Chapter Six: A Past Left Behind
"You may pass, but be careful. A great imbalance lurks." The Kinkou said, her eyes toward the sky.
The other two looked in the direction. Miles away, high about the treetops and only a fraction of its size, floated a stone temple. It was an ominous sight for sure, and quite difficult to miss.
The Kinkou looked back to the two of them. "I do not know why she has returned, but do be careful. Ordinarily, Ionia welcomes scholars, but not now." She added.
"We will. Thank you." He assured the young woman.
She gave the signal before stepping away, letting them pass.
Great effort was used to make sure his footsteps made a sound. It was more of a forced effort of a natural skill he had abandoned, but, thanks to his stone prison, and a little adjusting of it, he was able to snap twigs beneath his feet.
When they were out of earshot of the female ninja, perhaps more hiding and watching them, he held up his hand, an eye appearing over it. After several seconds, he closed his hand, letting his arm fall to his side. "We're clear, for now. How much further?" He asked.
The response was a nervous sigh. "Half an hour." She said. She turned to the floating building in the sky, a frown diminishing her features. "I'm not so sure about this anymore. What if we're caught?" She asked.
His reply was long in coming. "Plan B. So far, Plan A has been working as intended. If things keep going this well, we will be out of here in an hour or two." He said.
She called out, asking that he wait a moment. After carefully struggling with the sleeve of her robe, she was able to get it off the branch. "The sooner we are finished, the sooner we may be rid of these accursed garments!" She said, rage and impatience evident in her tone.
He looked at his arm, finding the robe he wore to be in fair condition. "I understand your dislike to wear such a thing, but we have no choice. Keeping our identities secret is necessary." He informed her, hoping to ease her discomfort, at least a little.
"Syndra!" Xerath called, his voice laced with authority. "I know a lot of this is something you do not want to do, but it must be done!" He said. His voice cooled, most of the rage leaving it. "I do not fancy our chances if the Kinkou know who we are. It's best to attempt to fool them and be out as soon as possible." He said.
Syndra, holding the dark blue robe in her hands, did not look away, even when he called out to her. "But why must we travel on foot!? We are more powerful than them! One of us could defeat the whole of the Kinkou!" She said.
"No!" He yelled, forcing her to flinch for the first time. "This is not a declaration of war, but a covet operation! Zed and his Order of Shadow are only to act as a distraction while we go to your village, under the guise of League scholars." He said, then straightened his posture. "Think of it as a test, with a passing or failing grade, depending on how you do." He added.
She looked down at the clothing in her hands. She turned her head back up to him, the anger replaced by uncertainty. "What are we to find in my village?" She asked, forcing her speech to maintain its fire, though it was not nearly as hot as before.
He turned his back to her, heading toward the door to give her the privacy she needed to change. "You will know when we get there. As I have told you, you must face your past." He repeated, exiting the room.
Five minutes later, she emerged, finding him in the hallway. "You look good." She said, trying to keep from laughing but her twitching mouth betraying her desire to.
Xerath was wearing a bright orange robe with a hood, his face mostly concealed behind it and the fabric clearly too big for him. He looked at her, or she assumed he did as the hood was facing her. "Is it that bad? No image of a mage with overwhelming power and centuries of experience?" He asked.
She could not help but laugh. "More like a child playing pretend!" She said as she laughed. She put her arms around her waist, her sides beginning to hurt. Finally, she managed to stop, nearly tearing up. "I'm sorry. You just look so ridiculous." She said as she finished laughing.
While he was not amused, he was not angry. "I see... Well, are you ready? We should be arriving soon, then we will have to walk. We'll be meeting a contact from the Order of the Shadow shortly after." He explained, as though repeating it aloud to ensure he knew what to do. "These are allies, not enemies. Like you and I, they seek to improve themselves. They will not welcome us with opened arms, but at least they will not welcome us with blades at our throats." He explained.
An hour later, they arrived at the island of Ionia.
As strange as it was, the stone building docked at the island shore before being lifted into the air. Syndra sent it away from them, to the north and then west. If anything, it would make the common people believe they were elsewhere. With his help, it was sent on a preplanned route, so it would circle the island out of reach of anyone and everyone.
Before they could go too far, their contact arrived. "Magus Xerath, Sorceress Syndra. My master said your arrival would be missed only by the blinded." Came an inaudible voice. From the shadow of a large tree rose a ninja, its armor a dark steel with a coif that hid its face. "Welcome to Ionia. I have been sent to meet with the two of you and ask if there is anything you need." The ninja said, using something to make it impossible to tell whether the one before them was male or female.
Xerath pushed back the hood of his robe. "We need to get to Syndra's village, and, to do that, I want the Order of the Shadow to run a distraction. In return, I am willing to share part of my knowledge with your master." He said.
The ninja shook its head. "No need. Master Zed wishes the sorceress to grow. Anything we can do to help in her mission to do so, will be done without cost." The ninja said.
The ninja retrieved something from underneath his armor, fixing it with the greatest of care, before holding it out in both hands, then thrust it forward. The thing sprang to live, flying upward and toward the distance horizon. He finally turned back to the two. "That carrier will concave your wishes to my master. Will there be anything else?" He asked.
Xerath shook his head.
"Very well. I will follow the two of you for a time, scouting the area should I feel the need, before returning to my Order." The ninja added, his being melting into the shadows he had first emerged from.
"For the record, the Order of the Shadow was never a group I associated myself with before." Syndra informed, watching the black shadow moving into the jungles of the Ionia. "Why do you have ties with them?" She asked.
Xerath's expression, concealed by the hood of his hood, was one of mischievous nature. "It annoys a certain mage. While I do not maintain a strong relationship, literally just an associate-type one, my magic benefits them and their resources benefit me." He said.
The sorceress fixed her hood, ensuring her face hidden from any who would look upon her, before looking at him, her voice changing. "A certain mage? Does this mean the passive Magus Ascendant has enemies?" She asked.
