smoke. Master Yi sighed, gathered up the tea, and shook his head. Zelos was not angry. Not truly angry, oh no. He was scared. Yi could see it, for a split second. He could see the fear in Zelos’ eyes. Yi could have said many a thing, but how could he fault a man who was terrified of losing his sister?
Unfortunately for Zelos, Yi was not a truly benevolent person. After all, why else would he let Akali go without word of protest?
I said I'd make sure to complete NaNoWriMo for us man, I had to get to the 50k word mark at the very least. I'm not sure if I'm going to be able to complete the rest of the novel by the 30th though, it's got another like 6 chapters to it...
Oh well! I surpassed the goal, 56k words! Yaaay!
Sixth bottle. He was on his sixth bottle of rice wine. Zelos polished off the bottle and sighed, this was getting him nowhere. It was almost like water to him. After experiencing what the Lokfarans call alcohol on such a constant basis, this drink definitely tasted better, but it felt like water. Lokfaran ale was almost like a stew, and the alcohol content was much higher. Ionian rice wine definitely tasted like water to him. A young couple walked by him, a young man and a young woman hand in hand. He did not give them any notice. He simply reached down at the weapon that was still bundled in a sackcloth.
Admittedly, he had gone to the blacksmith first to get a sword before drinking. His original intention was to drink first, true, but the blacksmith looked inviting. He looked battle worn, scarred. He was someone that Zelos liked from the get go, he had to buy a weapon from him. It was a fairly simple sword, a black cord that wrapped the hilt, a thin blade that emphasized speed, it was single edged and about thirty eight inches total in length. It almost felt strange to hold a proper sword again, almost alien. Lokfarans did not allow him to have a weapon, since he was technically a slave. He learned how to make do without a weapon. He did not need one, but he felt it would be needed for what he needed to do.
Zelos motioned to the server for another bottle. It was a strange habit he developed, he needed to do something to keep himself occupied and he saw no reason to not make that activity drinking. He was not drinking out of depression, he was drinking because this was when he could think without being troubled. He either had absolutely no time alone in his travels or was abysmally alone when he was alone. And during those alone times? The memories came back.
At least some alcohol would help him be in a social setting and not have to worry about those memories...and then he looked at their faces. Their smiling faces. The people around him laughing, drinking, eating, all happy, all content with their lives. He could see parent with child, elderly couples hand in hand, he saw two young lovers giggling incessantly in the corner of the room. How dare they. The thoughts were coming back. None of them cared, none of them cared about her, about her well being. Hell, did they care about their own country? They all let a young girl fight for them, die for them, and when she needed respite? They asked for her to fight for them again. Did they really give a damn? No, they didn’t. None of them did.
Zelos looked at the young couple again. With a scowl, he reached down for the hilt of his sword when a hand stopped him from drawing it out.
Zelos scowled and looked up at the owner of the green clad hand. Akali’s eyes pierced into his. He could see if he pursued this path, they would have trouble.
“The hell do you want?”
“What do you think you are doing?”
“I can see that. Why go for the weapon?”
Zelos motioned with his chin at the young couple, “They’re pissing me off.”
“You have had enough to drink. Have you eaten?”
“If I ate something I’d spend all of my money here trying to get anywhere with the drinks.”
“You are eating something.”
Zelos snorted, “Go back to the Kinkou, leave me alone. Your duty to them is more important than to your family, I get it. Go be the Fist of Shadow or Shin of Twilight or whatever and leave me alone, alright? I got this under control.”
His next bottle of rice wine came. He reached for it when it suddenly disappeared from his grasp. Akali’s face mask was pulled down, and the bottle was placed on the table, completely emptied.
“You are going to eat something.”
Zelos grinned as another bottle was handed to him, “Good thing I ordered tw-”
The bottle disappeared again. The empty bottle was placed on the table while Akali wiped her mouth with her index finger, flicking a droplet of alcohol away. “I can do this as many times as is required.”
“No, you can’t. The Kinkou is going to ask you to go stick your head in the dirt and you’re gonna follow the orders. Balance in all things, right?”
“I am on duty no matter where I go or what I do.”
“Meaning if you do not get food in you this instant then you are going to have a problem.” Akali reached over at the server’s plate and grabbed a bowl of noodles from him. She flicked a glance at the young server and sharply said, “Thank you.”
She placed it in front of Zelos and motioned to him to eat.
