Akali made a quick comment, “That went better than I thought. I thought he would have shattered a few more bones.”
Zelos did not reply. He simply bowed his head and shrugged his shoulders. He felt her hand pat his good shoulder, “Where is your usual cheer?”
“I can’t feel my arm. You can stop patronizing me any time now, Akali.”
“I am not patronizing you,” Akali replied. “You and Irelia are really the only people who have been able to make me genuinely laugh. I honestly did what I could for Irelia. When your village was destroyed, my village sheltered her. I asked my mother to look after her better than a daughter because I had been inducted into the Kinkou. The night of the fight with Udyr, I left the bandages on the footsteps to the Institute. I was tasked with assuring the fight between her and Udyr was kept death free, of either of their deaths. During the war I did what I could, but my duty had to come first. There were other internal strifes that had to be taken care of during the war. I wanted to do more, but I could not upset the Balance, I could not go against my duty.”
Akali turned around and lifted up her hair, showing the writhing dragon tattoo between her shoulder blades, colored the same emerald as her eyes. “I am bound to the Kinkou and to the position of the Fist of Shadow. That is my duty until I am a mother and become the matriarch of the Silver Fang clan. Even then, until my position is passed on, I will be the Fist of Shadow. I was envious of your upbringing under your father. I love my mother, but she is cold. She desired nothing less than perfection. I was envious of you two. When he died, I saw you care for Irelia more than my mother had ever cared for me. You kept that happiness, that joking attitude, you took on the pain of losing both parents and made sure Irelia did not succumb to the sorrow of it.”
It was strange to hear her tone to be anything but its usual sternness as the ninja continued, “You were a great brother to her. You left not only for duty, but to try and cut the war off as quickly as possible. Your village did not succumb for several months. You would have been back in time if not for circumstances beyond your control. You should not spend the time you have left with her so full of anger. You were a good brother, and a good man. You still are.”
Zelos chuckled and shook his head, “...How do you know such a thing is still true?”
“She prayed every single night to the stars for your return. Every. Single. Night. I have seen her relieved, I have seen her at peace, but I have not seen her so happy in a very, very long time. Does this mean you are a good man still? No.” Akali then lowered her hair, her tone turned more somber, “But even I can hope once in a while .” She lowered her hair, turned around and glared at Zelos, “When I see you acting like a complete idiot I assure you I will drag you back in line and push you down the right hill if I have to. We are going back to the Placidium, you are recovering, and you are apologizing to Master Yi for your rudeness.”
Zelos rotated his arm and continued to shake his head. His tone carried a morbid ring to it, “Y’know...It’s strange to hear you say so much bull. What that Udders guy said? Most of that is true. I don’t know who Irelia is now, maybe...maybe she doesn’t need me anymore. I’m just trying to catch up on lost time, y’know? I don’t know...am I helping?”
“Instead of trying to kill people, instead of adding more death to her short life, try and find what you can do to help emphasize it.”
“Akali...what is wrong with her?”
The ninja related whatever information she knew, “It is a similar sickness that afflicted your father, and it has something to do with the soul rather than the physical body as the recent discoveries by the Starchild and the Duchess have revealed. That is all I am allowed to say.”
“That name again, Riven...I don’t get it still. Why her?” Before he could mull over that thought, something else clicked. “The soul...to touch the heavens, one must transcend flesh. Wait, allowed to say?”
“Essentially so,” Akali acknowledged. “That is what I am allowed to say of her condition and I will not disrespect that. As silly as it may seem to you, there is a level of confidentiality that I must respect for her and for everyone. If they do not wish for me to speak it, I will not speak it unless it is a threat to the Balance itself. She has accepted her fate, and I have accepted it as well. If she wishes to speak of it with you, it is her responsibility to you as a sister.”
Something clicked in Zelos’ head. A look of realization washed across his face.
“...Akali, when can I see Soraka, or Karma?”
“Not until they are finished with Irelia’s rehabilitation. Not even the League can summon her or them during this time, it is a clause in her contract.”
Zelos motioned to Akali with a grin on his face. His broken arm flopped about uselessly as he spoke, “Well, lead the way then, oh wise and mighty striker of things that are dark.”
They started to walk down a dirt road that led out of the town in silence.
Within a minute, Zelos suddenly spoke up, “So...This wasn’t your duty, was it? How did this help serve the balance in any way?”
“I have a duty towards family as well. My inner balance is as important as the Balance of everything else. If something upsets it, I must either cut it out or have it repaired. Stay in the line of Balance so I do not have to make that choice.”
Zelos grinned, “You weren’t off duty, were you?”
“I am always on duty, Zelos. Such matters cannot interfere with Kinkou matters and I am not the Eye of Twilight nor the Heart of the Tempest. I must walk the thin line between rationality and emotion myself, I cannot falter in my du...”
Zelos started to snicker childishly.
“What do you find humorous about this?”
“You’re always on duty.”
Akali glared daggers at him. She raised her fist and punched his broken arm, which really only served to further break his arm. He yelped and grabbed at where she struck, grinning all the while.
Akali rolled her eyes and sighed, “You are still an ass hat.”
“...Did you just call me an ass hat?”
“Yes. Yes I did.”
Zelos laughed as he floppped his broken arm about some more, showing his incredible pain threshold, “Does this remind you of a puppet or is it just me? I feel like I should be yelling yaaaay or something.”
Akali let out a snort, and despite her best efforts, started to laugh, “Stop that, you can cause irreparable damage to your flesh if you continue to do that.”
“Meh, we got healers. It’s not the end of the world.”
The two cousins walked side by side back to the Placidium. From the top of a homestead within the village, A blue blur and a purple blur appeared and disappeared in a blink of the eye. They had seen all they needed to see.
The day after Zelos came back to the Placidium, he went and asked the scribes of the Placidium to give him all death records in regards to the Hiten successors, and if there were any other records in regards to them. He managed to find thirteen generations, including his father. In thirteen generations of Hiten successors, only two died before fifty. Five of them lived well into their seventies, who all died of natural causes, though it was only the furthest back in the ancestral line that had managed to do so. One died as early as twenty five, his great, great grandfather. His death was the most thoroughly noted for two reasons: One being that his death was due to the Kinkou taking action. Secondly it was because he did not die until his head was cut off, despite the rest of his body having been dismembered.
There was no other case of this sickness that afflicted his father or currently afflicted Irelia. On the other hand, in thirteen generations of Hiten successors, their father died at the earliest age of forty two years of a “disease” no one knew how to cure. Not even Soraka could help him...but how then could she treat Irelia? He would have to ask her about that directly.
After this, he looked at the cause of death. In thirteen generations, only one died apparently due to decapitation. The other twelve? Died due to natural causes, even their father. Their father was one of the few people in Ionia who allowed an autopsy to be performed post mortem, to help try and decipher what it was that ailed him. His organs resembled that of a geriatric rather than a man his age, it had no traces of being magically induced. For all intensive purposes, it was natural.
Next came the death records of their spouses. The oldest one of them lived was his great grandmother, who died when she was eighty years old. The youngest to die was surprisingly not his mother, who died when she was only thirty one years of age, but the wife of the decapitated successor. She died when she was Irelia’s age due to a bandit attack.
The birth records showed that they had a child before their deaths, meaning the art of the Hiten style was barely salvaged and saved by their great grandfather. The birth records also showed that in thirteen generations of Hiten successors, none of them had a sibling. Strange coincidence.
That was all he could decipher from those sets of records before he was dragged away by a slightly irate team of nurses. They had been taught by Akali to use sharp instruments to persuade unruly guests to stay in bed. It was successful for the most part, luckily for them.
Luckily for Zelos, today, there was only one nurse to try and stop him.
“Zelos, sir, what are you doing out of your room?!” a woman’s panicked voice called out. She was dressed in white robes, which denoted her status as one of the many official healers employed at the Placidium.
“I’m bored!” He replied out in a whiny tone. “I’m fine now! I got stuff to do, sooo...Later!”
