Even if I spent all my life practicing with a sword, I doubt I'd be able to beat Riven.
But Irelia had 4, and she didn't have the same weaknesses of having to hold them.
I cringed with every exchange.
"Turn back, she's cutting you to pieces!"
"I'm fine." Curt, short, and obviously irked I would even suggest running.
Irelia expertly weaved through the minions, striking Riven and matching her blade to blade.
Riven refused to retreat. She stood her ground and took the blunt of the damage.
As soon as Irelia's limits on her hilten style were crossed over, she would retreat gracefully; an infuriated Riven would try and catch up, fail, and go sulking back to her position. The exchanges wasn't completely lopsided. But just enough to slowly and inevitably put the advantage to Irealia’s favor.
Although her movements weren't commanded by a summoner, I saw the tell-tell signs of practice.
The timing on when to attack, and when to fall back.
Early in the practice match, Riven had the advantage, but slowly, Irelia was adapting her tactics to match her opponent.
Riven on the other hand, hyper aggressive. Sensing weakness, she would lunge venomly for a quick and fast kill. She had yet to kill the cautious Ionian.
Irelia was treating this like a league match, and not a fight.
Riven was treating this like a fight, and her antiquated mentality would get her killed.
In a war, butchering the enemy fast allowed you more breathing room to deal with the next opponents. Fights were decided within seconds, who swung faster, who actually hit first, and most of all - who could take a blow and keep going. Soldiers fighting soldiers.
There was little fineness. It was luck, and the luckless, tempered only by gear and some skill.
One on one fights rarely happened, and if they did, they wouldn’t say 1 on 1 for long. Hence the haste needed.
Riven knew no one else would jump her on her fight. But I don’t think she fully realized how to make the best use of that. I spat out my advice, as fast as I could, trying to fill in the gaps in her mind.
"Why are you trying to fight her? Focus on the minions, clear them up, and then see what you can do about her after. Commit to a fight only when you know the enemy either can’t run, or is also going all-in – and that you’re likely to win it. Run back to your minions the moment you don’t think that’s not possible. Riven?! Answer back!"
She backed off, sword still at the ready. Ignoring the minions, keeping a sharp eye on her opponent.
I could sense Riven was trying to adapt as well. Basing half her experience on what she knew, and the other on the theoretics I told her. She was listening after all. Somewhat.
The will of the blades was competent, and knew just when to strike.
She ended minion after minion, while Riven stood her ground, waiting. Preparing a plan.
“Clear out her minions as well, else she’ll overwhelm you in a moment.”
The broken blade edged reclusively forward, but before it could reach the range of any of Irelia’s minon, 4 blades struck out furiously and forced her out of the territory. Irelia would not allow a single of her minions to fall. Completely out of her element, Riven grudgingly returned to her ready position.
After most of Riven’s minions had been decimated, Irelia went in for the kill.
In a quick dash, all 4 swords struck at Riven in 4 different spots, the soldier could only block 2. The other 2 lodged deep in her shoulder and leg. I felt her pain. Her last wave of minions were crushed, and the enemy minions began harassing Riven’s weakened form. She was buckling from the onslaught of both the champion and the numerous grunts.
But Riven didn’t flinch. This was her moment, the one advantage she could get. She struck true with the hilt of her sword in a quick and practiced jab, giving her enough time to sweep down with the blade on Irelia’s stunned form. Blood gushed out, but Riven was already executing the next strike. She might not know league fights to the letter, or the minion game, but the fight had been initiated. And now, it was no different from the battlefields she knew. This was her turf.
Her shoulder and legs were inevitabilities. Pre-determined, and planned for. Riven would take the damage, in exchange for the crushing blow she could deliver after her defense and getting rid of 2 of Irelia’s 4 blades, keeping them lodged in her body. Gauging Irelia’s strength in her blades Riven banked her hope that Irealia’s command was too weak to retrieve them once they suck in this deep.
Perfect. Knowing no one else would interrupt the fight, taking bodily damage in exchange for a win was useable strategy, and the only advantage Riven would get. She could tough it out, worst things had happened before. Normally, against most opponents, that combo would have worked. But Irelia was no normal opponent.
Riven’s gut strike was blocked. Against all odds, Irelia had managed to both snap back into the fight and descend both her remaining blades just fast enough to prevent the fatal damage. The strike knocked the wind out of her however, and she retreated backwards, which was the first mistake the captain did.
With more room, Riven used every advantage she could get, swinging her sword fully for all the damage it could do. Irealia could only move backwards to avoid the strikes, giving Riven even more ground to fight in. Blocking a gut strike from a halfswing could be done. Now, Riven’s attack were unblockable with the extra room for momentum. Irelia could only dodge, or retreat.