Zelos let out a chuckle and shook his head, “Tch, you went soft. You never threatened when you were young, you just did it. So! Congrats on your dream if becoming the Fist of Shadow! Where were you the other day? Why weren’t you there with Irelia?”
“Because I cannot be with her every hour every day, Zelos. I do have my own life to live. If duty calls, duty calls. Irelia understands that. That is why when we came to the Placidium this morning and found out what happened, I requested for today off. She is being looked after by Soraka and Karma, I am going to watch you today so you do not do anything overly rash.”
“Do you know she’s sick?”
“Do you know what she’s sick with?”
“She is afflicted with your father’s illness. There is no cure, only treatment.”
Zelos slammed his hands on the table and yelled at the ninja, “The hell is wrong with you then?! You know what she’s sick with yet you let her do...all this? Why aren’t you doing stuff to help her aside from dressing up like a overly tarted up prostitute?!”
Surprisingly, Akali did not react. She let the insult fly by. "It is not my place to say. It is her choice. There is only so much I can do that will not conflict with my duty or my own personal morals.”
“So it’s alright if she chooses to? What if she chose to eat babies?!”
Akali raised an eyebrow, her tone incredulous, “Are you honestly comparing your sister’s sickness and her duty to the people of Ionia to that of cannibalism?”
“What? No! I said what if, not...That!”
Akali rolled her eyes, “Fine. If she ate children, would I allow her to do so? No. I would kill her.”
Zelos’s face went red. He reached for his sword once again.
“That is not the answer you wanted?”
“You would kill her!”
“Yes, I would. I would stop her from being someone she obviously is not because she has gone completely and utterly insane and the only way to ease her suffering would be to kill her,” Akali replied, with just a hint of sarcasm in her tone. She then asked presumptuously, “Are you ready to have a serious conversation instead of throwing accusations about and attempting the usage of argumentative fallacies or will you continue being an angry little boy?”
Zelos threw his hand up at her, “Well that sure is going to get me talking! The hell are you here for anyways, Akali?”
“I want to talk to you and explain the situation as best as I can. However, you are angry. You should eat.”
He angrily snorted, condescension thick in his tone, “Oh gee, sure, I’ll eat and then we’ll discuss how much you gone and f-”
“I would eat quickly,” Akali advised. She pointed at the door, “You do not have much time.”
“He will be here in less than a minute. I asked him to come for you.”
Zelos raised an eyebrow. The noodles were almost inhaled as he emptied the bowl. “Who are you talking about?” He got up from his seat and cricked his neck. He tossed his sword up and down, “Whatever. I got other things to do. I need to fight this schlub you sent to fight me, then find this Udyr guy first and kill him, then go for the rest of the list.”
“Why do you want to fight him, Zelos? I thought you did not want your sister to fight, he stopped her from fighting in that match. I do not see the logic here.”
“He hurt her. He hurt my little sister. He’s gotta pay.” Zelos nearly snarled saying this. “And I’m insulted that you got someone else to do your dirty work for you. You used to be much better than that.”
Akali shrugged , “I am simply granting what you what you wished for. You are overreacting and I would watch out behind you.”
Zelos spun around and faced the stone wall. He sighed and muttered aloud, “And I thought you didn’t gain a sense of humor, Ak-”
A hand tore through the stone wall, tearing half of it down, and gripped his face.
“You reek of cheap alcohol, anger, and stupidity. This will be a short fight.”
The hand ripped Zelos through the wall and outside the restaurant. Akali put her hands behind her back, and calmly stepped through the gaping hole in the establishment. No one else seemed particularly surprised or shocked, as if this were a normal occurrence to them.
Zelos was catapulted through the air. He roughly landed and rolled away from the source of the grip. Despite the bruises on his face, he did not feel any sort of pain, nor did he feel the pain from his shoulders being dislocated due to being pulled through a stone wall. He popped his arms back into place, gripped his sword and looked for his opponent. Once he spotted him, he called out, “Who the hell are you?”
The man was not much taller than Zelos, though his muscle mass warranted him to be a force to be reckoned with. Not a single glamor muscle tainted his body, he was sculpted and massive to be as strong and practical as he can be. He wore a black gi and hakama with a large, crimson bear print on its front, the symbol of the Hirana monk order. He was thoroughly tanned, his thick, black beard covered most of his face save for his blue eyes, and on his head he wore a bear pelt that draped itself across his shoulders and down his back and effectively hid his hair. Various monk beads were decorated around his neck and wrists.