“Sir, you had several blood clots in your shattered arm from waving it around! It’s a miracle you’re not dead! Please, rest and-”
Zelos shrugged his shoulders, “Eh, it was totally worth it!”
“Go back to bed!”
“Pft, I’m fine! I’ve had worse!” He looked back at the exasperated woman and gave her a grin, a flirting wink and a wave as he walked down the hallway, “Later, beautiful!” When his sleeve fell back, one could see the hideous scars that danced up his arm.
He could not stay in place if his life depended on it, not since his time with those Dryads. Those horrible, horrible, although beautiful, Dryads...
Zelos shook the memory of the Dryads out of his mind and made his way to Irelia’s room. He pushed the door open and walked in. They had not fixed the door’s lock, but they had cleaned the mess and unbarred the door. The room was spotless. The only thing that seemed out of place in the room was their father’s sword that rested on the wall. He dragged a chair in front of the weapon, sat on it, and stared at the sword. Today was the day he decided to try and decipher its secret.
The sword was lifeless. It was dull. The crimson gem in the center of the weapon seemed darker than blood. How did it move like it did in Irelia’s hands? How did it do what it did? He could not figure it out. How did Irelia do it? Was he actually no longer worthy to be the heir? How did she do it? How?
He reached over and touched the sword. It did not react. The coldness of the blade surprisingly permeated throughout his fingertips. He thought he could no longer feel the cold, but the sword gave him the same feeling of absence he felt during his voyage.
What was the secret, to bring the sword to life? It looked unwieldy for it had no true hilt to grasp onto. How did she do it? How did his father do it?
The only thing that came to Zelos’ mind was that before their mother's death, he did not remember the sword moving the way it did post mortem. Before she died, his father carried it in his hands, albeit awkwardly, but he carried it. Zelos rapped his knuckles on the dull ruby heart. He could not help but note that the crystal was only a bit larger than his fist.
After she had died, the sword seemed to take a life of its own. It seemed almost like an organic, living thing in his father's hands. It would blitz and crackle with energy, and the two seemed to speak to one another in an unspoken language. Their father always carried the sword with him wherever...he...went.
That was when a question dawned on Zelos to ask no one in particular.
"...Where is the scabbard?"
Zelos looked about the sword every which way. The more he thought about it, the more he realized that the blade had no sheath. He had never seen one worn by his father nor was there one ever produced that he could remember. No sheath, but not a single scratch or blemish tarnished the ornate sword.
"...Is it the user?"
Zelos looked behind him. A young man, a guard, stood at the mouth of the ajar door. Zelos waved at him, "'Sup?"
"Ah...well... I saw Ire...I-I mean the captain's room opened and I thought maybe she came back. I wanted to make sure she's alright, she's missed a week of training with the rest of us. We're worried."
"Ah don't fret," Zelos laughed. "Your capt will be back soon!"
"I hope so. I want to see h...Er, we want her to be back soon."
"Can't agree more with you."
Zelos fell quiet, looked over behind him and stared at the now flushed man. "How well do you know Irelia?"
"Come on, how well do you know her?" Zelos asked again.
"She's my captain, our captain. She's my friend, she's our friend. She's-"
"I was asking your opinion, buddy. Come on, no need to be shy!"
"...she can be harsh, commanding, she has a serious demeanor about her but see her in a good mood and, well...she starts singing." The guard started to smile dumbly, "Her singing just...nothing else matters, y'know? She reminds you what in life is worth fighting for. We just...hope for the best. She hates worrying us, but then she disappears and...we...worry sometimes."
"Would you do anything for her?"
"In a heartbeat, sir." The guard answered with absolute confidence.
Zelos nodded, his tone cordial, "Same. You're a good one, y'know that? What's your name?"
"Private Himura, sir."
"Himura, we're getting a drink when she comes back, in honor of her good health. 'Kay?"
"Yes sir. I...we just worry at times. Do forgive me, I mean us." The guard bowed and disappeared. His footsteps echoed in the hallway.
Zelos looked at the sword once more. He tapped it and sighed. He had no idea what to do. He decided to go for a walk, see where it would take him.
When Zelos walked outside to the courtyard of the Placidium, the glittering armor of Jarvan caught his eye. The prince of Demacia was still here at the Placidium? The prince was sitting on a bench outside, apparently staring wistfully at the skies. His lance rested on the bench within his reach.
"Oi, Jarv? What are you doing here?"
"Mm?" Jarvan muttered in a tired voice. He had his eyes closed. He looked over in the direction of Zelos without opening his eyes. "Meditating. I am here for another week or so. I needed to relax."
“Yeah, sure, ‘meditating’,” Zelos laughed. “Not asleep. Something bothering you?”
“Shyvana left today.”
"Shyvana? Your guard?" Zelos looked around as if he were expecting to find her, "Where'd she go?"
"The Hirana monastery with that flea bitten... Excuse me, with Udyr."
"Udyr?" Zelos raised an eyebrow, “Isn’t he...y’know, a bit old for her? Isn’t that kinda-”
Jarvan’s eyes opened. He looked over at Zelos with a disgusted look on his face, “What?! Her and...No! That’s...no! I would skewer him before that thought could pierce his brain! She went to visit the Hirana monastery for training purposes and he escorted her! He is some sort of...master to her or something. Not sure how, seeing as he’s an arrogant, egotistical, conceited...do forgive me, I am rambling.”
“Uh huh,” Zelos nodded, not paying full attention.
“And she did not wish for me to come with her, for I have responsibilities I still need to attend to here at the Placidium, which is true.”
“So I am taking a moment to meditate. When she returns I should be done with everything, and then I will return to Demacia.”
“So you’re not staying out of concern for Irelia?”
“Concern for Irelia? Why should I be concerned?” He looked over at Zelos, “You said we should not be concerned at the banquet, yes?”
“As a general all purpose not to be concerned, yes?”
“Then I trust your word,” the prince replied. “I may not have seen her for a few days, but if there was something amiss, why would it be kept secret? You would not do something that would be detrimental to your sister.”
“Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, right?” Zelos laughed.
Jarvan did not seem particularly amused by this transparent half joke. “I know that all too well.”
“Eh, it’s nothing to fret about!” Zelos laughed once more. He clapped Jarvan’s shoulder, “Have fun ‘meditating’, alright? And for what it’s worth...thanks for bringing me home.”
The prince nodded, “You are welcome, Zelos. It was worth it to see her smile.” He closed his eyes and went back to his meditation.
Zelos walked out through the gate and started to head Southwards.
Jarvan, on the other hand, sat on the bench. Between work, festivities, worrying about Shyvana and all of the restoration efforts and the bureaucracy behind it, he certainly needed the rest.
As Zelos walked, the thoughts of his family’s lineage, Irelia, and their father’s sword raced through his mind. He was not sure what to do, he had nothing else he could do, he would have to sit and wait for Irelia to return before he could piece any more of the puzzle together. What was he to do? That was when an idea dawned on him, perhaps he should see that Riven woman and...talk to her. About stuff. He was walking southwards incidentally anyways, why not kill two birds with one stone? But what stuff would he talk ask her? Well, destroying their village was a definite question to ask, but what else?
Perhaps she was to blame for Irelia’s current state? Maybe she wasn’t? He had to speak with her, although truthfully he was not sure what to talk about. What should he ask? Should he kill her? If Irelia hadn’t yet, then why should he? First thing's first, he would have to speak with her again. She was polite last time, she was helpful, and in all honesty, he would not have suspected her if it were not for Yi. Her eyes were not killers. Now, Irelia’s? When that Syndra woman was in her grip? Hers were.
Zelos pondered and spoke aloud to himself, “You know who I am, so why the...No, that won’t work. I want to know why you killed everyone and why I shouldn’t kill you aand I already get into violence. Ah, pft...Should I be blunt? Maybe I should be cordial at first and then go into the questions, does she deserve that? Maybe I should...”
