Xerath raised his hands, and swept them forwards at her. Strings of static strung their way through her body, raising pins and needles all over his skin. It was an electrifying precursor to the deadly blast that would erupt right after. She dove to the side, narrowly avoiding the river of lightning and thunder by inches. Once again, Xerath’s Arcanopulse blasted another smoldering trough into the black stone floor of the Pheonix Sun’s altar room.
Xerath, with his other arm, sent Ahri’s very own orb spinning after. The irony was almost lost on her as she kept on dodging for her life. Xerath had stolen her orb from her, and twisted its shape to form instead some crueler, more vicious sort of spiked ball. Like Zilean taught her, Ahri tried to timing the inevitable impacts with her own orb by flooding her body with magical energy, mimicking an enhancer’s defenses. But the Magus Ascendant was simply too powerful, and she was no true enhancer. Her own orb battered her bloody in its traitorous onslaught.
As soon as Ahri fell back, clutching a deep wound that left her clutching her head and her face bloody, Pantheon moved in to cover her. He nimbly dodged the Magus’ flood of invocation, closing the distance between the two in but a few leaps and bounds.
Ahri’s orb shot straight for Pantheon’s head as he side-stepped yet another Mage Chains. One twitch of the Rakkor’s massive shield, and the spiked orb ricocheted off of the Rakkor’s protection, letting out a dull ringing that echoed past the crackling of lightning and thunder. Pantheon grunted with exertion as he took the force of the blow into his shield. The shock numbed his body, and nearly froze him long enough to eat a face-full of Arcanopulse.
His warrior’s instinct took over, and despite the lack of feeling in any part of his body, he crouched just soon enough to avoid death. His feathered crest was not so lucky. Half of it was burned away by the magical strike.
With an underhand throw, Pantheon managed to toss a spear straight at the Magus. The spear flew in between waves of magic, and straight at the Ascendant’s face.
It never reached him.
Before the javelin could reach Xerath, lightning coursed through the air above his skin, and burned away the missile to ash. Nothing but a handful of soot graced Xerath’s body, and soon, even that was peeled away in flakes of glass.
Ahri slumped against the wall of the altar room, trying to wipe the blood from her eyes. She bumped into Annie, who was shying away from the deadly fight before her eyes.
“Annie…” Ahri put at hand around the child. “We need your help.”
The toddler nodded, and transferred her bear to her front. She hugged Tibbers, like Ahri hugged her.
“Pantheon!” Ahri called out, standing up. She drew to herself her Spirit Dash once more. Smoke started to gather at her feet as her magical energy pooled in her body. The edges of her vision were turning white with light once more. “Now!”
Pantheon grabbed his bundle of javelins, and with a single heave, flung the entire stack. The wrapping paper unraveled, and every last one of them spread out in a storm of spearpoints racing towards Xerath. Xerath gathered a wave of magic to burn the spears away to ash once more, but something stopped him.
Tibbers stopped him.
Blowing away both the Magus, and the storm of spears, the demon bear exploded into being right in the midst of the battle. Xerath growled with annoyance as he floated himself upright again. The Magus Ascedant still was not harmed.
“We’ll change that,” muttered Ahri. “Pantheon, go!”
The Rakkor charged the recovering Xerath. He swept his shield forwards, blocking Xerath’s blind Arcanopulse. They were twenty feet apart at this point. Crouching behind his shield, Pantheon charged the Magus. A Mage Chains’ rocketed off of Pantheon’s Aegis, scalding his unprotected legs, and causing even his relic shield to heat up to the point of searing, but still he charged. He was ten feet away now.
Xerath charged up his body with magic; lightning coursed off of the chunks of sarcophagus, hardening the lumps of metal until they tempered harder than diamond. A field of electricity shot out all around Xerath, repelling everything, making even walking towards the Magus a feat. Pantheon struggled his way to five feet away.
The Rakkor swept his arm back. Gold particles started to collect in his almost-clenched hand. The light-borne shards started to form a lance.
“Spike of Lacedaemon! Lance of Zeonia!”