But the will of the blades had one more ace up her sleeve. Using her power, she drew out the 2 lodged blades in the Noxian soldier, halting Riven painfully in her tracks. Riven had overestimated Irelia’s command, and the captain did not waste her chance.
An equilibrium strike threw the solider on her knees, and the Ionian’s blades fanned out in her signature hilten style, all 4 fully restored. Her movements and strikes were obvious to me. This duel’s fate had already been decided, Riven’s early gambit had failed. She was setback for the rest of this fight.
"You won't win this!" I barked
"I know." Riven coldly countered me.
"Retreat, use your abilities to back out of this!"
"No." She uttered back with such finality it caught a silent break from me.
And she stayed her ground. The fool stayed her ground.
Knowing full well she would lose, she stayed her ground to die.
I was outraged.
Irelia struck, and struck again, blow after blow. The two combatants remained locked in fury, if I had been anything else but a summoner, I’d have probably thought this was a cool match.
But as a summoner, I saw much more than just swords being struck and parried.
It was a once sided curb stomp battle. Eventually, Riven would make one mistake, and Irelia and her minions would pounce on it. Irealia could afford to make mistakes, several in fact, without any real repercussions.
That moment came soon.
Riven buckled for a half second from a minion’s lucky shot at her leg, kicked it off, and stood back up. That's all it took for Irelia to execute the soldier. A momentary laps in attention, and her own broken sword came just a millisecond too late to stop the onslaught.
I sighed, watching Riven, 4 blades skewered in her stomach and chest.
She wasn't surprised, in effect, there was a deep calm from her eyes. As if this very situation was meant to happen, destined to happen.
The blades exploded out, and she crumpled on the ground, lifeless.
"That ends this practice session Irelia, thank you for your help."
I said with a hint of ire, stopping the flow of power to the minions, and letting the stadium guide Riven back to the living.
Irelia nodded, turned, and left.
I'm not sure whether the Ionian was pleased at having destroyed the butcher, and finally put that question to rest, or just neutral. More importantly, I wasn't sure the full effect it would have on Riven. So stupid of me.
I had requisitioned Jax to be the first sparring partner for her first unofficial league practice match, but Irelia shot out of nowhere and volunteered herself. The others at that table agreed it would be an even match.
I saw nothing wrong with that at the time.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Something terrible had gone down.
We ate in silence.
When she first opened her eyes, she seemed stunned she was alive again.
"You really don't fear death, and you've proven it Riven. Like a true fool, I might add. And now, I've got to teach you how to beat death, instead of embracing it."
A rather stunned Riven just nodded back at me. I reached a hand out, and lifted her back on her feet.
"Let's get something to eat and mull this over. There's a lot we need to change."
Not a word, the defeated soldier just silently stalked behind me.
She seemed in trance, unable to understand what was happening.
"You died Riven. That's what it feels like," I said in a patronizing voice.
My patience was getting close to null.
No answer back. Surprise, surprise.
We sat down in the cafeteria. It was, thankfully, empty. Too late in the night.
I summoned out the éclairs I had bought a while ago. I got them before the practice, expecting anything to be pretty positive and this as a good reward.
But right now, I felt at a loss of where to go with this troubled champion.
She didn't eat with the same augusto as the first time she tried them.
Back then, the wonderful treat managed to completely captivate her attention for a good minute while she scarfed it all down like a pig. That composed facade tasted demised by the sugary goodness of a well baked éclair, and she was a kid again. It was a good memory to me at least. I had laughed until she stood up and grabbed my shirt to shut me up.
Now, she simply ate slowly, as if it was a chore. I could imagine the treat was tasteless in her mouth.
"Why didn't you run?"
I had to ask at some point. I'll get it over with now.
"Because she was stronger." She said, mouth half-filled.
I did not expect that as an answer. How does it even make any sense?
Riven stopped talking, finished chewing, and spoke again.
"She deserved to win. She was stronger, I couldn't beat her. I was weaker then she is."
Oh. She’s about as bat**** insane as Uldyr was. Goddam the organizer.
"If they had told me you were also suicidal, I might not have taken you on either."
Riven shrugged. It's obvious her senses were coming back to her. She was speaking in her typical language again. You wouldn't understand. She exposed to me. You have no idea what it means.
Partly my fault. I hadn’t done all the research. I knew she put a lot of faith on what strength means, at least enough to want Noxus to change for it. I didn’t realize just how absolute her rule was.