He stopped in his tracks and slapped his forehead, “Oh hells, I should bring a sword just in case! Argh! And I’ve been walking for hours and it’s all the way there and...ahhh damn it all. That is so annoying. And I just realized she said the Navori province. What am I going to do, walk to every village and go, ‘Is a woman named Riven here? No? Next one!’ Oh gee Zelos, you are a genius amongst men! Your intellect is unfathomable! What’s your next brilliant plan?”
Before he could degrade himself any further or make a concrete decision, Zelos spotted someone down the dirt path he was walking. The man seemed to be aimlessly wandering about, from this distance Zelos could make him out to be some sort of monk. He called out to the man, “Hey, buddy! You okay? You lost or something?”
The man looked over at Zelos’ direction. Zelos could swear he saw an orange bandage wrapped around his eyes, but otherwise he could not make out much else. The man waved at Zelos and started walking closer towards him. Zelos decided to help close the distance quicker and stepped towards the apparently blind man who had a strangely sure step to his stride. Once close enough, Zelos could fully
The man was dressed in the colors and some of the robes of the Shojin monastery monks. His dark, ivy pants, the white and orange bandages that wrapped around his ankles and bare arms resembled that of the Shojin monks, even his belt and his shoes, but he was bare chested. His bare chest showed muscles that seemed to groan with every breath he took. Even then, he looked completely at ease. His chest had long, black, intricate tattoos that flowed along his muscles and his skin. One could see the tattoos snaked down past his waist, where they ended one could only assume that path, while other tattoos could be seen on his shoulders and uncovered biceps. Even the man’s head had some of these markings on his right side. His head was shaved save for a single braid of hair that wrapped itself around his neck several times. The only other hair on his body was the finely trimmed goatee on his face. Last, but not least, his blindfold was orange. In its center a brooch was neatly pinned, from it a small, smooth sapphire hung. This brooch was usually worn only by the master of the Shojin monks.
Zelos waved, out of habit, at the man as he asked, “You lost, sir?”
“Me? No. Are you?” Despite his voice being masculine, it was gentle, soothing even.
“Me? No, I’m not lost. I just figured, well...you’re blind,” Zelos replied. “You need help?”
Zelos sighed, “And now you’re being cryptic. Wonderful. It’s yes or no, man. I don’t have all day.”
The monk replied in his calm tone, “No, I am not lost. I may not be where I want to be, but I can see that I am where I need to be. What is your name, sir?”
“You’re not where...Ah, it’s Lito. Zelos Lito,” he quickly replied. “You’re not where you want to be? Where do you want to be?”
“Why, home of course,” the man chuckled. “I would like to be home, but I should go to the Placidium first. Am I walking the right path?”
“Yeah, you are.”
“Excellent, I did not mean to trouble you. Have a good day, sir,” the monk replied. He suddenly started walking southwards.
“Hey?” Zelos blinked in confusion, processing the fact that the monk was walking the opposite direction. “Hey! That’s the wrong way!”
“It is?” The blind monk ‘looked’ over at Zelos, “How so?”
“The Placidium is north!” Zelos pointed to emphasize his statement.
“This is not north?”
“Are...right, you’re blind,” Zelos groaned. “You’re not making this easier on me, y’know that?”
“The man with eyes said to the man who can see. What troubles you? Where are you going?”
“Yeah, just thinking. Why?”
The monk smiled at Zelos, “What are you thinking of? Perhaps I could be of help.”
“Nah...” Zelos shook his head, “I’ll be fine. I can figure things out myself.”
“Mm? How well has it worked so far?”
Zelos stopped and thought for a bit. He winced as the memories went through his head. “...So you want to go to the Placidium?”
“I see no reason not to.”
“Alright, I’ll take you there. You won’t mind me talking about my woes?”
The monk softly laughed. It was a warm, comforting laugh. “Not at all. Everyone is troubled by something sometimes, no one is immune to it.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Zelos admitted. “I mean hell, it’s not like I’m b...uh...”
“Would you like to know how I became blind?”
“...Will it make this conversation less awkward?”
“Absolutely. It is nothing to be ashamed of for me to retell.”
“Alright, in that case, let’s go...er...” Zelos palmed his face at his sudden realization. He forgot to do even the most basic of courtesies. “I forgot to ask your name. That’s not rude of me. What’s your name?”
“I am Lee Sin. Come, let us walk,” the monk pointed northwards, as though he knew where he had been going the entire time. “Tell me who you are, and why you are distraught, and I shall tell you who I am, and why I wear these bandages.”
Author's Note: Sorry about that, I got really sick for an entire week, and I have been recovering. The next chapter or so may be a bit slow, so do forgive me! I am still updating!
Many years ago
“Zelos. It has been long enough. We will talk now.”
The stern voice could be heard outside a door. The door was simplistic: It was a sliding door, with a wooden frame and a beige paper body that had a few, colorful flowers painted upon it.
“No!” A young boy yelled from within a closed room. “I hate her!”
“We have been over this-”
“I hate her!”
“Zelos. You will come out here and you will apologize, to her, for what you said.”
Within the room, young Zelos paced up and down, fuming. He had done so for the past hour. He honestly thought that woman was going to take Irelia away. She had come over for that, right? So he made a mistake, did it matter that much? That baby killed his mom. It didn't matter.
He hated her.
"You do not understand what hatred is."
"I hate her!"
"No. You do not."
Young Zelos' door slid to one side, revealing a young, but recognizable Master Lito. He was dressed in flowing robes which easily hid his figure, his black hair was tied up by a ponytail, his face was clean shaven and spotless, save for the bags under his eyes from fatigue. His green eyes that stared at the young boy were neither warm nor cold. "You are not doing this. You and I will have words."
Zelos turned away in a huff. He stared at the wall and crossed his arms angrily.
"Zelos. You are her brother."
"No I'm not! She’s dumb!"
Lito walked over and grabbed a fistful of the young boy's hair. He lifted Zelos off the ground and carried him out of the room.
Zelos knew better than to kick and scream. He closed his eyes from the pain he was feeling and did his best to quietly hold it in, letting out only the occasional whimper. Lito walked through the hallways, opened another door, and carried his son into this new room with him.
The room was simple, almost bare. There was a chair, a bookcase filled with books, and a few children's toys and stuffed animals carefully laid in a chest. A square window around shoulder height allowed the rays of the noon sun shine in. In the center of the room was a cradle. Within the cradle, a rose colored blanket with a sleeping baby girl could be seen.
Lito quietly lowered Zelos to the ground in front of the cradle. He pointed at the sleeping baby, and with a calm, unwavering voice, just barely a whisper, he said, “That is your sister. You are her brother.”
Zelos frowned and was about to look away when he felt his father’s hand clasp his head, keeping the little boy’s face in place.
“Look at her and tell her you hate her.”
He moved the young boy towards the cradle.
Zelos leaned over the ledge and stared at the little bundle. He wanted to say he hated her, he did, but...He could not.
With a soft sniffle, Zelos said in a morose tone, “I want mom back...” He was only seconds from bawling his eyes out.
“I do too, Zelos. I miss her already. I miss her with all of my heart, and all of my soul. But that, is life. I am going to die, you are going to die, even little Irelia here is going to die. We are all going to die, one day.”
On that note, Lito led the dumbstruck Zelos out of the room. He walked his son to the kitchen, where a little modest, wooden table was. To the left of the table was a sink, with a polished metal faucet, as well as a few cupboards and drawers. Various knives and cutting boards could be seen littering the wall near the sink. The stove was an old block of black cast iron. Burnt and blackened wood visible from the stove’s small door that was ajar. it
Lito motioned to Zelos to have a seat at the table while he started the fire in the stove. The father opened the cupboard and took out a teapot and two cups. He walked over to the sink, quietly filled the pot with water, and placed it on top of the stove. The cups were a dark, mottled brown that seemed to be handcrafted. Both had a carefully engraved surface, one cup had the depiction of various birds while the other had large tigers.
“Dad...?” The young boy nervously spoke. He was still in some shock from what his father had said.
“Am...am I going to die?”
“Yes. You will. Everyone dies,” Lito calmly replied. “But not before me. I will die long before you or little Irelia. Do you understand what that means?”