He shook his head. "Individuals with different perspectives, nothing more. Now and again, it does develop into something akin to rivalry, but nothing more." He assured her, fixing his own hood.
Back to the present
With the first meeting of the Kinkou going smoothly, things were beginning to look up. They were nearing the village, and, with it, Syndra was becoming more and more nervous. At least it was not showing under her hood.
This was, actually, Xerath's first time visiting Ionia, so he let Syndra lead the way. Even if it had been years, she did not show hesitation as she walked. Straight as an arrow, as one would say, they were bound to their destination.
The scenery, despite all the battles against Noxus, was beautiful. The tropical trees, the calls of wild birds and animals echoing all around them, the various colorful and exotic fruits and floral growing all around. It was almost a perfect paradise. Almost... until they came upon a few distinct signs of human influence.
The battle and chemical scarred ground, the remains of weaponry and armor fused with their owners, blood stains here and there, and, lastly, there were bodies. Neither Xerath nor Syndra so much as grimaced at the sights.
Curious, the magus approached a corpse, kneeling down to for a closer inspection. He dared now touch it due to the trouble they had already gone through to get here. "Noxian. I'm guessing two patrols came across one another, and this battle ensued." He said, then looked around. "Where are the Ionian bodies?" He asked, more to himself than to her.
"You won't find them." She said. He looked to her as she went on. "If there was a survivor, or one of the villagers found this scene, they would have taken the bodies away for proper burial. If we stay, another group will be along to dispose of the Noxian bodies." She explained.
Xerath rose. "We should leave then. How much further?" He asked.
She pointed. Within view, past the vegetation and leaves, the jungle parted slightly to reveal the telltale signs of a village. "My village." She stated, blankly.
He nodded. "It's time you put your past to rest. One way or another." He said, his tone emotionless.
Entree into the village was a simple matter of strolling on in, even if some of the people gave them odd, questioning looks. With Syndra's guidance, they did not need to ask where the elder was to find their destination.
Pausing before an average sized house, clear patchwork having been done to repair it, and nothing of special note. The windows were closed with small blankets of brightly colored fabrics, some even poke a dotted.
Xerath took the lead from here. He tapped the door with the back of his knuckles, the stone of his mobile prison making it possible. There was silence, then motion behind the door.
A few seconds later, the door opened. A man, perhaps near or in his forties, appeared. "Y- yes?" The man said, clearly surprised to see such important-looking people at his door.
"We are scholars from the Institution of War, and we have question for you and your wife. May we enter?" Xerath asked.
The man, shocked to hear the extent of their importance, looked at the two of them. He started the robed and silent Syndra longer. He could see neither of their faces, but there was obviously something about her. Finally, he stepped out of the doorway and opened it wider. "Please. Come in. Rebekah! We have guests! Prepare some snacks, please." He said, turning his head and calling into the house.
They both entered the house, then watched as the man closed the door. They stood there, waiting and watching as the man began to lead them to a small table with pillows instead of chairs.
When he sat down at the head of the table, Syndra, by instinct, sat down as well, but across from him. Xerath followed suit, sitting between the two to the right of Syndra.
The man smiled, but there was no joy in it. His eyes began to tear. "You've returned... my daughter."
Syndra removed her hood, her long, silver hair fixed behind her back with the aid of her arm. Her bright, purple eyes showed no emotions of joy, anger, or sorrow, despite the long time she had not seen her father. "I have, Father." She said, her voice as blank as her face.
The man then turned to Xerath. "And who is this? Are you Master Ganzo, coming to tell us Syndra has finished her training?" He asked.
Xerath shook his head. "I am not Ganzo." He said, pulling back his hood to reveal his stone container and the blue energies that made up his head. "I am Xerath, ancient mage of Shurima and the Magus Ascendant." He said.
The man was confused as he looked from one face to the other. "But... Where is Ganzo then? He was suppose to be training-" He was cut off when a woman, about as old as he, maybe younger, appeared.
"Here you two are. Green tea and Ionian rice cakes-" She then noticed who the female was. She nearly dropped her serving tray, but a quick thought saved it. She sat down the tray, not bothering to pass out the refreshments, and threw her arms around Syndra. "Synny! Oh my little Synny has returned home!" She said, tearing up more than her husband.
Syndra began to lift her arms to return the hug, but stopped a third of the way. Instead, she placed her hands on her mother's shoulders and gently forced her away. She stared into the eyes of her mother, a look that made the older woman cease her tears of joy. "Ganzo is dead."
Her mother covered her mouth as she backed away. Her father's face paled significantly.
The man swallowed, looking at his daughter. "Dead? But... how? Who could have killed him? Why would someone kill him?" He stammered, suddenly unable to comprehend reality.
Syndra's voice was emotionless. "I killed him." She said.
Her parents stared at her, their eyes full of disbelief. "But... why?" Her mother asked.
"Because he lied to me." She said.
Syndra's eyes turned hard, anger fueling the glow behind them. "Same as you two! All of you lied to me!" She said, her voice on the verge of yelling, but she kept it from that.
Her father held up a hand. "No. We would never-" He was cut off.
"You told me Ganzo would train me! Teach me to be a powerful sorceress!" She said. Suddenly, the rage within her died out, replaced by sorrow. "All three of you, even the elders, said I would become a great sorceress. That I would be able to make all of Ionia proud. I believed in those words... I believed in everyone who told me..."
Syndra's eyes began to well with tears. A sad smile came to her face as the tears began. "Was I that foolish, that naive, to trust everyone?" She said, her voice beginning to crack.
She closed her eyes, though it did not stop the tears, and tilted her head upward, taking in a deep breath. After letting it out slowly, she began to wipe the tears away from her eyes with the aid of her robe's sleeve. "I realize, now, that I was." She said.
When she finished, Syndra rose, towering over her sitting parents in more ways than one, and turned her back. "I'll be outside, waiting, Teacher." She spoke with her back to them.