The beastial man cricked his bones, his tone gruff as he replied, “We are Udyr.”
Zelos grinned, “Udyr, eh? I was looking for you. You saved me the trouble, thanks.”
The beastman half heartedly motioned to Zelos to make the first strike to which he obliged.
He rushed at the beastman and swung in a diagonal arc, cutting at Udyr’s neck. Udyr casually reached up and allowed the blade to strike the palm of his hand. For normal men, it would have sliced their hand in half and continued on to the throat, effectively kiling them. For Udyr? Zelos felt like he had just tried to cut a block of steel in half, the metal vibrating in his grip. He surprisingly still held onto his sword despite the vibrations that would make most others lose their grip.
Udyr gripped the blade and promptly snapped it in half. He threw the broken metal to the ground and cracked his knuckles. That was his only tell that he would strike.
The punch that was thrown was too fast for Zelos to register as it lifted him up and through the air. His body skipped off the ground and rolled several feet before he stopped.
“What will you do now?” Udyr growled. “Will you falter already or will you fight?”
The beastman thundered towards Zelos, his footsteps imprinting the ground with every step. Zelos got to his feet and threw his broken sword away. He charged at Udyr and punched the burly man’s jaw.
Udyr took the blow with ease and snapped his head backwards to help minimize the impact. He stepped forward and with a sweeping motion struck Zelos’ side with a backfist. This sent the man airborne once more.
"Are you ready to discuss and talk like a civilized man, or do you want to try that again?" Akali calmly asked as she watched Zelos fly by her.
Zelos did not show any sign of pain once he landed. He got back to his feet once more, shook his head and muttered aloud, “I'm going to carve you a new assh*le, assh*le."
Udyr looked around at the gathering crowd. He let out a beastial roar at the people, which sent them running. He focused once more at his incoming opponent.
Zelos rushed at Udyr and was sent head over heels into a building. It was embarrassing to watch as Zelos tried again and again only to be disarmed and thrown to the dirt.
Fifteen minutes of this repetitive fight later, Udyr finally asked, "Why are you trying so hard? You are too weak. We could kill you at our leisure."
Zelos was not giving up. He was half crazed at this point, and once again he rushed at Udyr, fists raised. The beast man slammed his angry opponent to the ground and pinned him by pressing his foot on Zelos' back.
"Why rush to your death so earnestly? Where is your skill? Your are clouded, angry, unsure. A child would fight better than you currently."
"The moment I get up I'm carving your gods damned kidneys out," Zelos snarled. He writhed underneath the foot, attempting to free himself.
"If you are to die, at least tell us why you wish to die so quickly."
Zelos grinned as he planted his hands on the ground. He started to lift Udyr off of him as he replied in a half manic tone, "You think you can kill me? I'm not letting Irie down again, never again! I'm going to get up and rip out your ****ing heart!"
"Hm, berserker," Udyr calmly observed. "A Lokfaran? Freljordian? You look Ionian. Your scent and accent match your appearance. Not the point. Who is Irie and why should we care?"
Zelos craned his neck upwards, "You should care because I'm going to kill you for hurting her, for making her fight, for making her something she shouldn't have become!" A strange light glinted in his eyes. "It's your fault, all of your faults! You all let her get sick! You all watched her race to her death! You're just the first on the list!"
"How is any of that our fault? We ask once more, who is this Irie?"
"Irie is short for Irelia, his sister," Akali answered.
"So this is her brother? We were not mistaken? That is embarrassing," Udyr said. He pointed downwards at the man trapped underneath his foot, stating flatly, "She deserves more than this idiot."
"I agree!" Zelos snapped. "She deserves so much more! She should be happy! She should have a family! She shouldn't have to fight! She shouldn't have to push herself like this! She shouldn't be sick but none of you care! None of you care!"
"Do you care about her?"
"Are you deaf or just stupid?!"
The beast man pressed his foot downwards, increasing the pressure on the trapped man’s rib cage. "Quiet yourself and listen. She spared us once, and now we will repay her by sparing her kinsman. We owe her that much respect," Udyr stated with a grunt. "We would prefer her to hate us and keep the memory she has of you than see what you have reduced yourself to. Are we understood?"
Zelos let out a primal yell before he finally gave up, slumping to the dirt ground in defeat.
