Ten minutes earlier, Irelia had gone out to get some air. She muttered angrily aloud, "Less than an hour and he's...urgh! How does he pull off that smile and be so...that?" Her sword hummed, a little vermillion energy crackled as if to show the annoyance she was experiencing.
She stopped walking and looked behind her. Jarvan had caught up to her. "Is something amiss?"
"No...yes? I don't know?" She threw her hands up, "This does not concern you, Prince. Please leave me be."
"It does concern me when I see a friend distressed," he politely replied. He motioned down one of the hallways, "I believe there is a balcony there. May we speak there?"
"Now you want to discuss political matters? Can that not wait until we are rejoined with the Council-"
Jarvan raised a hand up, "Do forgive me, I do not mean to be rude and I am aware you will probably skewer me for interrupting you, but I wish to talk to you." He pointed towards his intended destination, "May we?"
The Ionian woman sighed and nodded, "Lead the way, Prince."
"Inside the Institute, during matches, during speeches and what other formal gatherings you can think of, you have to refer to me as prince. When it is just you and I? Please, call me Jarvan," he requested.
The two walked side by side for the short distance they had to walk. Jarvan towered over Irelia, easily over six feet in height. He would easily weigh two of her, and his muscle mass was ridiculous, but even he knew better than to doubt the strength of this lithe Ionian woman.
Once outside, Jarvan motioned to the banister. He leaned over it and stared at the dark landscape that stretched out before them.
"You discussed with Luxanna about what happened in Kalamanda."
Irelia nodded, "Yes."
"I was concerned. Many think you would act in such a manner, but you have matured since your induction to the League. That was not you acting."
"How can you say this for sure?"
Irelia shrugged her shoulders, "Because you would not endanger your people in such a reckless manner, not for your own personal prejudice against Swain. I know that much of you."
"But I do not remember what happened, it is all...hazy, that time. Yet if I tell you that I did not do it, you believe me?"
Jarvan then asked in an overly formal tone, "What do you think of Zelos?"
"He is my brother," Irelia replied. "My brother who finally came back. After all this time, he came back. I am still having a hard time believing it, and when he acts like...that, it is harder to believe."
"You value my word?"
"Yes, I do."
"He loves you, Lady Irelia," the prince firmly stated. "He was found on a glorified canoe in the middle of the Conqueror's Sea. He was near mad and barely coherent. He was screaming about birds at first, admittedly, but when one of my the crew touched him they were reportedly knocked into the ocean. The entire crew was subdued. It took an hour to bring him on board. Do you know what he was yelling the entire time?"
Irelia shook her head.
"He was yelling that he had to get home, he called them a few expletives and a few other words in foreign languages and said he would kill everyone if they stopped him from getting home. Nothing was going to stop him this time. He would not let her down, he would stop the war and he would kill everyone who got in his way," Jarvan nodded his head. "He almost killed forty men. The only reason they did not die is because they had a healer onboard, luckily. It took a lot of guesswork, and he was not particularly coherent, but eventually your name calmed him down. He loves you, Irelia, but you need to understand his position."
Jarvan pointed at the dark horizon, "He was out there, with no one. He had nothing out there. The first question that he asked me, when he regained his senses, was if I knew Irelia Lito. I said yes. He asked if you were still alive. I said yes. He burst into tears. Never, have I ever seen a man as happy as him even on their wedding day. He was alone this entire time, Irelia. You became a strong woman in all of these years, but you have had people. You have friends, comrades, associates and so forth. He? He had no one. He is a good man, he just needs some time to acclimatize back in your culture. His stories may sound glorious and his adventures amazing, but he suffered greatly."
Irelia nodded and let out a sigh, "I know, I know...I love him too. I just, I just wish he was not so...so badly affected. I really wish he just had some magical adventure bull and took so long to come back because of...I don't know, less severe reasons? Did you see his wounds? I saw his arm and some of his chest, I can only assume there are many more."
"Yes, there are."
"How bad are they?"