Xerath nodded. "I will be out shortly." He said.
With that, she began to leave, opening and closing the door. Not once did she look back.
Her father's face turned red as he shot daggers at Xerath. "What have you done to her!?" He demanded, his hands balled into fists.
Calmly, Xerath looked at the man, then shook his head. "I've done nothing to her, unlike you." He said, his words sharper than any blade.
"You did it, didn't you? You killed Ganzo!" He accused.
Again, the magus shook his head. "My hands are stained with blood, but not a drop of it is Ionain blood." He informed. He looked up at the man and woman. "As her parents, Syndra's behavior is the cause the two of you, your elders, and this Ganzo. If anything, I am trying to undo the damage caused to her." He added.
Neither appeared to believe him, but it was the mother who spoke. "We did nothing to her! Please, release her from whatever spell you have over her!" She began, her voice breaking from the tears. "Please... Return our little Synny to us." She sobbed.
Xerath looked the woman in her watery eyes for a long moment. He titled his head slightly so he could be facing both of them. "You two abandoned your child, left her with an old man who said he would lie and restrain her from becoming what she is destined to be." He said.
"And what would that be? What destiny could she have as a murderer?" Her father said, taking his wife in a comforting hug.
"The Dark Sovereign of Ionia, of course." The magus replied. Both looked at him in horror and confusion. He did not even have to ask to be able to tell they had questions. "Do not be so surprised. There's little else she could become." He began. "Her parents lied to her; her village elders lied to her; an idol of hers lied to her; and, above all else, everyone she trusted betrayed her trust." He paused and turned to look at the door, where Syndra had left through.
Still staring at the door, he continued. "She was a little girl, at one point, with dreams and ambitions of becoming a great and powerful sorceress, one that would make her parents and village proud. If I am correct, she left to train with this Ganzo about the same time as a battle broke out against Noxus. When one's home is in danger, that makes for good motivation to push oneself to their limit, eager to protect their home. Even children are warriors, swinging twigs at enemies, in pretend." He finished, his tone sad and experienced. He knew from experience what he was talking about.
"But, she isn't that kind of person." Her mother stated.
Xerath locked the woman in his gaze. "Your little Synny is gone!" He said, causing them both to gasp. His expression turned soft, sad even. "She ran away, unable to live with those she could no longer trust. The Syndra outside, my student in magic, is your child, only older." He said, then shook his head before looking back to the door. "This is your last chance to see your child. After today, I will not take her here again. Returning, will be her decision alone." He added.
When the magus rose, he gave a slight bow. Before he could get to the door, he heard the woman call to him. "Wait!" He turned around. "Please ask her to come back inside. I know she may not want to, but, please, ask her." She pleaded.
He nodded, then opened the door. "Syndra. They have words for you." He said.
She turned an angry, heated glare to him. She was about to say something, to voice her complaint and refuse to do so, but then she saw something inside the house.
"Mommy. Daddy. What's going on?" Came the voice of a small child.
Chapter Seven: A Present of Conflict
"Mommy. Daddy. What's going on?" Came the voice of a small child. All four sets of eyes turned to the source of the voice.
It was a little boy who couldn't have been older than six or seven years. He was dressed in a light blue kimono, wore a pair of sandals, and his hair was a mess. It looked like he had just woken up from bed. He had a dark shade of blue in his eyes, his hair was dark brown, and a few freckles dotted his left chin. There was a bruise under his right eye, like he had been in a fight recently.
Rebekah began to rise, but was stopped when Syndra grabbed her right arm in her left hand. She met her mother's worried eyes with an emotionless face, silently requesting her to stand down. The woman swallowed, but eased down anyway, more out of fear than anything. Syndra then looked to the child. "Good afternoon, young man. My friend and I are scholars from the Institution of War, or the League of Legends, whichever you prefer." She said sweetly and with a smile no less. The smile quietly faded when she noticed the mark under the boy's eye. "What happened to you dear?" She asked, frowning.
The boy looked at his parents, his mind trying to determine if these two were friendly, and then, when they did not say anything, he looked to the woman and smiled. "It's nothing, really. Some of my classmates in school said my older sister was an embarrassment to my family, and was worse than the Order of the Shadow." He said before shrugging his shoulder. His smile grew a little. "So I asked the one who said it to take that back or else. When he didn't, I hit him." He said.
Syndra gasped, moving her hands over her mouth in surprise. She was faking it, but it looked real. "Goodness! That must have gotten you into trouble." She exclaimed.
The boy crossed his arms over his chest, proud to tell the story. "That was after the fight. I would have won if the teachers hadn't shown up. Now I am suspended for the next few days." He said.
Syndra removed her hands from her mouth, taking a deep breath before speaking. She was proud of her younger brother, but could not say it. "I know a bit of magic. Would you like me to heal that mark of yours?" She asked, lifting her hand in a gesture.
He shook his head. "No thanks. I'll let it heal on its own." He said.
She shook her head as she rose. "Nonsense, you have a handsome face, and that mark does nothing but ruin it." She said as she approached. She bent down, her hand going to his cheek, but paused when he backed away. She tilted her head and smiled at him. "A bruise is no mark of honor, child, and scars are for men and warriors. Besides, how will you ever get a girlfriend with that bruise ruining your smile? And what if she wants to kiss your cheek?" She asked.
The boy turned his head and blushed, making her giggle slightly. "Fine, go ahead." He huffed, turning the right side of his face to her. He still looked at her out the corner of his eye.
As Syndra placed her hand on the boy's face, she heard the gasps of her parents, and then Xerath's voice. "About the questions we have come to ask. We were sent to find out where the Noxian troops are stationed and if they have employed the use of deadly magic or concoctions. If it is chemical or magical warfare, then we are prepared to offer aid and resources." He said, drawing part of their attention.