Udyr lifted his foot off of the man and snorted, "Get up, face us with your back straight and listen to what we have to say."
Akali walked over and helped Zelos to his feet with a hard pull upwards on his shoulder. She helped dust her cousin’s clothing off while the beast man spoke,
“Do you care for her, yes or no?”
Zelos rolled his eyes, “Are you r-”
A sound punch cracked him in the nose, making Zelos reel back.
Udyr asked again, “Yes or no.”
“Gah! Nyes!” He rubbed at his broken nose, the blood pouring out from it. It was more uncomfortable than painful for him.
“Then you suffer the same weakness as her,” Udyr replied. He raised a finger, silencing the angry man so he could continue. “She cares not just about you. She cares about the people of Ionia, she has those she calls friends, and she is willing to completely and utterly slaughter those who dare infringe upon their freedoms at the cost of her own life, of her own humanity. That is a part of who Irelia is now-”
“No...It isn’t,” Zelos shook his head. “How dare you say such a thing? That’s not Irelia.” His voice raised sharply as he yelled, “That’s not Irelia! That’s not who she should be!”
Udyr let out a guttural sigh. He raised his arm up and showed the deep scar that seemingly bisected his forearm. His tone denoted his boredom as he asked, “You seem very sure of this. Who is Irelia, then?”
“Irelia, Irelia is...Ha ha” Zelos shook his head, his tone going wild from emotion,
“Irelia is...She’s just...she’s creative! She’s artistic! She painted! She got into woodcarving before she ever picked up a sword! She’s got this sorta dry sense of humor but always screws it up because her eyes light up! She’s a gentle girl with a fiery heart! She sang! In the name of the heavens, her singing brought in everyone from the village to listen to a little girl! She loved poetry, she saw the beauty in the Hiten style rather the brutal practicality! She used to ask father to train her so she can try and be like me, because I had a grace she was admittedly jealous of! She loved to watch me spar with father so she could paint the scenes and try and mimic them for her own practice! She saw the beauty in everything!”
He rubbed his face in an attempt to calm himself, “And now...now she’s killed thousands of people? She associates with the very butcher of our village?! I see her mounting and choking a ***** and hear her speak with...with, with such anger? Such hatred?! That’s who Irelia is now? That’s who you all let her become?! She’s willing to kill-”
“Stop,” Udyr palmed his face. “This annoys us. You are so...”
“So what? Stupid? Ignorant? What? What is it?!”
“Emotional,” Udyr replied. He pointed at Zelos as he spoke, “You remember her as she once was, but who has she become now? Were you ever aware of her feelings? Are you aware of how she views herself? Stop speaking of what she used to be and what you expected her to become, because that is all you are spewing. She should have been this, she should have done that, she did not. Answer us this, sibling of her’s, how do you view her now?”
“I...I don’t know,” Zelos shrugged. “I...I see traces of her, but then I see her choke some idiot and then choke on her own blood and...”
“Do you know why we harmed her? Let us start from that point.” Udyr snorted, his tone growing in condescension, “We attacked her for our own reason and she nearly slaughtered us. If she were not so ridiculous and had shed all forms of mercy, she would have slain us then and there. You know this because of our fight: You are slower, you are weaker, you are less skilled than we. You cannot fathom to defeat us in this lifetime. Truthfully, neither could Irelia, yet she did. She defeated us. How is that possible?”
Zelos did not respond, unsure if he should.
He guessed right as Udyr continued, “Have you ever considered what Irelia was surrounded by? Death. From the moment she was born. What we say now is us paraphrasing what she had said to us. Your mother died due to Irelia’s birth, your father died when she was not even an adolescent, you left and were presumed dead two years after the death of your father, and then she was sent headfirst into a war. She experienced your village burning down and could not protect it. She was useless. She was too weak to do anything.”
Udyr’s eyes tightened as he spoke in a domineering, yet even tone of voice, “At which point in her life did she want something which would not fly away from her grasp? She wanted a mother, she is dead. She wanted her father to train her, he died. She wanted you to stay, you left. She wanted to live in her village in peace, it was burned down. She wanted revenge on the woman she held accountable, she failed.”
Akali spoke up, “I have failed, and failed, and failed in my lifetime. I have only failed, then I finally succeeded in something. I succeeded in protecting those I love, those I care for, my people, my friends.”