Zelos shook his head, sniffling. Lito looked over and shook a finger at the young boy, chastising him, “Do not cry. Tears will do nothing.”
Lito smoothed his hair back and rested himself against a nearby counter. He stayed there for a few moments before walking over to the table and seated himself across from his son. He brought with him the cup depicting the birds.
“Zelos, I miss your mother as well. I love her, even now. I gave you this week to be angry, to lament, to try and get it out of your system, but you are still angry. That is enough. Do you know who Irelia is?”
Zelos’ answer was him casting his eye downwards, not saying a word.
“She is your sister. She is your family. When I die, all you will have left is your family, Zelos. Like your mother, when I die, I will not be here in this realm. I will be in your heart, in your mind, and in your soul, but I will not be here. In this world, there is no one else you should trust more than your own flesh and blood. When I die, you and Irelia will continue living. You can hate her, I cannot stop you, but what will it do? Do you understand what hatred is?”
Zelos nodded, “Is when you dislike somethin’.”
“No. That is not hatred. Hatred is all consuming, all burning.” Lito slid the cup towards Zelos. “Pick that up.”
Zelos picked up the cup.
Zelos blinked. He looked at his father somewhat bewildered at such an idea. “But...mum...mum made this.”
“For you. Yes, she did. Destroy it.”
Zelos violently shook his head and put the cup back on the table. He knew he was going against his father’s wishes, and he would be willing to take the punishment for it. Instead of being punished, he felt a comforting hand ruffle his hair.
“Why did you not destroy the cup?”
“Because mum made it. I don’ wanna...”
“Hatred destroys everything you love and care about. Hatred is all consuming, it does not leave time for thought, for consequence. You simply act like an animal. Hatred is something you can never truly control, as it will control you. It twists thoughts, corrupts the heart, and brings forth a side of you that you never thought possible. Once something is destroyed, it is a much harder task to put piece it back together than to have never broken it in the first place. Your mother made Irelia, for you, for me, and for her.”
Lito got up from his seat and made his way back to the cupboard. He took out another cup. It was also a mottled brown, but had irelia flowers decorated upon it, creating a stark contrast between the dark brown and the white and pink colors. “Your mother had a feeling that we were going to have a daughter, and before she died, she made Irelia this cup. Your mother wanted us to all to be happy. Your mother wanted us to be a family. We are all like these cups, Zelos. Remember that for as long as you live.”
Lito took out another cup. His face contorted into a smile as he reminisced. The cup in his hand had a simple heart on it. That was it, that was all that decorated the cup, a single heart. “I will die one day, Zelos. Who then will Irelia have, if she does not have you? You are her family, she is your family. You will have many responsibilities, son. You are the heir to the Hiten style. It will give you strength. What then, is the point of strength? For some, it is to build strong families. For others, it is to make works of art. There are many reasons to have strength, and everyone needs a reason to not only have it, but a purpose to use it for. What purpose is this?”
He rotated the cup in his hand, a tear streaming down his face. “You are too young to know the answer yet. I do not expect you to reply to this question for many years. I do not, however, want you to hate something so soon. You will understand when the time comes. For now, do not harm what your mother died to give us. Do not hate your sister. That would hurt your mother far worse than death.”
A series of knocks on the door interrupted his thoughts. Lito wiped at his face, making sure he was out of Zelos’ line of sight, and brushed away the single tear that trailed down his cheek. He placed the cup back in its place.
They could hear a woman, the wet nurse, speak up, “H-hello? Who are-”
A gruff voice could be heard, “Xiang. Where is he.”
Zelos looked over at his father. He was slightly confused. “Grandpa? Grandpa’s here?”
“Zelos. Go to Irelia’s room and stay there. Watch after your sister.”
“Zelos. Go now.”
Zelos slowly complied, got up and shuffled away. Lito stared at the stove, seeing the steam escape the mouth of the pot. He took the pot off the stove, and placed it on the table. He grabbed the cups and quickly placed them back into the cupboard. With that, he made his way to the front door.
Zelos entered the room Irelia was kept in. He grabbed the chair, dragged it next to Irelia. He could not hear them for almost the entire duration of their conversation. He sat in that room for easily an hour, staring at the sleeping, still form of the baby. Her blanket barely raised up and down with every quiet breath she took. He remembered his mother telling him how loud and wild of a baby he was, refusing to sleep and attempted to run before he even knew how to walk. From what he had been told, they were supposed to be loud, annoying things.
Irelia was not.
The young boy’s train of thought was completely destroyed as a loud, resounding boom echoed through the house. It sounded as though wood was splintered, stone shattered. The window in Irelia’s room shook and she woke up screaming.
Zelos covered his ears, wincing at the sound of the baby’s shrill shrieks. He looked around and tried finding something to placate her with. He grabbed the closest toy to him, a stuffed bunny, and wildly flopped it about. “Look! Bunny! Stop screaming!”
Irelia continued her shrieks, her little face red with anger, fear and confusion.
Zelos looked around once more, trying to find something else to help calm her down. He reached down into the cradle and clumsily picked up the baby. He glared at her as he pleaded, “Please please pleaaaase stop screaming.”
Irelia stopped screaming. Her head seemed to be rolling backwards, so Zelos reached around and gave it the proper support it needed. The baby girl giggled and with her tiny hands, attempted to grab Zelos’ nose. Her green eyes shimmered with delight.
Zelos was not exactly sure how to react, except by giggling back at the baby and extending his finger out to her hands. Her tiny fingers wrapped around his finger and shook it about happily while she made soft, gurgling noises.
A calloused hand reached up at the window, not seen by either of the children. It had a thin, glass cutting tool in the palm of his hand. As it moved to press it on the glass, the hand disappeared. This was followed by a sound that resembled the crack of lightning.
Irelia, however, did not react to this frightening noise. She snuggled herself closer to the young boy’s chest and fell asleep once more in seconds.
Six years later
Irelia sat at a desk in her pitch dark room. Three candles were her only source of light, aside from the moon that shone through her window, and sat within reaching distance from her. She held a small block of wood in one hand, which was bandaged, and a carving knife in the other. Her hand shook as she attempted to shave off a piece of the wood, her small fingers not quite strong enough yet to do such a feat easily.
The knife nearly slipped. She managed to keep a steady hold on it, and turned it about. Irelia spoke to the knife, “We can do this, you and I. Right? You want to.”
She resumed her wood carving.
Unbeknownst to her, a mysterious figure started to sneak up on her. The moment she flicked the knife upwards, cutting another shaving of wood, a pair of hands clamped themselves around her eyes.
“Whatcha doin’, Irie?”
Irelia dropped the knife and held the block of wood to her chest, as if trying to hide it.
“What’s that, hm?” Zelos peered over the top of her head, curiosity lit in his eyes. “Is it something evil? Do I have to tell dad you’re hiding a super evil in your room? Or maybe you’re keeping it in a box?”
“Go away!” Irelia sounded panicked. She did not want her surprise to be ruined. “It’s not done!”
“What’s not done? What are you...” Zelos’ trailed off, his eyes narrowed. He reached down and prodded her bandaged hand, “Hey, what happened, Irie? Did you cut yourself? How’d you do that?”
Irelia paused, trying to think of a reply. She eventually said in a cautious tone, “It wasn’t my fault.”
“It wasn’t my fault. The other knife didn’t want to carve.”
Irelia looked around. Her lips quivered as she tried thinking of a perfectly sound and reasonable lie. She did not want to ruin the surprise. “...Nothing...?”
“You tryin’ to carve the air then?” Zelos laughed and pinched his younger sister’s cheeks. He pulled at them while he said, “Come on, you can tell me.”
“The other knife didn’t want to carve. This one does.”
“Irie, knives can’t talk.”
“It’s not talking. It’s just...” Irelia tilted her head, unsure how to explain herself. “It’s what it wants.”
“And what do you want, Irie? What do you wanna do with the knife?”
“...I don’t want to ruin the surprise.”