The two adults had their attention half to the child and half to Xerath. "Of course, if needed, I am able to do something about any Noxian outposts if an exchange is needed for your information." He said. He then lifted his hand, a small bolt of lightning appearing, and held it in place.
Both of them turned their attention fully to him. The husband was the one to speak. "I can tell what I've heard..." He began. Neither knew what to expect from these two, but neither wanted to risk harm to themselves, their village, or their son.
Syndra carefully wove some magic into the boy's injured face, mending the wound as best she could. Though it was not her preferred use of her powers, Ganzo had been insistent of her learning more supportive magic. "Would you mind telling me your name?" She asked.
The boy thought for a moment, and then spoke. "Timothy, but call me Tim. You?" He asked.
"My, aren't you a brave you." She said with a smile. Tim shrugged. "I am Elain. It is very nice to meet you Timmy." She said. He was about to say something, but paused when she merely smiled away his coming comment and continued. "Could you tell me about your sister? She must be a good sister for you to get into a fight over." She said.
Tim turned away before she finished, a sad look coming to his eyes. The bruise had shrunk considerably, but it was still a noticeable wound. "I've never met her." He muttered. He looked to her, and, seeing that she was interested, continued. "She's been with an old mage for years, since before I was born. I've heard she is a powerful sorceress though." He said, a little bit of joy coming back into his eyes.
Syndra nodded. "Have you not been able to visit her?" She asked.
He shook his head. "No. Mom and Dad say the old mage doesn't want visitors; that he only trains a single student at a time and any outside interference will only distract his students. I can't even send her letters." He said sadly.
She stood and patted his head, ruffled his hair, and smiled down at him. "I'm sure your sister is a fine student and blossoming into a fine sorceress. One day, I am sure you will meet your sister. Actually, did you know you have a spark of magic?" She asked.
Tim took a step back, surprised. "Wh- what? I'm a mage?" He asked.
"Sorcerer, actually, mages are different." She said, looking to the side in pretend thought. She did, however, look back at him out the corner of her. His eyes twinkled with wonder. "Yes. If you were a mage, someone would have noticed by now, but sorcerers are not nearly as common, so more difficult to find. You should come into your own magic within the year, as old as you are." She added.
If he had been pretending to be interested, he was no longer. What she saw now was genuine interest. "Really? What kind of magic will I be able to do? Do you know?" He asked, nearly jumping up and down.
A hand on his shoulder prevented such a thing. "Settled down. I said you will, not you are. I am sure you'll find a good teacher some day and become a great sorcerer, and then no one will say you cannot see your sister." She said with an honest smile.
He smiled proudly at that, showing a large, white toothed grin. He was certainly pleased to hear that. "Thanks." He said.
Syndra put her hand back over his wounded cheek. "Now, hold still so I can finish." She said. This time, he smiled as he stood still, letting her work. When she finished, she removed her hand and took a step back to get the whole picture of him. "You're a very handsome young man Tim. I know you'll grow into a great sorcerer and meet your sister one day." She said.
When Tim closed his eyes to smile his biggest grin, Syndra placed her hand over his eyes and took a deep breath. She caught him as he fell to the ground, and then carried him over to her mother. She met the woman's startled eyes with a calm yet sad smile. "He's only asleep, don't worry." She said. She then turned to Xerath. "I am ready to leave, Teacher."
Nodding, he rose. "Are you sure?" He asked. When she nodded, he started to the door. "I'll be waiting outside when you are ready." He added, floating toward the door and moving out of the house.
Syndra rose when he left and began to follow. Halfway there, she paused and turned back to her family. She first looked at her little brother, and then to her parents. "Be honest with him, and do not betray to him... as you did with me." She said, turning around to head for the door. "Good bye... Mother, Father, and Timmy." She added, closing the door behind herself.
Outside, she turned and smiled at Xerath. "We should be going. Zed and his warriors should be allowed to retire." She said.
Xerath, knowing there was no longer a need for his robe, ignited it with a small burst of magic, the ashes sprinkling around in a circle below him. "About time to be rid of that damn thing. I was beginning to forget how to move my prison." He said, the stone parts of his body moving back into place. It was a strange sight for the onlookers, but he cared little for the opinions of people he'd not see again.
Before he could begin to move away, Syndra grabbed him by his arm. He turned to see her, tears filling her eyes. "Thank you. For making me come here and put my past to rest." She said.
The two of them stood there for several moments, and then he moved his other arm over her shoulders, taking her into a comforting embrace as she lost it. He just stood there, letting her silently weep on his shoulder, her tears evaporating in a puff of mist when they hit his magical body.
After about three minutes, she sniffed, her tears halting. She wiped away her tears with the aid of her robe's sleeves. "Let's go." She said, starting on the way ahead of him.
"We'll have to deal with the Kinkou on our way to your fortress." He said.
"I know." She responded, removing her robe and beginning to fold it. She wore her usual Ionian outfit, only the head piece was missing and her skirt was a few inches smaller. She placed folded bundle inside a washing tub as they left the little village.
"It'll probably escalate into a large fight." He informed.
"I know." She repeated.
"You'll have to help me fight them should we be unable to get past them." He inquired.
"I know." She repeated. Her tone had not changed.
He was silent as he followed her, making her curious as to his silence. A glance revealed his head was turned at a 180 degree angle, watching the trees above them. "What are you staring at?" She asked.
Xerath did not say anything, his gaze still on the trees. She let him slide, at least for now, but if he did not answer in a few minutes, she would ask again.
Finally, unable to stand it any longer, she stopped, causing him to bump into her. He didn't even turn around. "What are you staring at?" She asked again.
Finally, he did speak, but did not turn around to face her. "Those ninjas have been shadowing us for some time now." He answered.
She looked where he was, curious, but could not see anything. "How many are there? And how long have you known they were there? More so, why did you not say anything?" She asked, slightly annoyed.