I had enough. This was going nowhere. My career was in jeopardy because of her antics. There’s a certain stigma that summoners get if they fail matches, and it’s only made a hundred times worse if they fail at debuting a champion. I wasn’t going to be an Edrad Marris, last I heard, he was now a minion summoner.
I stomped my hands on the table, standing up, and screamed at her.
"Listen you arrogant Noxian, if she was stronger, then she'd win. I get that. But you didn't fight her with 100% of what you had. You could have beaten her, as far as I'm concerned, whoever wins the fight, WINS THE FIGHT. Where strength goes, Riven. You. Not her, YOU could have won - All it would take, is some clever positioning and some good tactics, not stupidly rush in and hope she'll fight you when you've got the advantage."
Riven flashed me an angry stare, got to her feet and rebuked me with as much ferocity as I could.
"The strong survive, and the weak have no place in this world! That’s the Noxian spirit! She was a better swordswoman then I was, she had better technique, I fought her with the best plan I could come up with and she was the victor. I gave what you call 100%, and it didn’t cut it. Truly, I shouldn't be alive right now, not now, and not then!"
"Well tough luck! You're still breathing, and you've got a spot in this world AS A CHAMPION NO LESS. OWN UP TO IT.
Whatever happened on that hill, happened! You should have died, they should have won. That's how the story goes.
They didn't, and you're still alive.
That's how the story ends! Go on, insult their final efforts by trying to die stupidly again and again!”
Riven's face turned pale, she took a step back, and her hand hovered on her hilt. Fury and anger almost disappeared the moment I brought the Ionian war. Jackpot.
Survivor's guilt. For the Ionians of all people. That’s what I’d have to deal with to make this champion viable in the league. Well, now I knew what the real problem was. How do I solve it?
Sometimes, this job can be so difficult.
I leapt on the table, pressing my advantage, and roared down on her, a lion about to pounce on a mouse.
"This isn't war, it isn't survival of the strongest. It's survival of the cleverest. IF I SAY YOU CAN WIN, I ****ING MEAN IT. And if you win, that means you're the strongest. Point, end. I don't care if you have to run circles around them, EVERY SINGLE TACTIC IS NESSARY TO WIN. Dirty or not, And if you can't win giving it 100%, Then, and only then, do they deserve the win!”
I was furious, and letting it all out. And then I forgot who I was talking to.
She wasn't a mouse, and I definitely wasn’t a lion. Neither was I her superior officer, or a boot camp trainer. I hadn’t felt physical pain since the time I dropped the “Codex on Lay-remission matrices” – which believe me, is heavy. I guess I deserved what came next for overstepping.
A swift gut punch knocked the wind out of me, followed by an elbow jab to my legs knocked me down from the table. I felt my bone crack and splinter in my affected limb. My hand instinctively struck forward, almost hitting her temple if she hadn’t dodged it perfectly. I registered brief surprise from Riven, unbelieving I had the reflex to almost hit back. I was surprised myself actually.
Before I could fall off completely, she grabbed my shirt and outstretched punch and threw me back a few feet from said table with a whirl of her stance. I hit the stone ground hard. My head was spinning from impact. I groaned, for a moment forgetting where I was.
Then it rushed back to me, cracking my eyes open, I saw the outline of Riven stalking out of the cafeteria. No!
I uttered through my broken ribcage, a whisper. It hurt, so much. But I knew I had to say something, now. Or else the moment will forever be gone.
I couldn't even hear it myself. But Riven’s black hazy outline paused. For half a moment, and then walking out.
I saw black and void darting across the cafeteria until everything was black.
My vision flickered, and for a brief moment, I swear I saw a faint tell-tell sign of red hair, and green eyes.
My last sight.
Did I just fail?
My last thought.
I woke up. Ouch.
Something was prodding my side.
Ouch, ouch ow.
Oh not good. Not good at all.
I curled to the side and moaned.
"Ahh, don't be such a *****. It was only three hits, by a girl too."
Jax. Only he had such a tell-tell voice. That *******.
I liked jax. When he came into the league, he already knew everything would change, and he trained for it. His summoner and him were the best team I've ever seen, straight from their debute, and so many months after. No one could belive a soldier of fortune could defeat the epic heros from the league. Even the heads of the league had to change the rules specifically for him.
And he's a great friend as well. When he wants to be at least.
"She can lift a 20 pound sword with one hand. And use it for hours."
"I'd say it's probably 50 pounds, full at least. Wish I could use that."
"So my point's even better."
"What are you talking about? You still got your ass handed to you."
I sighed, and turned over.
Ow. Mistake. Big mistake.
Jax seemed to feel my problem and laughed.
"I'll get a healer to patch that up."
Before he left, I croaked out his name
"Jax. What happened?"