Zelos sighed. He leaned on top of Irelia’s head, making her support the adolescent boy to the best of her ability. Luckily he was smaller than the other boys his age or else she would have fallen flat on her face. “What’s the surprise, Irie?”
“...You...you know the test you’re going to have to do?”
“Yeah, what about it?”
“I...” Irelia raised the block of wood into view. More than a quarter of it had been shaved into a semi smooth, circular shape. “I’m making you a good luck charm.”
Zelos could not help but smile. He tapped the edge of the block, “Irie, you don’t have t-”
“I want to!” She looked up, barely able to meet her brother’s eyes due to him leaning on her. “Even if I’m not there, I want to make sure you know I’m there! I want to make sure you know that I’m there with you, so you don’t have to be nervous!” Irelia’s eyes and her tone of voice gave her a strange sense conviction, not usually seen in most six year old girls. Although, considering what happened a few days ago, it was not so strange a sight to see from her.
Zelos’ smile widened. He pulled back the side of Irelia’s mouth, showing that most of her baby teeth were missing. “I know you’re in my corner, Irie. You don’t have to hurt yourself tryin’ to do something you’re not good at-”
“I’m doing this. I want to do this.” The young girl waggled the knife to and fro, “It wants to help me do this. I can do this now. I...I just, I want to make sure you’ll be alright Zelos.”
Zelos reached over and took the knife from her. He turned it about and examined it. Nothing special screamed at him about the knife. He spoke to it, “Oi, you. Yeah, you. You’re helping Irie do this, alright? If you hurt her, I’ll throw ya into the river. Got it, buddy?”
He handed the knife back to Irelia and rubbed the top of her head, messing her ordered hair up. She sputtered and glared at him, “Zelly! Don’t do that!”
“Oh relax, you look better this way anyways!” He pulled her hair upwards and with two fistfuls of her hair, made a pair of makeshift horns for her. “See? Now you resemble your true form: a demon!”
Irelia put the wood and the knife on the desk, slid away from his hands and out of the chair. Once she was able to close the distance, she started playfully punching his side ever so slightly. Her knuckles barely touched the side of his stomach, but did so in such quick succession it caused a strange, tickling sensation.
“Gah! No! Stop it!” Zelos giggled uncontrollably.
“You will fall before the tender fist!”
Irelia kept up these almost feather light punches, which playfully drove her brother away from her chair and desk.
“I-ha ha! I can’t- ha ha ha! Stop it! I - ha ha- I can’t-”
Zelos weaved around one of her punches as it slowly came forward. He flanked her from behind and picked her off her feet, suspending her in midair. “Gotcha!”
Irelia playfully kicked her legs as his fingers started to tickle her sides mercilessly. “Gah-ha-ha! St-stop that Zelly!”
Zelos dropped her to the floor. Before Irelia could touch the ground, he had caught her under her arms and kept her from slapping the wood underneath. He swayed her back and forth as though he were performing a ballroom dance. She swayed to and fro, not in complete control of her actions. He sang his next command at her. “Ir~el~ee~ah, Ir~el~ee~ah, you~can~give~uuup!~”
The little girl laughed and giggled, “I-I call a tie! I call a tie!” That was all she would concede.
Zelos put Irelia to the ground and vigorously mussed her hair about. “I can live with that! Come on, it’s not bad to admit defeat! We all lose sometimes!”
Irelia laughed and smiled at her brother. “I can never beat you, Zelos. The most I can ever hope for is a tie.”
“Pft, please, you’ll be kicking my butt in a year tops.”
Zelos looked over at the desk, silently thinking of something.
Irelia was still calming down from her fit of laughter. She looked up at Zelos, still giggling, “Y-yeah, hee hee, yeah Zelly?”
“When it’s time for you to do the admittance test, I’ll make a charm for you too. Alright?”
Irelia’s smile widened. She tilted her head at Zelos, “You think I’ll be good enough to do the test? You’re one of the youngest to-”
“Because I’m awesome,” Zelos interrupted. He mussed her hair up one more time before replying in a soft tone, “And by association, that makes you awesome, got it? You’ll pass the scholar tests easily, and the combat tests you’ll be fine! We’ll be training at the Placidum together to kick butt in no time!”
Irelia nodded and started to walk back to her desk. She picked up the carving knife and stared at it for several moments. “The knife wants you to use it when you need to. It thinks its a good idea.”
“Hey, if even knives like me then I have nothing to worry about!” Zelos laughed and left Irelia’s room before he stopped and slapped his forehead. “Oi! That’s right! I almost forgot! Why I came here! Dad-”
“Had requested for the both of you to come to the dining room, and is slightly perturbed that neither of you are there as of yet.”
Master Lito’s voice froze both Zelos and Irelia in place. He was standing at the door, arms crossed and and looking overly angry. His sword seemed to rest against the opposite side of him, as though it were mimicking his very posture. The bags under his eyes were the only sign of fatigue as he walked into the room with a youthful spring in his step. “What has taken you two so long?”
“Just...messing around, dad.”
“Mhm. I see. Just ‘messing around’.”
Lito stared at his two children, his knitted brow and his glare able to melt ice from the sheer intensity that exuded from him. This intensity disappeared the moment he broke into a smile and motioned to them, “Dinner is ready. Come, before it grows any colder. Do not forget that you both need to wake at the crack of dawn. The later the dinner, the more chance that it will cause indigestion.”
Their father walked out of the room, expecting his children to follow in his wake.
Zelos started to move when he pointed at the wood carving knife Irelia was holding. “Hey, does your knife want to have dinner with us too?”
Irelia visibly winced. She slowly put the knife down and shook her head, “No...Knives don’t eat dinner...”
“I know that. Come on.” Zelos laughed and motioned to her to follow him. “Let’s go before dad actually gets upset.”
Irelia looked at the knife, then at Zelos. He never thought about it before, but the smile she gave him back then seemed almost...forced? Nah, impossible. She knew it was not true, it was just a knife. An imaginary friend, he had one when he was around her age. At least it was not telling her to do something horrible, like kill people. Let her have it for a while.
Either way, it did not matter. After that day, she never brought such a notion up again. She must have gotten over it like any other kid.
Six years later
Zelos was outside, the birds were chirping, the smells of nature prevalent, and he was surrounded by eight Ionians dressed in training clothing. He held a wooden sword in one hand and scratched at his face with his other. He hummed and waited for them to attack him. By the time their hands moved, red marks appeared on their cheeks. They yelped and leaped away from him, rubbing their faces in pain.
“Heh!” Zelos admonished them with a waggle of his finger. “Your body language yelled your intentions! Gotta be careful with that or I’ll sack you!”
The others laughed and shook their heads. They readied themselves once more. One of them called out to Zelos, “Oi, sarge! Let’s make a deal!”
“A deal?” He motioned to them. “Go ahead, what’s the deal?”
“If one of us touches ya, you buy drinks for us tonight!”
Zelos rolled his eyes and threw his bokken to the ground. He readied himself, grinning all the while. “Tell you what, whoever makes me bleed first, I’ll buy em drinks for the rest of the year. I get you though? You owe me a drink.”
The Ionians laughed and nodded, preparing themselves. Zelos’ eyes flitted about, his hands poised and ready for any attack.
A man came running up the fields, red faced and out of breath. Zelos looked over and waved at him, “Hey Liang, what’s up?”
“It’s...It’s...” The thin man tried to catch his breath. “It’s your sister, sir!”
Zelos’ eyes narrowed. He walked over and grabbed the man’s shoulder, then started to drag him. “She’s doing it again, isn’t she?”
“Yeah, she is.”
A little distance away, wood splintering could be heard.
The twenty year old man, big in frame, clutched his arm in horrid amounts of pain. A big, black bruise could be seen, dribbles of blood seeping out of the tiny cuts that lacerated the area. Irelia held in one hand a broken wooden sword, and in her other hand she held her opponent’s outstretched weapon hand. Around her neck, a little wooden talisman hung.
From the side, a young Akali and an older, still physically fit, woman watched. The woman leaned over and whispered aloud to the young ninja in training, “Not bad.”