His hand came up, pointing. There was movement in the trees where he pointed. "There were three, but now there are two. I believe they've been following us since an hour before we game to that battle ground." He said. He cupped his hands over his mouth, making it seem that he was trying to amplify his voice, but such an act would do nothing as he could adjust it any time. "Hey! Ninjas! What happened to the third one!? The short one!?" He called out.
Syndra narrowed her eyes, trying to see what it was he could. Suddenly, there was movement in the lower vegetation. The trees also moved, two shadows moving in between the branches and away from them.
"I think we should be going. I've got a bad feeling about this." She said.
Before she could begin moving, Xerath's head darted to the side, his arm immediately pointing toward the jungle. Without warning, he unleashed a bolt of lightning that tore through two trees and a bush. The lightning did not ignite a fire, but it did cause the two trees he had to fall over. "Your bad feeling was too late." He said.
As though on cue, a ball of magic was thrown directly at the two of them. Xerath caught it, but cried out in pain as his half his arm was blown off, the stone falling to the ground. "Nice catch… abomination." Came a voice from the brush. Both Syndra and Xerath turned to the speaker as he emerged from the brush, pushing the branches of bushes and saplings away.
Xerath let out an agitated breath when he saw who it was. "Must we do this now? I am sure we can take care of this another day. Say tomorrow?" He offered.
The mage shook his head. "No, we cannot. This time, you've gone too far." He said.
The magus looked at his broken arm, then the stones on the ground. In a matter of moments, strings of lightning shot out of his arm, connecting to the stones on the ground, and then tightened before his arm was made whole again. As he flexed his rebuilt arm, he spoke. "Ryze, I know we do not always see eye-to-eye, often times we see can't even agree on colors, but, just this once, can we just agree on this one thing?" He requested.
Ryze shook his head again. "No, we cannot. Both the Kinkou and I know you and Syndra are working with the Order of the Shadow. I will not sit ideally by while you do as you please, not in this." He said. He brought up both his hands, setting them away from his chest, conjuring a spell of runes as the ones in his body began to glow. "Now, it's time you be put in your place." He added.
Xerath looked at the rogue mage with uncaring eyes. "You cannot kill me, Ryze, and you know this. I had to get Syndra here so she could speak to her parents and put her past aside to continue as my student." He said.
The rogue mage's eyes did not lose their fire. "You could have asked the Kinkou for their aid." He said; his spell nearing completion.
"No, I could not, not with the way they view her. If anything, they would have captured her and bound her powers, and even then would not have let her see her parents." He began. In an instant, he locked himself to the ground, tapping into the vast energies of the world only he could reach. Magic began to shoot off his body like he was a raging storm, forcing Syndra to take several steps away. "As a mage, I will not allow such a thing. If you were a mage, a true mage, you would see this as the only way to ensure she speak with her family. Your title in the League suits you, for you are a rogue mage!" He declared.
The two were silent, both with their own spells ready. And then, as thought to signal the battle, a leave fell between them, instantly being incinerated by the withheld magic.
As one, they both roared as they unleashed their own spells. Xerath threw his arms back, and then forward, a bolt of white and blue lightning cooking the air. His spell met Ryze's spiral of runes, a jumble of symbols and unknown words colliding with raw power. As their spells clashed, arcane magic trying to overcome primal magic, they were locked in a chaotic stalemate.
As the two mages fought for the upper hand, Syndra's attention was drawn to a shuriken that just grazed her neck. Had she not felt the slight tingle of magic within it, it would have slit her throat. Quickly, she summoned her orbs, putting them between her vitals and the trees.
Another shuriken hit her leg forcing her to the ground. She blocked a third aimed at her face with her arm, letting out a cry of pain as its blade hit bone, but it was enough to know where to aim.
She threw two of her five orbs in the direction the shuriken had come from, hitting something as it tried to evade. The form fell to the ground and quickly rose, zigzagging through the trees as it threw yet more shrunken at her. She managed to block most of them with her remaining orbs, but not all of them.
Syndra dropped to the ground on her knees, attempting to pull out the electrified shrunken, while at the same time watching for any more to be thrown her way. A sound caught her attention and she placed a tether on one of her orbs. Watching carefully, she threw it in front of the dashing figure.
Kennen, having had no way of seeing her prepare to go on the offensive from behind the trees, stumbled from the shocking wave of the orb hitting the ground. He managed to get his footing, but not quick enough as the same orb was drug across the ground right after him.
Sandwiched between a tree and the shadow orb, he took out a shuriken and tossed it at the tether line. The electrified weapon caused the orb to lose some of its force, allowing him to get away from it before the connection was strengthened once more.
The Kinkou drew two shrunken in each hand as he turned to Syndra, who had two orbs tethered to a hand each with three others circling her. She was bleeding from two wounds in her left arm, one in her right, one in her right knee, and a fifth in her left ankle. She could not stand, so she floated in place with magic. The two locked eyes.
"Returning was your final mistake. Surrender now and you will be allowed to live." Kennen warned, sparks trailing off his weapons.
Syndra's eyes turned hard. "What life is there if I am forever chained down? I will not be a slave to what I am because of what others fear I can do!" She announced, fire burning within her eyes and tone.
Kennen's eyes narrowed, the only part of his face visible. "Then you leave me with no choice. The balance must be preserved. I am sorry." He said.
With that, Syndra brought her brought her right arm back, preparing to attack. If she and Xerath were to get out of this land alive and unbound, she would need to defeat the Heart of the Tempest.
Now, not just because she did not want to be restrained, not just because she finally had a teacher who believed in her and would not restrain her, not just because she had confronted her parents and settled her past with them, but because now, more than ever, she knew she had a future to fight for. Ever since she had learned the truth under Ganzo, that she had been lied to and her powers bound because others feared she would become too strong to control by herself or others, she wanted to live.
If that meant she had to take a life, she would.
Only this time… it would not be through rage, but intentional to protect herself.