I could almost hear glee in his voice when he talked.
"I was going for a midnight snack, and then I heard some yelling. I walked in, you were standing on a table, yelling at the new kid. She didn't look very happy, and was about to slice you in half. Instead, she gut punched you, nailed one disgustingly beautiful elbow on your leg, and sent you packing. Then walked off. Very dramatic too. You two make a perfect couple."
"You're an ass."
"Ah ah ah! Ass what?"
"Grandmaster at asses."
"Better. I like my titles."
"Jax, how do I deal with her?"
"You're asking me? You know what I'd do."
"Something like that."
I woke up at 5. Barely a few hours of sleep, especially after the fiasco of mending a broken leg-bone.
But, I at least, plan on giving this everything I had.
It was my job after all. Troubled champions or not.
If she didn’t show up, I could claim to having tried everything in my power.
I wasn’t going down for this at least. Stubborn girl.
At 6, I was at the training grounds. Only the most devoted of all were practicing.
The blue twilight of dawn giving the only light around the camp, and steadily increasing.
Waiting was never tough for me, but today was difficult – I was fighting off fatigue and falling asleep sitting down by the same target dummy I had met her a day ago.
Back then, I had no idea what I was getting into.
But now, I knew just what the stakes were.
I heard footsteps behind me. Well, the game has changed.
Maybe I can do something after all.
I cracked my head from side to side.
Time to start over.
Riven dashed forward, her shield vibrating heavily. She struck the target dummy, then yelped out a battle cry, energy ripping the dummy apart. Her blade greedily went for another swing, and propelled by her motion, carried out three perfect dashes away the next second. The target dummy chased her halfway with haste, but could not catch up, and turned back around, sulking in defeat.
She crossed a well treaded dirt line, then instantly prepared for another round.
"Good. Minions can do much more damage against a champion then even I can do by igniting them early in the fight. If they attack you back, you want every single minion you have to attack them. Every advantage you can get. The line won't be clear-cut like this, so you'll have to guesstimate just where the point is."
Riven grunted, and jumped back a few feet, making a good clearing between her and the dirt line I drew.
"Again. Open with Harass 4 this time."
Riven struck out the dirt line, keeping a steady hand on her blade. She reached the enemy minion line, and stayed there, representing her striking the minions. In the real match, she’d have to do this all at the same time, but for now, I wanted to drill her the individual parts. We had practiced everything else, this I felt, was her weakest point.
I moved the target dummy forward, trying to chase her off the invisible minions.
The straw man floated cautiously to Riven, circled like a panther, then bull rushed in.
She lunged forward, struck the target, and attacked again, snarling at the effort.
I didn't back down the target dummy, not like last time. In a real fight, no matter how wounded, the target would not back down – not here. Not here where it thought it could kill.
"JUNGLER!" I roared halfway through her attacks.
She didn't pause, she turned on her heels, sword ready to block the imaginary target dummy's final attack, while sprinting back to her minion line.
She lunged, she dashed and she ran to the drawn circle line I had on the far side of the lane.
"Good job, 3.4 seconds when you reached turret protection, and another .7 seconds to make it beyond turret. We need to make that time a bit faster in case a champion like jax is the jungler. His leap would have caught you with that speed. Boots first might fix that problem, but let’s improve as much as we can without having to resort to items."
Riven returned to the imaginary minion line, lifted her sword and got ready.
We had been practicing for 7 hours straight. I saw the sweat on her brow, and the refusal to give in burning her eyes out. I contemplated calling it a day.
"Let's go, summoner." She barked, annoyed with my pause.
"We've been at it for long enough. To keep going won't give us better results. Let’s take a break, eat, and go over theory."
She wasn't thrilled with the idea, but even Riven gets hungry. And it wasn’t wasted time either. Theory and more knowledge were important, and plenty of it had nothing to do with how she would battle, but how she would be positioned in the grand scheme. That’s not something you can drill.
"We won't have to go to the cafeteria, I made lunch myself this time. We'll eat here, and save some more time."
"A good plan." Riven grinned and sat down at her minion line. She really was exhausted.
I wonder if I pushed her too hard today.
We started munching on sandwiches that I made.
I'll be boastful when I say, my sandwiches are a thing of legend around here.
In the good way that is, to be clear. Just don’t ask Jax. He would be delighted to explain everything that could possibly be wrong with them.
The only time I saw Riven smile, was after perfecting a complex maneuver, or eating.
One of these days, when things settle down, I should introduce her to some of my friends and have a lighthearted day off. I doubt she'd appreciate it, but I think it would do her some good.