“No, mother. Not bad at all.”
Irelia released her opponent’s hand and bowed to him. “Are you alright?”
“Gah! How do you hit so hard?!”
Irelia looked at her broken training sword, analyzing it. She eventually shrugged in response. The man groaned and walked away, rubbing his arm profusely. “I think it’s broken...” He made his way over to a bench where a whole gaggle of injured men sat. From boys and girls her age, to men older than Zelos, they rubbed at similar bruises.
Irelia looked around, staring at the other trainees her age and older. Even the Placidium guards looked uneasy from her gaze.
“Irie, what are you doing?”
Irelia turned to the source of the voice. She smiled and waved at the approaching Zelos. “Training.”
Akali’s mother spoke up, “She is doing fine. I’m watching her, nephew. Them being too fragile to be her sparring partners is the only problem I can see.”
“That’s not the problem, auntie dear.” Zelos grinned at Irelia and crossed his arms, mock fury evident on his face. “I’m here because I’m told that she’s just kicking everyone’s butt left right and center. Can’t let you get too big of a head, right?”
Irelia readied herself in a stance, her hands raised. She motioned to Zelos to make an attack, a gesture he laughed at. Shaking his bokken at her, he asked, “Do you want a weapon, or do you want to do this the good ol’ fashioned way?”
“I want a weapon. I want to show you something.”
“Oh?” Zelos threw the wooden sword at her. “Alright, show me.”
By the time Irelia caught it, Zelos had disappeared from view. He reappeared behind Irelia, his hand slicing at the back of her neck. “And got...ya?”
Irelia ducked, rolled backwards in between his legs and vaulted herself to a standing position.
“Hah! Nice job Irie! Is that what you wanted to show me?”
“No.” Irelia dashed forward. “This is.”
Zelos barely reacted in time, the palm of his hand slapping the point of the wooden blade away from his chest. If he were any slower, that would have hurt his ego, and possibly break a rib. Irelia spun around from the force of his impact, landing squarely into his open arms. He wrapped his arms around her in a hug, rocking her back and forth playfully, “Nice one, Irie! I didn’t get the hang of the Bladesurge technique till I was fifteen! Although...” He turned Irelia around to face him, then pushed her away. “Your footing was a bit off which slowed ya a lot. The point of the Bladesurge technique is to get from point A to point B as though there was no distance at all. And besides...”
Zelos reached over and bopped the top of Irelia’s head. “Why were you aiming for my chest? You trying to kill me or something?” In front of the entire crowd, he messed her hair about. “That’s just being sloppy, Irie!”
Irelia did not particularly enjoy the demeaning gestures or words in front of everyone, and she made sure she communicated this via the glare she shot Zelos. He laughed and grinned as he always did, “Oi oi oi, Irie, don’t be mad. You’re still young. Remember dad’s golden rule?”
“Blood deserves punishment, for you have already lost the fight?”
“...Okay, second rule?”
“To kill is easy, but to incapacitate is a true test of a swordsman’s skill?”
Irelia grumbled to herself and nodded. Zelos laughed and started to walk away. She called out to him, “Zelos, your sword?”
“Eh? Ah! Nah, keep it!” He waved at his little sister, “Try not breaking that one though, alright? Keep your self control in check, and I expect to see that sword at dinner tonight!”
Zelos walked away, motioning to the others that had followed him to follow him once more. “Come on, back to training we go.”
“Zelos?” A new, yet familiar voice spoke up.
He turned around and waved at the woman approaching. “Hey, Karma! What’s up?”
“The Council wants to speak with you.” Karma bowed to him. “I was asked to retrieve you.”
Zelos sighed and rolled his eyes, “They’re interrupting my training.”
“It’s urgent. It’s about Noxus.”
Zelos’ eyes narrowed. He nodded and quietly made his way into the building of the Placidium. Irelia moved forward to follow them when a matron's voice said, "Irelia. You will now train with Akali."
The woman sliced the air with her hand, silencing Irelia. "He will be fine. You need to train more if you want to beat him, right? You want to make your father, and him, proud, yes?"
"Then leave him alone, and train. Akali needs a warm up, and Soraka will be coming to take you for your studies in an hour. Do not procrastinate."
Akali stepped towards Irelia, unsheathing her kamas. "You know he is proud of you, yes?"
Irelia nodded and took a stance. She knew that, of course, but she wanted to hear him say the words. She wanted to hear him say that he is proud of her, that she deserves to be a successor to the Hiten art. Anything she could do, he always did better. Her dream was to run side by side with him. Not as Irie, not the delicate doll he made her out to be, but for him to respect her as his equal. She wanted to live up to their family name, and make Zelos proud to call her his sister rather than laugh and make a joke as he always did. He was warm, he was charismatic, he was swift, he was able to implant his personality into his technique. Everyone that met him seemed to like him almost instantly, while she? Almost everyone else was put off by her demeanor. she was just a bit serious, that was all, and in all honesty? A little shy. Irelia found it hard to interact with others she did not know, or grow up with in the Nightblade village. Irelia knew it would be foolish to try and overcome him, but she wanted to be his equal. Was that so wrong to dream?
Irelia's mind focused once more at the ninja before her, and she surged towards Akali. No fear, no hesitation, she would become better, and Zelos would have to acknowledge her skill some day. He would have to.
That evening, she found out that Zelos was chosen to sail to Demacia within the week. He had agreed.
Her stomach knotted. He was leaving her. Irelia could not hear Soraka's words or Zelos'. He was leaving her, like their father, he would not be here. War was looming, why would they send him away? She barely heard the explanation. She was numb.
Despite their reassurances, Irelia did not respond. She would stay at the Placidium until it was time for him to travel westward towards Karma’s village, the nearest port. Irelia was allowed to accompany them. On their way there, ten or so miles away from the village while on the carriage, she saw something from the corner of her eye despite her bowed head. Deep within the forestry there, she saw the blossoms of a familiar flower waft in the wind. She would make one plea from him, but chances were that he was going to go anyways. Once he said something, he always, always, kept his promise. He was going to go, but Irelia would make sure that he remembered her.
The moment they reached the port town, Irelia ran towards the woods without a word to anyone. No one stopped her, knowing how angry she must be at the moment.
It took hours, but Irelia found the tree with her namesake’s blossoms. He would return. She knew it. When he returned, she’d make sure that he would come home to a stronger Irelia, to a stronger sister. She would make him see that she can walk side by side with her big brother.
Author's Notes: Still updating! Caught up in multiple projects! Hoo boy, I have a long way to go, and then I have to do an overhaul edit of this story. Hope you're all enjoying it still, and I will be finishing this story! It will be a couple more chapters and then tadah! I have so much to catch up on!
“...And it is because of these people, such as your sister, and even Riven, that I was so easily able to give my eyes up. For those who have sacrificed more than I have, for those who do what is needed, the loss of eyes is paltry.”
Zelos whistled at the length of the story. It was almost as long as his own.
The two men were walking aimlessly about, only minutes away from the back gate of the Placidium. Lee Sin “looked” over at Zelos and asked him a simple question. “What is it that ails you?”
“Mm? I thought we went over this.”
“Everyone dies, Zelos. It is inev-”
“And like I said before, if you finish that sentence...” Zelos growled. “As nice of a guy as you are, I will slap you. She will not die, not like that.”
“It is not up to you. It never is.”
“I know, but it’s not fair, not for her...”
Lee Sin patted Zelos’ shoulder gently. “How are you helping her now?”
“...I’m not sure. I feel useless. That’s why I was going to go after Riven, talk to her, ask her why Irelia and her are friends.” He quickly added with an accompanied shrug, “Then probably try and kill her when I remember that she butchered my village and my friends and neighbors.”
Lee drummed his fingers on the man’s shoulder. He seemingly ignored that comment for now. “Irelia may come back to the Placidium in the time you are amiss, and see that you are not there. How would that make her feel?”
“...She’d probably be angry with me,” He laughed. “Like, seething mad.”
“You think this, yet you are willing to continue with your actions.”