"Frostbite burn scars cover his chest, his stomach, and patches of his arms and his legs. The scars from bladed and piercing weapons stretch about his body, a few scars from where bone had snapped and pierced his skin, and a few bite scars from creatures that bit him. I do not think I have to mention how he managed to survive despite the severe level of dehydration he suffered from. That alone makes it a miracle that he is alive at all. He came back to Ionia, and to you. Give him time, and be patient with him. He needs you now more than ever. He may be a bit rough at first, but he will settle down soon enough."
Irelia tapped the banister, quietly reflecting on what the prince said. She replied, "I never did thank you for bringing him back."
"I think a banquet-"
"That is formal gratitude," she interrupted. She pushed away from the banister and moved towards him, "Excuse me, I'm going to be informal now."
Irelia wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged the prince of Demacia, "Thank you, Jarvan. Thank you for bringing him back. I will never be able to repay you for this."
When she pulled her head back, her bao caught onto his a button on his shirt. Irelia muttered aloud, "And this is why I don't hug people." She reached up and unlatched it from her hair. She attempted to readjust his shirt into proper order only to mess it up more.
Jarvan handed it back to her, "You should show that more often."
"That warmth," he replied. "It suits you, Lady Irelia."
Irelia smirked at him, "I can say the same to you."
"You and I know what it is like to put an image on for people. We hold our country's safety, reputation and well being over almost everything else. That is why I hold nothing but the utmost respect for you, Lady Irelia. I am glad that I can make further amends for the transgression of Demacia during the Ionian War. It is one more of the many steps to restoring Ionia to its proper grace," Jarvan bowed towards her, a strange thing to see from a Demacian.
Irelia's smirk widened into a toothy smile, "You are a good friend and ally, Jarvan. Do not forget that."
The prince smiled back at her and nodded his head, "Same to you, Lady Irelia. Your man is certainly very lucky."
"We are not...it is complicated."
"When is life not complicated?" Jarvan shrugged. He looked out to the distance one last time before stating, "We have been out here for a while. If we stay any longer, people may get suspicious of us. Come, let us make our way back to the banquet. I think I-" A loud rumble roared out from his stomach. Jarvan coughed and sheepishly explained himself, "I think I may be a bit famished. The fruit and soup were delicious but I need a bit more...meat in my meals."
"Lead the way, Jarvan."
Jarvan started to walk ahead of Irelia when he asked, "By the by, how improper would it be for me to ask for a painting?"
"I am not sure what it is you mean."
"A painting, made by you. How improper a request would it be?"
Irelia shook her head, "For you, or for Demacia?"
"For you? Not improper at all. Consider it as a favor for a friend."
Irelia's sword hummed behind her in response.
Upon re-entering the banquet hall, Irelia saw Zelos who was enjoying himself. He was laughing and talking with the other Ionians, and despite his somewhat brutish manners, he looked happy. She would talk with him. She took a few steps back towards her seat when her body shuddered. Irelia spun around and pressed a hand to her mouth. Something was wrong.
Irelia rushed out of the banquet hall. Her sword flew down to her side and prepared itself to catch her. Her stomach lurched. Her breathing shortened. She coughed but managed to swallow the contents of whatever she coughed up back. She could taste metal in her mouth.
Irelia took off running as quickly as she could when she had to stop yet again. She let out a wet cough which slapped the floor with a pool of blood. She pressed her hand to her mouth, trying to stem the blood that flowed from it. It dripped between her fingers. A hard swallow stemmed the flow, for now.
Soon enough, Irelia reached her room. She closed the door and locked it with a simple thought. She needed to be alone for now. She would recover from this quickly enough. She tried to control her breathing, inhale, exhale, inhale, ex-
A violet cough made her splatter her window with blood. She tried holding it to her mouth again and tried swallowing it, but it was to no avail this time. She started to cough even worse than before, barely able to stand as the blood soaked her dress and the pooled onto the floor around her.