Not only has Ryze, who I've gotten some people asking about, entered the fray, but even Kennen. Why the short one? Because neither Akali and Shen are not super fast according to their lore. Anyway, hope everyone enjoyed and be ready for the next action-packed chapter.
Here it is, after so long of not being able to finish and being unable to, I am finally finished! Enjoy.
Chapter Eight: A Future of Change
Sparks of magic and artificial lightning brought the forest into rapid life as two battles waged within. Every so often, the battles were moved, though not very far. If the battles were to stray, others could either be harmed or more could join the fights. For two of the four, the latter would mean almost certain death.
On one side, Xerath and Ryze battled it out, matching spell against spell as they unleashed their power. Xerath, rooted to the ground so he could tap into the magic of the land, could not move from his spot other than to turn around and bend. His spells, however, were for offense and defense, throwing out bolts of lightning and deflecting spells that were not his own. Ryze, on the other hand, kept on the move, dodging and casting spells. As aggressive as his fighting style was, the rogue mage focused more on overcharged spells to disrupt his opponent.
Ryze could not kill Xerath, but disrupting him meant he could not fight for a time. If that happened…
Syndra and Kennen fought their own battle. As the yordle ran around, jumping from tree to tree, he was always throwing out his shrunken, aiming for his enemy's vitals and nerves. While fatal force was authorized, it would be better to take her in alive. Given that option, it was proving to be more difficult.
Syndra, armed with her orbs and what magic she had learned from Xerath, used her powers to block the shrunken and attack with tethered orbs. After the first time, her foe was far more careful. If she could just land another hit, then it would all be over and she could help her teacher. Thankfully, they were in fairly opened territory, allowing for movement and sight.
"Might I ask why, exactly, you have decided to align yourself with the Kinkou?" Xerath yelled his question, a break in the battle arising to allow him to speak while he looked for his enemy.
Ryze's voice came from his left, but an attack assaulted him from the right. As he was hammered from the fluxing rune spells, several of which caused his form to shutter and nearly collapsed his form, he was only just able to make out the rogue's words. "Because I am tired of you doing as you see fit like you are better than everyone else! You've even taken on a student as unpredictable as yourself!" He stated. Another spell came at him, but Xerath blocked it with his bare hand. "Why have you even chosen such a student? Are you trying to free yourself by sacrificing her, or do you intend to make her an abomination such as you?" He demanded, his spells turning red to match his rage.
Defending himself, the magus tried to think of a way to go about attacking. It would be better if they were in the open, where he could unleash pulsating waves of magic without fear of starting a forest fire. The rogue's accusations, however, had struck a nerve.
Xerath ceased his defense, allowing the few stray spells remaining to hit him. They did little stagger him, but that did not mean they were ineffective. Each spell that hit broke his form little by little. When it all stopped, the magus faced the rogue, his form disrupted and bits of magic sparkling off. His body had holes in it, from where the magic had been assaulted, but he retained his basic form. "Do you really think that, Ryze? Do you honestly think I am such a terrible being?" He asked, the sorrow in his static voice clear.
"I do, and more." Ryze said. He came into view then, facing the weakened magus face-to-face. "I believe you to be an abomination of a mage who would destroy all in his way for his own, personal perspective of 'good'." He said with a tone full of malice.
Xerath stared mage before him, as though trying to see something within the blue skinned creature before him. Finally, he dropped his head, looking to the ground, and shook his head. "You disappoint me Ryze. All this time, after showing you respect all this time, I am done." His head came up. His eyes, once a bright light, began to shine with a blaze unlike anything else. "You have earned you title of Rogue Mage in more ways than one. You are no longer a mage in my eyes, but a beast of magic. All I am doing is helping a fellow practitioner of magic along her chosen path of magic!" Whips of white hot, magic lightning lashed where he stood to bury themselves into the ground, furthering to lock him down. "You say I am an abomination of a mage! I say you are a failure as a mage and an assassin of those who seek to empower themselves!"
The magus, his eyes narrowing, cast a look at the Rogue Mage that made him step back. "You have come here with the intention for suppressing me and killing my student, even insulting me. May the gods in the next life have mercy on you… you will find none with me."
Before Ryze could move, a chain of magic spouted from the ground, wrapping around his leg and keeping him in place. When he looked back up at his foe, he immediately ducked, barely avoiding a bolt of magic-laced lightning aimed at his head. When the sound of danger left, he looked up find Xerath standing over him.
The magus reached down and lifted the rogue above the ground, the chain snapping when he did. Static from Xerath's still weakened body gathered in his hand in only a second and was unleashed in an instant. The rogue's body twitched and squirted as he was electrified, and then thrown away after just the brief contact. He grunted loudly as he collided with a tree. The earlier shock had numbed him to the pain, but it was the force alone that caused him to grunt.
"Since I first met you, I've thought of you as an equal, another mage who shared a least some portion of similarity with me. NO MORE! I will no longer hold myself back whenever you initiate one of these childish battles! Should I kill you, so be it! Should I cripple you, so be it! I've chosen my path as a mage, as have you! As mages, masters of my own abilities, arcane or primal or otherwise, we have an obligation to those struggling down their own paths! To forsake such an obligation, and then to threaten an initiate under the wing of a master, one cannot hold their head up high and call themself a mage!
"Ryze!" Xerath called out, his tone ringing with anger not at his foe's choice of alliance and allies, but at his choice of interference to Syndra's training. "I made an oath to myself and to my student, Syndra, that I would teach her to understand, enhance, and, though these, control her powers. I demand to hear your reasoning to suppress her or kill her!" He roared.
Ryze struggled to his feet, but was unable to due to the effects of the surge of magic his body had been subjected to. Instead, he was only able to raise himself up onto his knees. "You cannot be allowed to ascend her. Power such as hers would quickly destroy her mind, leaving only an immortal embodiment of magic to crush all those she sees as an enemy." He swept his hand out to indicate the surroundings before bringing back to the ground to help support his body. "All Ionia would be destroyed, and then how knows what else. That is why I agreed to help stop the threat now!" He said, some of the fire back in his voice.