Zelos’ laughter did not die down. He pointed at Lee Sin, his voice still light despite what he said next. “You know, something that Udyr guy said to me really got me. I should have said no.” His laughter became louder, teeming with emotion now. “I should have said no, I should have listened to my little sister, she’s so much smarter than me. I should have stayed, instead of trying to act like the big man and big brother and I gotta live up to those expectations and responsibility ****. They may have chosen me, but I said yes. I could have said no, stayed with her, maybe sully our family name, but she wouldn’t look at me like that. Because I left, Irelia is...She’s sick. She’s dying. I just, I just wish there was an easy solution for once. She deserves it, she really deserves it.”
“People rarely get what they deserve, Zelos, without working for it.” Lee Sin gently pulled Zelos’ shoulder, taking him to a nearby rock that not even the brooding man saw. “Have you considered that this is, perhaps, what Irelia thinks she deserves?”
“Is Irelia happy?”
Lee sat atop the rock. Its top was smooth and was large enough to easily seat three or four people. He waited for Zelos to follow suit who made his way over and sat down on top of the rock next to the monk.
Lee asked again, “Is Irelia happy with her life?”
“...I don’t know. I don’t care.”
Zelos laughed once more and shook his head. “So what if these are her choices, Lee? So what if her choice is to die? So what if she’s ‘content’?” He pointed at the monk, his voice growing in volume. “You weren’t there when that whacko woman attacked the Placidium.”
“Technically, I was. I was with U-”
“Not what I meant,” Zelos interrupted. “You didn’t see her eyes. You didn’t see them, you didn’t hear her tone when she was fighting that Syndra chick.” His hands balled up into fists. “I saw anger. I saw hatred.”
Lee did not say anything. Instead he let Zelos continue.
A hiccup left Zelos’ lips as tears started to stream from his eyes. “They weren’t at the woman though. She was angry, sure, but she didn’t hate the woman. Maybe she did, but not nearly as much as she hated herself. She looked empty. Irelia’s anger was not only focused on her. She was angry, and hateful of herself. Her...her soul was crying.” He wiped away the moisture from his eyes, stemming it successfully. “Irelia shouldn’t cry. She shouldn’t hate herself or be angry at herself ever. Irelia is stronger than that. She’s smarter than me, she’s a kinder, gentler person than me. She’s everything I should be, but can never be. She deserves so much more.” Zelos slammed his fists onto his knees. “So much more.”
Lee nodded his head, “looked” forward and rested his chin on his palm. “So you can see why Irelia is able to call Riven ‘friend’.”
“...I suppose, yeah,” he morosely chuckled. “I just...I can’t understand how she’s able to do that. And the stories I heard, of Irelia’s exploits. Jarvan told me about them. Thousands of people, Lee. She literally slaughtered thousands of Noxians and Zaunites, when she was just fourteen ****ing years old. How? How is someone so strong, so willing to fight, to die for their country, for what they care about, and their reward for doing such feats is...this?”
Zelos’s shoulders quaked, blood dripped from his fingernails cutting into his palms. “It will not be a sword, not her better, not age that bests her, but this sickness. That is her reward for Irelia being Irelia? That is what my little sister thinks she deserves, to have her life cut short?” His tone hardened, it sounded almost frightening. Lee could notice the shift in Zelos’ aura as his eyes started to lose their life, and gained a hint of familial hollowness. “I refuse to believe that. I refuse to think such a fate is hers. If she truly gave up on life, then she would not have any friends, she would not have anything left except her blade. Then when I first met her, when I couldn’t recognize her, that would be her constant state. I see Irelia. I see her.”
Lee Sin let Zelos talk, sitting there and listening in silence. The monk eventually spoke once the man had finished his spiel. “You think it unfair?”
“What then will you do?” Lee “stared” out in front of him. “Killing doesn’t seem to be the solution here.”
“...Why are you a part of the League, Lee?”
The monk “looked” over at Zelos. If the bandage did not cover the majority of his face, one would see his raised eyebrow. “Hm?”
“Why are you, of all people, a part of the League, Lee? Why are you? Why is Soraka?”
The monk shrugged his shoulders, and replied in a casual tone, “As I said in my tale, it is because I was needed. As peaceful, as nonviolent as I am, as loving as Soraka is, we know that there is a time for talk, and a time to fight. It is not what we necessarily want to do, but we will do what is needed. I will not let injustice slide.”
“At any cost?”
“At any cost,” Lee confirmed.
Zelos stood up and started marching back to the Placidium. “Then you know exactly how I feel. At any cost.”
The blind monk watched Zelos march back towards the Placidium. He chuckled and continued to sit on his rock, as though he were waiting for someone
Zelos walked through the Placidium’s courtyard on a predetermined course. He barely heard the soft, familiar voice call out to him. It took the owner of the voice’s hand gently grabbing him to snap him back to reality instead of what thoughts mulled in his head.
It was Soraka. What was she doing here? Wait, did that mean what he thought it meant?
“Soraka? Does this mean that Irelia is-?”
“Not yet,” she clarified. The Starchild smoothed her hair back, her eyes not quite meeting his. “Irelia regained consciousness a short while ago. She refused to relax until Karma or I spoke with you, to reassure her health.”
“Alright then...” Zelos crossed his arms, staring at the motherly woman. “Reassure me.”
“...She’s...” Soraka winced. “Recovering.”
“She may be able to walk within the week.”
“I see. Excellent,” the sarcasm was not lost in his voice. “May I ask you something?”
“How did she contract dad’s illness?”
Soraka closed her eyes. She reached over and took Zelos’ hand into her own as she softly gripped it. She was trying to calm him before speaking the truth. “It’s not an illness.”
“It’s not an illness. It’s not an affliction. It’s not a disease.” Soraka’s eyes opened slowly, her entire demeanor saddened by what she was about to say. “It’s natural.”
Zelos became as pale as death. “Wh...what?”
“Your father’s ‘illness’, the reason why it was incurable, is because it is natural,” Soraka reaffirmed. “It is because he was a Hiten user.”
This did not help calm Zelos as he tried pulling away from the Starchild. This failed as his knees buckled and he sank to the ground.
“Until your father came around, I have heard the sporadic story of the Hiten users. Your grandfather was an...unhappy man, one whom Xiang truly hated.”
“Dad hated no one-”
“Except your grandfather,” Soraka confirmed. “Your father broke tradition, Zelos. Not only did he marry a woman not of an affiliated village with yours, but he had two children, not one. The lineage of the Hiten users only has a single child, and since you were the elder one, Irelia was to be killed for your father’s transgression. When your grandfather came to visit you that day, he had brought with him a few of the last Nightblades loyal to him. He also brought with him...” The Starchild started to shake, the words barely leaving her lips. “The Muramana, renamed by its future wielders into Akuma no Kiga. I felt its presence once. Never again.”
The Muramana. Akuma no Kiga, the Hunger of the Demon. Zelos had heard stories of this blade, by his own father. Its predecessor, the Manamune, was said to transform into a horrific blade once it was satiated with enough mana drained from its user and if it tasted enough blood. The Muramana was the blade that belonged to the line of the Sovereigns, and was sealed and hidden away once the last Sovereign was slain. That was just legend though, any elite guard in the Placidium carried a Manamune on their person. Zelos was reassured it was just a myth, a legend, that it no longer existed.
Soraka’s tone did not falter. “Your family line had two blades, not one, that followed its lineage. Your ancestor, the very first successor, was named Mune. His name was lost through the annals of history, he was from a time from before even me.”
The Starchild took a breath before continuing her explanation, “Mune was a master swordsmith, and he created his masterpiece in order to suit the Hiten style. The ascension of his sword was seen in him defeating the Sovereign. A little known fact is after defeating the First Sovereign, the Sovereign requested two things of Mune: First, trademark blades to be created for his elite guard, named after the smith. Second, a blade to be made for himself and named after him: Mura. The Muramana was then created. It was a masterpiece meant to show the Sovereign’s soul to all that saw him, and its actual metal was able to shape itself to the will of the owner. Unfortunately, because of what the Sovereigns descended into, it became a cursed blade, focused on the material hunger of its wielders. The two blades were then passed down from one successor to the next, since they opposing sides of the same coin.”