Irelia took a breath in and tried to control her breathing once more. She closed her eyes and held onto a chair for support with one hand while she pressed her chest with her other hand. Irelia breathed in and out slowly. She did not notice the blood that started to flow from her nose. She was calm, but she could feel another surge of coughs well up from her diaphragm. She just needed to calm down and try to-
Then she heard someone try to kick her door down. Irelia looked over and winced, this was not good. She could not be seen like this. She moved to try and speak, but instead she started coughing more blood.
The door burst open. Zelos walked into her room, knife in hand. His eyes went wide when he saw the blood drenched woman.
Her body stopped quaking for a moment, she thought it finally subsided. Alas, before she could say anything, she vomited a violent torrent of blood and crumpled to the floor. Her sword, which usually floated and hummed about her, promptly clattered to the floor completely lifeless.
A young Zelos walked down the Placidium hallway, dressed in the training clothes of the Ionian military. He hummed loudly as he made a turn and walked into a familiar room. He knocked on the door to gain the occupant's attention and grinned, "Hey dad, you busy?"
"Zelos?" Master Lito looked up from his desk. "Should you not be training with the others?"
"Eh, I'm done for the day. They couldn't keep up with me so I was asked to take a break. Figured I could get lunch with the old man at the very least."
Master Lito sighed, "If you call me an old man again, you're going to make me feel like a true bureaucrat."
"Pft, please, I've heard you say your choice words about paperwork."
Master Lito chuckled, "So long as you don't tell your sister those words, alright?"
Zelos jerked his head towards the door, "Come on, a little break won't kill you."
"My illness may," he retorted.
"You? Die from a little cough? Please, you move so fast that you can stay dry during a thunderstorm. You can outrun the cough before you have to cough."
Master Lito shuffled over to Zelos, his movements looking painful. His sword waited for his touch. Once he touched the blade, it sprung to life and seemed to float within his hands. He used it as a glorified walking stick if anything these days. The halls were bustling with people as father and son walked in tandem.
Zelos motioned to his father, "See? You're doing better. A bit more and I'll have to start running to keep up with you again!"
"Don't forget, you have to train Irelia and I tomorrow. She's excited to show you her progress. She's really working hard, and she hasn't seen you since last time! She can't wait to see you again, she's even hoping to have some of your red bean buns-"
"Zelos, do you think she would be a good heir to the Hiten style?"
The adolescent blinked, "Dad, really? Irelia? No, don't do that to her. Don't give her that responsi-"
"Do you think she would be a good heir?"
"...Of course she would be. She's making quicker progress than I ever have. In another year, she'll be on my level. Another year after that, she'll surpass me. You and I can see that. That's how she always been though, give her something to do and she'll not only excel at it but perfect it," he answered in a serious tone. "But don't do that to her, dad. Please don't."
"She will become the next heir because she wants to, Zelos. I cannot stop her path."
Zelos snorted, "I will not let her become the heir."
"Zelos, you cannot be so selfish-"
"She will not bear the responsibility of heir alone," Zelos snapped at his father. "You trained us both, we are both the heirs."
" The lineage of the Hiten style is long and ancient, Zelos. Our history is somewhat of a tragic one due to how it was once used. Our art is considered to be the epitome of sword mastery, and because of this frightening power that even I do not understand, it can have only one successor. There cannot be two."
Zelos laughed, "Then training two was really dumb. No, she is not going to be the successor, at least she won't be the lone successor. That is final."
"What do you mean?"
Zelos thumped his chest while grinning, " I'm her 'big bo', remember? Can't let her down that easily! She's not going to be alone in this!"
Master Lito smiled, "Yes, I remember...her first words. She recognized you as her brother before she recognized me as her father. I still remember that day."
"We're both trained to be your successor. If she is to be the heir, your successor, then I am too, and I'm going to be there for her. I know my role in life."
"You do? Then tell me, Zelos, what is more important: the sword, or the scabbard."
"The scabbard, of course."
Master Lito blinked. He looked over at his son, and his smile grew wider. "...It is such a shame that you both had to be born in the same lifetime, you would have both made wondrous success-"
Master Lito stopped mid sentence. His body twitched, and he vomited a violent torrent of blood onto the floor.