That fire was quickly smothered as Xerath loomed over him, a being of pure arcane energy whose stone body prevented him from tapping into his true strengths. Rather than answer, he turned to look at Syndra as she fought Kennen before looking back at Ryze. "Why do you think she is still human?" He asked.
The blue-skinned rogue glared at him as he answered. "Because you cannot perform the ritual needed to ascend her." It sounded more like a guess than a sure answer.
The magus shook his head. "I can perform the ritual at any time, at any location, and on any mage. I know what is required, and Syndra would, in her current state and experience, survive. However, as you said, her mind would be destroyed by her own powers and she would become near to a god among us." He spoke, and then turned to watch his student and the yordle battle on. "I am no abomination, but I am close enough to one to know what to do should be done to prevent creating one." He let out a sigh, watching the other two fight. "I will not teach her the ritual; I've made that clear to her and the League and Institution. All I wish to do is teach her." He said.
Ryze, still panting and in pain, turned his head to watch as well. "And your choice of going about it?" He asked.
Xerath held out his hand, offering to help Ryze up. He accepted the hand after several seconds of hesitation, but Xerath did not let go right away. "The Kinkou would never agree to let her reenter Ionia without first binding her powers and having a guard watch her. The Order of the Shadow, however, would do no such thing. Speaking of which, what have they been doing?" He asked, curious. He had spoken with Zed and asked only that his group distract the Kinkou so he and Syndra could slip in unnoticed. How that happened, he left up the ninja, but asked that the violence be kept to a minimum.
The rogue let out an angry breath before answering. "They have been attacking the Kinkou. I was there, speaking with the elders of personal matters when the attack began. After they were beaten back an hour ago, Kennen managed to capture one of them. When he said you and Syndra were here, and that she was a threat, I offered to help." He explained.
So that was why Ryze was here, but surely Kennen is not the only Kinkou trying to subdue Syndra. "I only planned to sneak into her village with her, have her confront her parents, and see what she would do from there." The magus explained, leaving out a large portion of it. Finally, he released the rogue's hand.
Ryze crossed his arms over his chest and leaned his back to the tree. "Why would you want her to do something like that? More importantly, why would it matter if or not she confronted her parents? It seems that you brought up a touchy subject, to me." He said.
Knowingly, Xerath nodded. "Yes, but it was hard for both of us." Out the corner of his eye, he saw the rogue's head turned to him. He turned to face the rogue. "We are both powerful, yet derive our powers from different sources. Only two things we had in common: We both desired power and hated to have others limit what we can do and become, and we both have pasts we cannot escape." He said.
Ryze raised an eyebrow. "Had? What do you mean?" He asked.
That was the question Xerath had expected from a fellow mage. He held up his left arm, showing him the stone that bound him. "I am not perfect. Centuries from now, I will still be imperfect. Why? Because I am haunted by the pasts of my past." He said. His eyes took on a distant look, seeing things only he could see. "As I drifted, amazed at what I had done and the power literally at my fingertips, I began to wonder if it was worth it. I've seen the disasters caused by my ritual, saw the looks of horror in the eyes of those who had survived or lost loved ones to me, and seen what I had wrought to the land. In my agony of despair, I was attacked by my colleagues and bound to a prison of stone. It was during this captivity that I began to reflect on my actions. Truth be told, I could have been out of that damn thing in a matter of decades, but I could never bring myself to do it.
"Decades soon turned to centuries, and I was unaware. With every spell, I remembered the looks on the faces of those whose lives I had ruined, all the while never knowing they were long dead. I spent my whole life studying the arcane arts to one day look into the core of the universe and find the secrets of all magic, all to help my fellow mages. In so doing, I had become an abomination." He said, his voice trailing off.
There was a long silence, Ryze watching the magus before him in a whole light. Not only had he been going easy on him, despite the names and accusations, but he had also looked down on him with pity. Finally, he spoke. "What made you finally decide to break the lock and be free?" He asked.
The magus ascendant, his body that of pure arcane magic confined in stone, his true power locked away with only a fraction of it slipping out, shrugged his shoulders. "I came to realize that living in self-pity was betrayal of myself and my reasons for causing so much harm. I could not simply crawl under a rock and die, I was trapped in a stone tomb for weeks, I had thought. And so, I finally decided to break the seal." He turned to Ryze, the front of his head making what one could call a smile. "I now search for a way to get out of this prison to fulfill those dreams and teach other magi, as well as keep them from over committing to their cause like I once did." He said.
Ryze, for the first time the two had spoken together, smiled. "Good luck with that, but I still believe you to be an abomination; just not the kind I originally thought." He admitted.
Xerath rolled his shoulders, finally fixing his body. He looked back to Syndra and Kennen.
Despite the recently revived emotions running through her, Syndra was having no trouble keeping her thoughts focused on what needed to be done. Despite her eyes not being able to keep up with the zigzagging yordle, she maintained control over her powers and used them to great success. Despite knowledge that her very life hung in the balance of whether or not she could defeat this quick footed foe, she was having fun.
Even if she could not follow his movements, she was able to learn his strategy of evasion and attack. While she kept changes her style, alternating between aggressive attacking, counterattacking, and lashing out in what appeared to be anger, she kept the yordle from becoming able to take a clean shot. She had no formal training for Kennen to guess at, no clear technique other than her use of her orbs, and no need to really move out of the opening. If anything, she was at her most comfortable with her enemy knowing where she was.
The most unnerving thing about fighting her was that she did not try to reason with Kennen, nor did he try to speak to her. She had made her decision and nothing short of death would change her mind. If he did not win soon, or at least distract her long enough for his fellow ninja of the Kinkou to arrive, he would lose and be at her mercy. His legs hurt from running and jumping, and his arms ached from having thrown so many shrunken. It was only a matter of time.