Pantheon’s true relic weapon hardened, dropping lightly into his hands. For a nanosecond, Pantheon savored the feel of his ancestor’s holy spear, how it’s rough wood gripped perfectly in the hands, or how the lance found perfect balance practically no matter where you held it. He imagined its light weight, yet weighty thrust once more.
He struck into Xerath.
The point entered the Magus. It cracked his body for an instant.
The Magus glanced down at the injury.
He casually swept his arms in front of him.
Then he blew everything back with a monstrous burst of energy. The contained power was like a miniature storm. Tibbers was launched back as if he weighed no more than a doll; the shadow bear slammed into a pillar, crushing the support into dust in an instant. Pantheon was pushed back from behind his shield, all the way past the twenty feet of distance that he had worked so hard to gain, and into the wall. The Rakkor was smashed against the wall, and then he fell to a knee. Annie was lying on the floor, completely still.
Only Xerath remained, alone, standing.
“And…” Xerath turned to face the center of the room “I haven’t forgotten you, Mejai.”
Ahri took the opening created by Pantheon to Spirit Dash to the dark stone chained on the altar in the center of the room. By the time Pantheon was blown back, she was a yard away from touching the stone with her out-stretched hand, smoke and thunder speeding her along from the power of her Spirit Dash. She thought she had an opening. There was no opening. The Magus Ascendant was omnipotent.
From above, an explosion of magic struck Ahri like an artillery shell. The impact blew her back from the stone. It felt like she was being simultaneously punched and burned all over her body. Only a last-minute enhancement saved her from being burned away into blackened ashes right then. Smoking, burning, and broken, Ahri tumbled from the Arcane Barrage, defeated. She rolled to a stop in a heap, on the other side of the room.
“Nothing will save you now, Mejai.” murmured Xerath. A cloud of lightning and thunder was gathering in a circle above the fox. Another Arcane Barrage was starting to form over Ahri. This one would punch through her pitiful enhancements like a rock through paper. For this one, there was no blocking. A fist of bolts and light had been born. “Nothing… will…”
She opened her eyes a crack. In the center of her narrow vision rested the dark stone. There rested the Phoenix Sun. She closed her eyes again.
“Why do you want to join the League, Ahri?”
She was sitting, crouched in the forest. Tears, for the first time in her life, had rolled unbidden down her cheeks. Her hands were planted on the bare chest of a dead young man. His hair was tossed, and messy, and his face carrying traces of boyishness, but he was beautiful. His shirt was unbuttoned down to its fifth hole, which the youth had done himself; a side effect of Ahri’s seduction spell was an extreme infatuation. Now, the youth, with his soul drained, lay perfectly still, a slight smile on his face. He never knew what killed him.
The reason she had suddenly started crying was because the young man’s sister, still a prepubescent girl, had wandered out into the forest, walking up a mountain path that was nearby where she lured the youth. Her pigtails bounced about, as she clumsily ran up the forest path, calling the youth’s name, bidding the young man to come home for dinner. Guilt, an entirely new and alien emotion for her, had struck her in the gut like a hammer. She had killed someone else’s love.
The youth blinked his eyes at her, and repeated the question in the female summoner’s voice that entirely did not fit him.
“Why do you want to join the League, Nine Tailed Fox?”
Ahri looked up, struggling to wipe away the tears that would not stop flowing. She was angry now. This… this was PRIVATE! She spat out the first answer that came to mind.
“To become human!”
“That you could have done that without us.” The youth sighed, and held his hands behind his head, laying back. “Why do you want to join the League?”
“F*ck you!” Ahri snarled, dripping tears down her cheeks. “I’m not allowed to feel sorry!? I’m not allowed to care about humans? I want to join the League because I’m horrified by THIS!” She flung her arms at the continually searching little girl, who infinitely skipping up the mountain path, and was now repeating her lines like a broken record. “I don’t want this to ever happen AGAIN!”
The youth closed his eyes.
“That’s closer, but not quite.”
Ahri sat back, thinking. Her tears were starting to dry on her face.
"I want to be who I truly am," She replied, but still the youth shook his head. He did so more softly this time.
"No," he whispered. "But you are close, so close."
"..." She looked up. "I want to be someone decent... someone good enough... someone who heaven might say deserves to be loved."