Zelos was not quite sure where this conversation was going. He dumbly nodded and let her speak more.
“When your father and I first met, he brought with him Odayakana Chō: A suitable sword for such a man.Your father asked me to help unlock the secret of his sword. He did not want to inherit his father’s blade, the Muramana, and wished to discover why this impractical sword was made. No one since the fall of the Sovereigns had been able to decipher its usage. You remember his stories, Xiang never killed a single person in all of his travels. He would fight, he would wound, but he would never kill, that was who he was. He found me in my own travels and asked how to unlock his sword to protect others, to defend the weak. Who would know better than the Starchild, the one who has lived for so long? His soul shined brighter than almost anyone I have ever met, and he was a good man. I could not help him, but say what I was taught: ‘A weapon should be an extension of one’s soul, nothing more, nothing less’. I saw when he put his mind to something, it reacted favorably to him, and I told him as much. When he defended Momiji and her village, it sprung to life. I was there, I witnessed that sight. When Irelia put the people over herself, when she was able to hear my plea and came back to us, the sword came to life. That is the extent of my knowledge of Odayakana Chō. The Muramana met its fate at your father’s hands: Your father broke the Muramana in a single stroke, and shattered your grandfather’s will on that day. He took the two halves of the broken blade and brought it to me to exorcise it. Your grandfather left the village and died in the mountains alone, a hermit, because he could not face the fact that he was defeated by his, ‘weakling’ son.”
Soraka pressed her hand against Zelos’ chest, her voice nearly weeping. “How can you destroy a sword that was as strong as the will of its owner? It takes a toll. Your father died when he was in his forties because of this, not of sickness. You and Irelia have the same soul as your father, except they are brighter. Both blades, forged by the same man, rely on the same source: Your soul. Your will. For the Hiten style, 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. The price for transcending flesh is the abandonment of it, and for the soul itself to take the brunt of the injuries that would kill a normal person. The willpower of one far surpasses the weakness that is flesh. What should kill you does not, but it must take its toll one way or another.”
“Wh...nuh...” Zelos could not formulate the words. His mind was racing This...he did not expect this. This was the last thing he had expected. How...did she know all of this? Not even he knew most of what Soraka was saying. How is this possible?
“The more she uses the Hiten style,” Soraka continued. “The shorter her life becomes. That is your fate, as well, Zelos. Your soul bears the same cracks. If it were not for me at that battle, if it were not my pleas that went up to her, if I had not seen her soul, then I would continue diagnosing her condition as an illness and she would have died years ago. A sickness is something that can be cured more often than not. Your father’s soul was shattered by his years of fighting, by his travels, by the loss of your mother, by breaking his own father and by training two successors. That is why there is only one. To train one cuts the lifespan of a master exponentially, imagine what training two would do? How much more effort, how much more strain it puts on one’s body?”
‘Yet there were several successors who lived to be seventy...there’s a chance.’
“That means Irelia should have a child sooner,” Zelos replied. “That means she needs to have a family. Then she can settle and I can train her child to-”
“She won’t be able to bear children.”
Numb. His body, he barely felt pain, barely felt cold, heat, touch in general, but he could still tell that he was now feeling numb. He looked at Soraka, his eyes pleading for an explanation.
“She...Ever since the battle of the Placidium, she has rarely had her monthly cycle.”
Soraka nodded. Tears streamed down her face. “In the last few months, she was showing signs of recovery. It took nearly a decade for her, from a healthy body to her ravaged one, in order to recover. From the Syndra fight, I think she will be made barren. Even then, I am not sure how long she has to live. She may die within the year from this much damage, this much strain.”
‘Oh Gods...She knew this. That’s why she she said...Oh Gods no...’
“Anything and everything that affects the soul, affects her lifespan,” Soraka confirmed. “Her anger, her...her rage, the strain on her body, the injuries, everything afflicts her soul. The only way she could possibly live longer is if she never fought again. Her happiness, her wanting to live, these are the only frail strings holding her soul in place. If she had stopped fighting long ago, she would have had a chance to live to old age, but-”
Zelos got up from the ground. He shook his head, “No...That’s not it...” He giggled, his eyes showing a strange, almost crazy glint in them. “No no no, that’s not it at all. Don’t you see, Soraka? Hee hee, she has to keep on fighting!”
He reached over and grabbed the Starchild’s shoulders, his grin widening. “Tell me one thing, Soraka, one more thing. How do you know all of this history?” His eyes burned at her. “Have you been hiding this from Irelia and me the entire time? Hm?”
“I didn’t know, Zelos, I’m sorry. I didn’t know. I wouldn’t have known if it were not for Irelia,” Soraka replied, somewhat fearful of the man she considered a son. “In terms of her condition, I was going to tell you, but w-”
“And how, pray tell, did Irelia know? Hm? I didn’t know, and I’ve been alive longer than she has been.”
The Starchild looked around, then whispered to Zelos, just barely audible for him to hear: “Odayakana Chō told her.”
His face dropped. He released Soraka, turned around and started to pace.
“Zelos...I’m sorry, I wish that Syndra had never-”
“Sh,” he interrupted with a harsh sounding hiss. “I’m thinking.”
“Zelos, don’t do anything foolish. Irelia wants you to be happy. That is her wish, she told me as much.”
The man looked over at Soraka, brightened up and grinned at her. “Happy? Me? Soraka, please, believe me. I will be happy.” He leaned over and kissed her forehead, not caring for the horn that prodded his nose. “I promise you, I will make things right. I’m just a little angry at the moment. The candle that burns twice as bright burns twice as quick, right?”
Soraka gave him a suspicious stare, seeing the subtle changes in his aura. He was planning something. “...Yes. It does.”
“That’s fine. I accept that.”
“Where’s Yi?” He looked around. “I need to talk to him, need to calm myself. I’m sorry, Soraka, but I’m...a little emotional at the moment.”
“I understand, Zelos. Yi is at the Institute for now. Let me accompany you, and let us get some t-”
“Oh no you don’t,” he laughed. Zelos leaned over and hugged Soraka, “You need to go back and look after Irelia. I want you to try your best in helping her recover. Spend every moment with her.”
“...You’re being suspicious, Zelos.”
“Soraka, please, when have I ever broken my word?” He patted her arms reassuringly. “Trust me, I won’t do anything foolish. Besides, I can see the Kinkou agents behind you in the rafters watching me just incase.”
The Starchild and her surrogate son stared at one another. She eventually relented. “Alright. I trust you.”
A few minutes later, Zelos burst into Irelia’s room, stormed over to the sword and slammed his hand against the ruby center. It exploded with ki energy, a bright orange, as he spoke to it. “You understand me. I am one half of the successorship, the sheath. You will relate this to her: I will see her at home.”
Lee Sin sat on the rock for more than an hour. Truth be told, he was half asleep when he heard the wind whistling. Zelos stopped in front of him, wearing soaking wet clothing. In one hand he held a Manamune, one of the many ancient blades that only the elite guards of the Placidium were allowed to carry. In the other he held a dagger. The surface on the metal seemed to depict the waves of an ocean as whatever process made it seem to ripple with life.
“Hey...Lee...” He sucked in a breath of air. “Where Riven’s village?”
“I need to speak with her.”
“Are you in a rush?”
Zelos winced and shrugged. “...I may have...uh...knocked a guard out.”
“And one Kinkou member. In my defense, he was an accident, I jumped out the window, we crashed in mid air and we hit the fountain.”
“Ah,” the monk nodded. He pointed at Zelos while asking, “So...why should I tell you, if this is your standard reaction?”
“Because,” Zelos grunted. “The candle that burns twice as fast burns twice as quick. I’m going to cut the base off of one candle, get another candle, tie the wicks together and extend its life.”
Lee Sin chuckled at the metaphor. He smiled at Zelos and replied, “An adequate answer. I shall tell you.”
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