A quick glance to the side and he saw that Xerath and Ryze were both watching. WATCHING! Wasn't Ryze supposed to disrupt, or whatever it was, Xerath and then help him capture Syndra? Now the two of them were merely watching the fight like it was a League match, even talking to one another like they were friends!
Kennen ran behind a tree to catch his breath, as well as to calm himself. Maybe Ryze had lost and Xerath threatened to kill him unless he stayed out of his way? That was the only possible answer. That meant he was without his backup until more of the Kinkou arrived. Silently, he cursed himself for being so fast. If he was slower, then he could have arrived with a team of other ninja and this would be over. Instead, he took off immediately with Ryze, telling the others to catch up.
Before he could completely stop his panting, the wood behind him was torn apart by the force of Syndra's orb. As he ran forward along the branch, he turned his head to see that portion of tree, as well as the above portion, fall to the ground. Looking down, he saw Syndra glaring up at him before she sent up her orbs to block his escape. She was being aggressive again, something he did not want to have to deal with now.
Kennen suddenly found himself falling to the ground; the branch he had been on was broken off from the tree by her attack. He paused, crouched, and then lunged to the ground. Quickly turning around, he began throwing shrunken as he retreated. While he was not aiming, he was acting on instinct and keeping her from advancing toward him.
Suddenly, she stopped moving. He paused, a shrunken in each hand as he watched her carefully. All he could hear was the hammering of his heart in his ears. His muscles were tense, ridged, and almost painful as he watched her.
Then, she smiled… and the world went black.
Syndra smiled impishly at the yordle through a sheet of swirling darkness. He could see her lips moving, but could not hear any of her words. He wondered if she had killed him and this was what death was like, but it did not hurt at all.
She turned her head, he turning his, and saw Xerath and Ryze approaching. They were speaking to each other.
"Is he alright?" Ryze asked, staring at Kennen inside the dark orb. He dared not touch it; the sorceress's magic an unknown element to him. If he tried to free the yordle that could very well endanger his life.
Syndra, the smile never leaving her features, hummed to herself in thought for a moment. "He should be alright, unless I leave him in there for too long. I'm surprised he fit in there actually." She admitted.
Kennen was trapped inside one of Syndra's orbs. He was unharmed, but the only fresh air came from the tether connected to her hand. By the way she moved it, she could toss him about if she desired. Thankfully, she did not, which saved the poor Heart of the Tempest from panicking.
"Do what you will with him, but be aware that we must be leaving soon." Xerath informed her as he walked past. "And Ryze, I meant what I said earlier: The next time you decide to attack me, I will not kill you, but I will do everything short of that. If I cripple or paralyze you for life, so be it." He added.
The rogue mage did not appear concerned, but he did turn to Syndra. "Keep in mind that killing a League Champion can have serious complications. Think this through." He warned, and then turned to leave.
Syndra stood and watched, making sure he was leaving. She turned to see Xerath leaving as well. In a few seconds, she and the trapped Kennen were left alone. She turned to the yordle, her smile turning into a wicked grin that made the little ninja back away as far as he could from her, which was not very much. "Why don't we have a little fun?" She said, drawing the orb closer to her.
Days later, Syndra stood where she had a week before. As before, most of the Ionia champions were present to give their votes whether or not to allow her to be a champion. While the sorceress stood tall and proud, awaiting the beginning of her judgment, the two of the three Kinkou ninjas who were not present at Ionia stared at their comrade with concern.
"Kennen, what happened to you?" Akali questioned, turning his head to look at the wound. "I heard the Order of the Shadow attacked our Order, but I did not think any of our brothers and sisters were harmed." She said.
The reports had come to her and Shen just this morning. Both of them were surprised when they read them, and then asked for Kennen for the first hand details when they found him. For some reason, the Institution of War had requested they stay for diplomatic reasons with the Kinkou.
(Please note, while Shen did expression emotional concern, he did ask the questions one would associate with surprise. Speech, body language, eyes, and even internal reactions were not expressed, but he was still surprised in his own way.)
Kennen showed little emotion, only a little more than Shen was showing, as Akali examined his face. When she released him to get the first aid kit, he spoke. "I dropped my guard." Was all he said.
While he was not badly injured, Kennen did have a black eye from where Syndra had hit him. He was surprised with the force she could muster and exert. A warning, she had called it, and then gave him his shiner. Even if it was three days ago, it still hurt and had not improved at all.
He winced as Akali applied the medical alcohol, put a patch over his eye, and finally relaxed when she finished. "Thank you." He said. It was clear that he did not want to go into detail about the battle or his injury.
Shen tapped his shoulder, gaining his attention. "Did you find out why they attacked us?" He asked. This was the man who had killed his father and childhood rival. As little emotion as he showed, it was evident the topic of Zed brought out some emotions, though not enough to be easily noticed except for those who knew him or those watching him.
Kennen shook his head. "I do not know the full details. We managed to capture one of them, and he said they were only testing us." He said. It was true, but he did not say it was a distraction. Silently, he was thankful Syndra had only given him a black eye. She could have crushed him within that orb of hers, but she instead lowered it, grabbed him by his throat, and punched him to the ground once. After that, she had left him to regain his senses.
He had been trying to kill her, most shrunken were aimed at main arteries and vitals. Yet all she had done was smacking him to the ground, shout some kind of threat, and then ran off to rejoin her teacher.
Still, that was not what mattered most, as the judgment was about to begin, and so the three of them returned to their stations to listen to Syndra's least speech. Xerath, Soraka, Karma, Zed, Varus, Yi, and the three Kinkou were present. Irelia, her brother, and Ahri were also present, but they were only there to break a tie, should there somehow be one. One thing was sure, the vote would not be same as last time.
Finally finished. While I can understand that this may not be what everyone hoped it would be, complications arose that were beyond my control. A storm, power outages, the road being blocked off by debris and city workers, playing catch up with school, and then the waiting for all the cables to be fixed. Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys and there is one last chapter to be written.
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