"So, here's the plan for tomorrow: Take it off. I want you to eat and get fat. Rest a lot, and feed that body of yours what it needs to fix your muscle damage from the work we did. I want you mentally and physically prepared for the day after."
It had been almost a week since we started the serious training. Ever since that morning. I was pretty proud of how far she came. The day after would be her first league match yet.
She smirked at my comment.
"I should be careful with that, Don't want to end up as fat as you are."
"Nonsense, this flabby gut makes me adorable to the ladies. Ever hug a teddy bear?"
I patted my non-existent gut. In truth, I was a twig. Most summoners are, we tend to not eat much. Too busy studying something, reading something, or working on a spell. We were a strange bunch by normal definitions.
"I've never had a stuffed animal, I think it's a strange hobby children have. For some, getting separated from their toy hurts as much as losing their friend. It's understandable when someone can use your friend or lover as a weak point, but an inanimate object is just asking for trouble.”
"Strange hobby? Ha! Even adults like to sleep with stuffed animals, it's their guilty pleasure. Think of it this way, if your sword was lost, would you be as upset as if you had lost your best friend? That's what they feel like."
Riven chewed on her sandwich thoughtfully.
"I suppose so. It makes more sense when you put it that way, but I don’t sleep with my sword, and I wouldn’t be broken with it gone."
"I'll have to introduce you to Sarah, my lady friend. Or actually Lux. She can probably tell you all about the touchy-feely sentimental things. I don't think my gender is cut out for that, hah"
Riven just raised one eyebrow at me,
"You actually know a girl? Are you sure she’s not imaginary? That's rather... surprising."
I bit and finished my sandwich.
"You’re worse than Jax, you know?" I said in between mouthfuls.
"Sounds like Jax would be someone I'd get along with. I haven’t talked to any of the other champions since I arrived, only Swain and Talon approached me, but I turned them down. Too busy practicing. "
I laughed, Jax would indeed.
"I’m not surprised you turned Swain down, he hates Darkwill and everything that man respresented. You on the other hand, earned your place with him. Talon… probably an envoy from Katrina. Good job staying away, Politics would not be your strong suit. “
She nodded solemnly at that. It took another special breed of people to jump and flourish in politics.
“As for Jax, He's a bit of a kleptomaniac though, I warn ya. Leave your sword out, and he'll pluck it. Any weapon you leave lying around, it's going to find a way into Jax's hands. He stole Garen’s sword earlier this week, just for the giggles. Lux had to coax it out of him. It didn’t end well for her, poor thing."
He was the second champion I mastered, and really the reason I moved up ranks.
That and Xin, both taught me just what it meant to be a summoner. The hard way at that too.
“What happened to Miss Crownguard?”
“Well, you might think it’s childlike, but she got stuck with the bad end of a dare to get her brother’s sword back.”
“Long story short, she got her bother’s sword back, but she can’t talk around us… the normal way.”
“I don’t see the point.”
“It’s fun in a way. We like to pretend we infuriate one another, but it’s just a way to relax.”
“By having her not talk? I fail to see the humor in that.”
“It’s tough to explain, our humor is different – she’s allowed to talk, just not the normal way around us in particular, at least up until the end of the week, and I'm just repeating myself… Ahhh, actually let me just explain everything in a nutshell:
I sit at this table every now and then, that’s universally known as the Misfit’s table. Any champions that don’t really fit in with the others, or summoners that are not shut-ins visit and we hang out. It’s our little refuge of friends, where we don’t have to be serious about everything. There’s usually drinking involved.”
She just sat and listened in. I have no idea what was going through her head, but I doubt it was anything I’d want to know. Wanting to stop embarrassing myself, I decided to switch the topic.
"Pop quiz, champion."
"What's in that bush?"
I had been hammering her this entire week for one specific lesson. How to be paranoid.
"Good, and in that tiny bush right there?"
"Fiddlesticks, about to cast crowstorm."
"And behind that wall there?"
"The entire enemy team, ready to flash in for my head."
"And slightly to the side of that lane there?"
"Teemo's mushroom, or Shaco's boxes. Probably both."
"Good job, paranoia pays off in the league."
I laughed because it was fun. She actually cracked a smile, I had no idea if it was genuine.
“But seriously, as much as it sounds like a joke, these steryotypes exist for a reason. Keep that in mind when at all possible.”
Riven nodded, “I know summoner.”
"Get some good rest Champion. I mean it. This won't be like any war you've been in, think of it more like a sport."
Riven nodded again, she must be in high spirits after all our work. I’d almost imagine she must be excited for the fight.
Or dreading it.
She didn't say anything, but I already knew one thing she meant.
I'll be fine.
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