Udyr pointed a finger at Akali and gave her an acknowledging grunt before speaking, “Those are Irelia’s words. Irelia said those to us as she pinned us to the ground. She thought all of Ionia rested on her shoulders, because the first time she felt she succeeded at something, truly succeeded? It was at that battle. In order to regain the Southern provinces, she would have to fight, and then she would not only secure Ionia, but her success would be complete. We knocked her unconscious and took her place so she would not have to bear such a responsibility.”
The beast man balled his hand into a fist, his knuckles cracked from his strong grip, one he held in front of him as he spoke, “That responsibility is not for her. She is a human, she is a person, who has dreams and aspirations, but placed them secondary so long as Ionia was in danger, so long as she felt inadequate. Someone of her stature, of her power, of her willpower, does not deserve such a terrible fate. We agree with you, she does deserve more. Then there are those who are not willing to fight for themselves. These worms will look to others who will do so for them. When you stop fighting for yourself, and start fighting for others, how long would it take until you forget the reason as to why you ever fought in the first place?”
Zelos was unsure how to respond. He just shook his head in a dumb manner.
Udyr nodded his head, “She defeated us, her better in every way, to make sure she would not fail. She did not. We helped ease her burden because she is emotional, unlike us, and more like you.”
“If she had fought in that battle...” Akali spoke up once more. “Then she would have lost her humanity. She would have become essentially the tool of the people. She would have truly become a martyr figure for the people, to be used and abused. Instead of being the voice of the people, she would become the tool of the people. That is the second reason as to why the Triumvirate stepped in. She is as unique as the weapon she wields. To have either tarnished, would be an upset to the Balance. Irelia was able to sway the people in an impossible manner. What would happen if she turned to something worse than wanting to regain Ionia back?”
The ninja leaned towards Zelos, “The people had moved her to action with their pleas. What if her want for more acceptance, for more success, to help rebuild Ionia developed into something far worse due to the horribleness that is the mob idea? What if she were fueled by revenge because of the mob? Or greed? She was giving the signs, especially with how angry she was during the war itself. A very little known fact is what happened at the end of the Placidium battle. I was not there, and it is not my place to relate it, but ask Soraka why the wood charm you made for her is cracked. Ask her what happened, and what Irelia asked for.”
Udyr looked over at Akali and growled, “Are we done here? We have training we wish to.”
“Yes, thank you Udyr for coming,” the ninja acknowledged.
Udyr suddenly reached over, and before Zelos could protest, the beast man promptly snapped his right arm’s humerus and radius bones.
“Frickin’ hell!” Zelos’ cry of pain was akin to receiving a bruise rather than two severe fractures. He angrily bellowed, “The hell’s that for?!”
“Those are serious fractures,” Akali acknowledged, running her deft fingers along his arm.
Udyr answered, “You will not be able to fight with such wounds ergo you will not be able to do anything too foolhardy. Under healing supervision, it will take at least a week for your arm to fully recover.”
Udyr turned around and started to walk away.
The beast man let out another sigh, “What?”
“Why did you do any of this? Why not kill me and yadda yadda bullcrap?”
“The Fist of Shadows asked if we wished to repay Irelia. We agreed,” Udyr replied. “We had expected someone who was equal status to her at most, or at least would have provided us a good fight. Unfortunately, because of all of your slacking and galavanting adventures-”
“I was not slacking or galavanting! I spent more than a decade in sheer unrelenting hellish amounts of pain! I thoroughly did not enjoy freezing water, crazy plant women, starvation, dehydration, large muscular violent men who essentially enslaved me, another bout of starvation and oh more dehydration and obscene amounts of loneliness!” Zelos spat.
“You mean the same amount of hellish pain that could have been easily avoided? Why did you leave in the first place?” Udyr looked back at Zelos, eyebrow raised and answered his own question, “Because someone told you to. Because you did not have the spine to say no, you want to stay. You blame everyone else, when all it would have taken was a bit more spine from you and a little less pride. All you had to say, was no.”
The beast man shrugged,
“But there is a reason why the past is called the past: It has already happened. Why focus on what was when one should look at what is and what will be? Accept it and move on. We shall tell you one thing, wayward one, in regards to what is: Despite having killed so many people, despite her might, her strength, her fervor, whatever you want to call it, she still owns the weakness of tears. Find out what you want from life before trying to make an ass of yourself again. Maybe when you are less clouded in thought, you will be able to provide a better challenge.”
Udyr rumbled away out of the town, leaving Akali and Zelos behind.
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