Master Lito could no longer keep himself standing, and crumpled to the floor. His sword that usually seemed to float in his hands clattered downwards, completely lifeless.
Zelos knelt down and tried shaking him awake, "Dad? Dad?! "
The adolescent looked around and started yelling, "Someone! Anyone?! Help! Get help! Do something!"
Any person who was nearby and had recovered from the shock of the scene started to run and follow Zelos' suggestion.
A calloused hand reached up and grabbed Zelos' shoulder. Master Lito's breathing did not match the convulsions in his chest. Blood flowed from his nose, mouth and ears uncontrollably. He was paler than death itself, any shine in his eyes had disappeared but he struggled to live.
Zelos looked around, then back at his fallen father, "What? Tell you why what? Is that really a concern now?! Save your strength dad, help's on the way. Come on, a cough-"
It was only because Master Lito raised a hand to his mouth that he did not cover Zelos in a torrent of blood. He was not too old a man, he was in his forties yet looked fitter than most twenty year olds. He shook his head, "T-tell me why... w-why is the scabbard...m-more important th-than the sw-sword..." He took a breath in, turned to his side and vomited more blood before he pleaded once more, "Tell me why..."
“...Not again...Oh no, no no, please, not again...”
Zelos rushed over and shook Irelia's still form. Her head rolled about listlessly, blood flowed from her mouth, nose and even from her ears. "Come on Irelia, this isn't funny, come on Irelia...wake up Irelia..."
She coughed, her sword sprang back to life and she started to breathe again, albeit harshly. She struggled to get back up, "Zel...Zelos...I'm...I'm fi..."
"Don't talk, save your strength, stay awake, I'll be right back. Promise."
Zelos tapped the side of Irelia's face and rushed out of the room. He looked down both ways and bellowed, "Is anyone here?! Anyone?! Hello??"
'Soraka. Soraka can fix this. But...she couldn't help dad. Oh gods, is this a family sickness? Is what killed dad going to kill Irelia? Oh gods please no, please no. Please not her. Anyone but her.'
"Anyone at all?! Are you ****ting me here? No one in the hallways?! No one?! My scene wasn't enough to bring running out of concern or a, 'hey he's acting kinda weird let's send a guard at the least to make sure he's okay?!' Anyone at all?! You have got to be turning me upside down, left to right bending me over and just fu-!"
He suddenly heard footsteps. Master Yi hurriedly walked down the hallway, "Zelos, what is going on? Why did you leave like that, why is there blood on the-"
"What in the hells took you so long?! Get Soraka, get Karma, get the entire army here, I don't care! Get someone or some people who can help her!" Zelos pointed into Irelia's room, "She's sick! She needs medical care right now!"
Master Yi sighed and shook his head, "I thought she was feeling better...I thought she overcame it."
"You thought she was...You thought she was feeling better?!" Zelos dashed forward and grabbed Master Yi's gi. He yelled at his friend, "This happened be-fore?!"
Master Yi nodded albeit too calmly, "Yes, though it was many years ago, she reassured us that she was feeling b-"
A solid right hook struck his face. Zelos proceeded to shake Master Yi violently, "Many years ago?! Don't you think you should have told me as soon as possible?!"
Wukong finally caught up and pointed his staff at Zelos, "Oi, drop the master and walk away, man. No need to get violent. You got Miss Swordsalot there to be concerned about."
"I'll deal with you in a second, monkey boy! Yi! What the ****?! For future reference, this isn't doing a very good job looking after Irelia! Blood everywhere equals bad friggin' job!"
"Zel...Zelos...enough." Irelia let out another horrid wet cough, splashing herself with more blood. She attempted to stand, her sword weakly shaking as it struggled to hold her up.
He instantly released Yi. Zelos rushed over to her, knelt down and leaned his sister down onto his lap, "Hey hey, I said don't talk, don't waste strength, just be quiet for once and relax, alright? I'm here. You'll be fine."
"I...I am fine...Let me up. You see...? This...This is what is going...going to happen. All I want...is f-for..." Irelia struggled to get up once more, "Is for you to...to be-"
"I swear to every loving god and every friggin' star if you finish that sentence as your final words I am going to double kill you! How that works is beyond me, but I'm so angry now I think can confidently ignore the laws of nature themselves! Keep quiet and save your strength!"
Irelia smiled at him and attempted to laugh. She got out a few chuckles before she violently coughed a heap of blood onto his clothing. She winced and reached over, grabbing at the wet stain, "S-sorry...didn't..."
"At least you're laughing, that's good! I think! I'm not a doctor! Seriously, Yi, why haven't you freaking gone and grabbed...!"
Zelos looked around, and saw that Yi had disappeared. Wukong stayed behind as he looked around whistling nonchalantly. "Did he go to get Soraka?"
"So here's a question, where is Akali? I thought she was supposed to be Irie's nurse."
The monkey shrugged, "No idea, guess she had Kinkou work t'do or something."
"Zelos...don't..." Irelia struggled to get up. "It's okay...I'll get up..."
He kept her pinned to his lap, "You're not moving. You're resting and relaxing and staying here. You're not moving."
Irelia convulsed again so harshly that her limbs were rocked with spasms. Her sword flew over and rested itself under her left hand in an effort to comfort her.
Zelos reached down and started brushing her hair away from her face, "Keep with me, keep with me, Irelia. Breath with me, keep your breathing steady with me: In, out. In, out. In, out. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. Keep it up."
"I am not a child, Zelos," Irelia snapped, her voice returning to its former strength for a brief moment. She attempted to stand up to no avail, her legs buckled and she fell backwards. Zeloas had managed to catch her gently and rested her back on his lap, keeping her elevated.
Irelia groaned, "I...I look so pathetic...This is not...befitting."
Her brother shook his head, "No, no you don't look pathetic. You're fine. You look fine. You'll be alright, you hear me?"
A nod of her head made her body convulse once more. Blood dribbled out of her mouth. She was as pale as death now.
Wukong pulled himself away from the wall and waved at Zelos, "I'll let you know when the master gets back, kay?"
"No problem. This is gonna be really borin' though," Wukong sighed.
Zelos closed his eyes and laughed, "Alright, Irie? Listen to my voice, cause I'm just going to talk now, and I want you to listen to my voice, alright? I want you to respond."
Irelia did not reply, her eyes were glazed over, her breathing slowed.
"I think I fell in love with Wukong, I'm going to have chimpettes with him."
She sputtered out droplets of blood and started to laugh while a look of mortification ripped across Wukong's face.
"You are...so silly sometimes..."
"Yeah I know, but if you don't respond I'm going to have to use Wuk there as the brunt of my jokes."
Irelia attempted to smile again, "F-fine...for his sake...I'll respond..."
In a few scant minutes, Master Yi brought Soraka with him.
There she saw two blood soaked siblings, Irelia laying down on Zelos' lap while he was talking about sharing certain bananas with Wukong. Wukong, to say the least, was not amused. Irelia was barely conscious but her breathing slow and steady and she nodded her head every time he asked her to acknowledge that she can hear him.
Soraka rushed over and allowed healing magic to flow from her hands. Zelos leaned Irelia towards Soraka and assured his sister was secured by Soraka's embrace. The Starchild muttered aloud, "It is getting worse...The symptoms should not have been this severe. This is-"
"Just like our dad," Zelos finished her sentence. "When did this start, Soraka?"
"Zelos, we must act quickly. I am sorry but now is not-"
"When." His voice became cold.
She had never heard him with such a tone of voice before. It was strange, it almost reminded her of Irelia. When she looked over at him, a horrified expression came across her face. She slowly replied, "...During the Battle of the Placidium."
"What happened at the Battle that could cause this? What did she contract? Did she just start showing the symptoms? Is this a family thing?"
Soraka rubbed her face, "I...I cannot explain now."
"Because I need to look after Irelia as quickly as I can. Send for Karma the moment the banquet is over. Zelos, you need to go back and assume Irelia's responsibility and help entertain the guests."
An obvious lie. She was hiding something from him.
Zelos grabbed Soraka's shoulder, "They can all go burn and die in a ditch. You are telling me right now what's wrong. Why-"
Irelia's sword floated in front of her, wobbling as it did. She rested herself against it, breathed in and attempted to speak, "Ionians...are not bad hosts. Please...Zelos...I don't...I don't want you..." She coughed yet again, this time just spittle. "I don't want you...to see me like this...Please..."
"I saw you choking that purple chick with blood everywhere. I don't care how you look, Irelia. I-"
"That was duty...This is...this is..." Irelia swallowed hard.
He could see something in her eyes: She was not frightened. She had a look of acceptance. She looked like she accepted her condition, her fate whatever it was. Zelos drummed his fingers on his leg. He closed his eyes, he did not want to say yes. She could die like their father did in a moment's notice. But she asked him to do something, she asked him to do something for her. His eyes opened as he asked in a stern voice, "Do you promise that I will see you again?"
Irelia nodded her head.
"Will I see you again in this life?"
She nodded her head again.
"In that case, fine. Soraka? You, me and Karma, we're having a very, very long conversation about what's going on here."
Zelos pointed at Master Yi, "And you, are going to help Soraka transport Irelia to wherever she needs to go.” He quickly jerked his finger over to the monkey man, “Wukong, you are going to go inside Irelia's room and you're going to block it from the inside. No one gets in or out, got it? You'll jump out the window and meet me in my room in ten minutes. After that, Wukong, you are going to help me get a new outfit for the banquet so we do not alert the guests the severity of the situation.”
He stared Yi dead in his eyes as he spoke, “Tomorrow morning, Yi, you and I? We are going to talk. I want to know what happened while I was gone to the most minute detail. I want you to tell me how many damn blades of grass blown on the fourth day of the fifth month of the sixth year I was gone. Am I understood?"
Master Yi nodded, "Yes, Zelos."
Zelos looked over at Soraka, "How long will it be before Irelia is well again?"
"Maybe a few weeks, maybe a month? It matter how much damage was inflicted and how much rehabilitation is needed to repair said damage."
"Fine," Zelos nodded. He pointed at Wukong, "You, let's go" Before he went, he walked over to Irelia and kissed her forehead, "I'll see you again soon, Irie. Don't worry. I'll be there the moment you need me."
Zelos walked out of the room, livid beyond reason.
Soraka's head hung limp as she walked alongside Master Yi and the unconscious Irelia. They left her sword behind in her room. There was no reason for it currently.
"She is still alive, Soraka. Zelos and you intervened at the crux of the moment. She is saved. Why do you look as though you are in mourning?"
The Starchild looked at the fleeting figure of Zelos. She replied in a sorrowful tone, "Because I see the same cracks in his soul."
"The same cracks...? That makes no sense, Soraka. Was he afflicted by a necromancer as well? From what Olaf had told us, the Lokfarans do not utilize magic. Maybe it was the dry-"
"It was not the necromancer, Yi. Not even for Irelia. That man simply pushed the catalyst forward and made the condition become realized sooner."
Master Yi's face dropped. "I always thought it was the necromancer...What are you saying?"
"We promised her we would not tell anyone..." Soraka drew a breath in and attempted to calm herself. "But...there is a reason why there is only one successor to the Hiten style. That is all I can say without her permission."
Half an hour later, Zelos walked back into the banquet hall, dressed in the clothes of the Wuju style. He grinned wildly and started to make his way back to his seat. As he passed by Karma, he muttered to her three words, "See me after."
He could hear murmurs of concern, of surprise. Zelos laughed and raised his hands, "Sorry about that, people! Sorry! There's nothing to be worried about, I'm back and I'm ready to eat and drink some more! Now, who wants to hear more about the sexy Dryads?"
Zelos reached over, grabbed a bottle of wine, and grinned, "Come on, come on, no need to be so stiff! It's not like someone's dying, right?"