Battle of Placidium
Finally, the Noxian forces retreated. The Ionians continued to pursue them, and Irelia made her way back to the assassin and Soraka. The two of them watched Irelia advance. Almost every inch of her body was soaked in blood, from her gore covered boots to her long, once dark, hair. The assassin looked around, trying to find a countryman that remained, someone who could possibly aid her.
All that was left alive on this field was the assassin, Irelia, and Soraka.
Soraka moved to stop the advancing young woman. She spoke in a calm voice. "Irelia, you have won the day. Let us return to the Placidium and have you washed and prepared for the assured celebration."
Irelia looked at the crimson haired assassin still on the ground. "No. There is one Noxian left to take care of."
"Irelia, that is unnec-"
"What? What is it? This is war. She is a casualty."
Soraka drew back. Irelia's eyes were burning with such hatred that it visibly shook Soraka. Irelia stepped towards the assassin, Soraka stood her ground. Irelia did not say a word, she shoved the Starchild off her feet and onto the ground. Her father's sword suspended itself in front of Soraka, stopping her from trying to interfere with what was going to happen next.
Irelia knelt down and grabbed the hilt of the blade still embedded in the Noxian's shoulder. With one fluid pull she tore it out, a crimson trail following the entire length of the blade. The Noxian grunted in pain, she clutched her shoulder in agony. Irelia grabbed the wounded shoulder and pulled the Noxian to her feet. Shoving her backwards, Irelia started a new assault with a punch to the Noxian's abdomen. The sound of ribs cracking echoed in the air. Irelia kicked the Noxian's kneecap, feeling it dislocate under her boot.
Irelia fired fist after fist at the Noxian's face and abdomen. The Noxian tried fighting back, but the blood loss from before was too much, and the clumsy swing she made resulted in having her forearm snapped. The Noxian woman staggered back, trying not to black out. Irelia grabbed her opponent’s head who had blood freely flowing from her lips and swollen eye. Irelia's face and tone were expressionless. "Have you had enough?"
"Is that what your dad used to ask you after special hour every night?" the Noxian said before spitting on Irelia's face.
The bloodied spit on Irelia's cheek barely mattered in color. Irelia touched the spit, looked at the Noxian, and promptly broke her jaw. The Noxian fell backwards onto the ground, Irelia reached down for one of the many knives strapped to the Noxian. Her fingers danced from one blade to the next, as though she were searching for a particular dagger. Eventually her fingers brushed across a knife that screamed for the death of the Starchild. Perfect. Irelia unsheathed it and tested its weight in her hand. She then looked at the Noxian, the same toneless voice and blank expression. "Why did you want to kill Soraka?"
The Noxian smiled as best as she could, "'CuzI was toldto. Thisiswar."
Irelia nodded, her thin lips parting into a smile. "That's right. It's just war. No one is hurt in war, no one is at fault in a war. Just soldiers, just peons, killing because someone told them to."
Irelia mounted the Noxian, who was chuckling at the Ionian girl all the while. "Y'gunna killme anytime soon or areyou tryin'to kissme?" Her jaw really inhibited her ability to speak, though it spoke volumes of her pain tolerance for her to be able to speak at all.
"The moment you ask for it, I will kill you."
Before the Noxian could react, Irelia made a long, vertical incision from the left side of the Noxian's forehead and down past her cheekbone, taking special care to miss the eye. The knife just trailed over the eye, a millimeter or two lower and it would slice the iris. She wanted the Noxian to see all of this. The Noxian snorted and grunted in pain. "Isthatall? ****you."
Irelia made the same incision again; she could feel the knife scrape bone. The Noxian gasped in a mixture of shock and pain.
Irelia cocked her head at the Noxian in confusion. "Did that hurt?"
Soraka was standing up now. She tried to move forward to no avail, the sword had now split apart and pointed at her threateningly. No matter where she moved to, the blades stopped her. Any plea the Starchild made fell on deaf ears.
Irelia sliced into the Noxian's face again, same wound, same length. She could feel the bone grind away under the edge of the blade. "You deserve this, you gods damned Noxian. Do you know what you people took from me?"
Another incision, deeper this time. The bone flaked into the wound. The Noxian squirmed in sheer, unrelenting agony, "You come here and you take my brother. You destroyed my village. You killed my friends. You killed my neighbors. You killed almost everyone I know." Irelia made another brutal incision, her tone unchanging. "And you were going to kill Soraka. And for what? For war? Because you were told to, right?"
The Noxian woman's body writhed in agony. She gritted her teeth, tears forming at the corner of her eyes despite her best efforts to withstand the pain. "Yes."
A small smile crept on Irelia's face, "That's all the reason you had to try and take everything away from me. We did not provoke an attack. You people got this idea that we would be an easy victory, show us your big weapons and we would let you walk over us. When that failed, you torch our homes, burn our families, torture our friends, enslave survivors! And for what reason? Because we said no to your rule? If I died, you would have killed Soraka. Ionia would have fallen, you would have killed the Elders, and you would have killed Karma. All because we said no to you. Is that right? The lives of those already fallen weren't enough, you had to try and kill more. You people wanted me dead because I wanted to fight back, right?"
Irelia deepened the incision. She lifted the fleshy edges of the wound, exposing the bloodied skull underneath it. She let the flesh fall back into place. She tapped the side of the Noxian's face with the flat of the blade. "Am I right?"
The Noxian struggled, tears forming. Irelia violently slashed at the wound, making the Noxian scream.
"Tears aren't going to solve anything. Yes, or no?"
Irelia patted the Noxian's head, her tone not denoting her condescending words. "Now, that wasn't so hard, was it? I know how much that must have hurt." Her voice quivered in pitch, becoming low and threatening., "I have only one last thing to ask of you."
The Noxian was breathing in and out heavily, looking at Irelia, waiting for her request.
"Scream for me."
The Noxian tilted her head at Irelia, shocked. Did an Ionian really just say that?
"Katarina Du Couteau, the Sinister Blade. The reports do not lie. You said that statement to my countrymen before you killed them. Those you caught, you made sure their death was slow. They say you looked them in their eyes before you killed them, to see the last bit of fear in their life."
Irelia grabbed Katarina's neck, dragging her face towards her own, holding the bloodied Noxian a breath's away. Katarina stared at the cold, hate filled eyes of a young Ionian girl. "I will make you scream."
Irelia released Katarina's neck and went to work on the wound once more. Soraka tried calling out to Irelia, but the blades held her back from intervening once more. Her pleas fell on deaf ears, and she was forced to watch the scene unfold.
Irelia remained quiet as she deepened each cut ever slightly more, Katarina was screaming in complete agony by the tenth incision. By the fifteenth incision the Noxian girl asked for enough. Irelia stopped, looking at Katarina with a confused expression. "Did you stop for my countrymen?"
Katarina was breathing heavily she was barely holding on to consciousness. Irelia's voice was oddly the only anchor the Noxian had to the waking world.
"If you can name one countryman that you spared of mine when they asked for mercy, I will release you."
Katarina was panting too heavily to respond, her body convulsing and trying to escape Irelia to no avail. Irelia's lips parted into a smile once more as she hacked another incision into Katarina's face. Bone shards puffed out of the wound. "I thought so."
Seventeenth. Eighteenth. The nineteenth incision made Katarina scream out, "Youwin! Killme! Killme!"
Irelia cocked her head in confusion. "What? Did you say cut me? Cut me?" Irelia flipped the knife and let the tip drag deep into the incision.
Katarina half screamed, half sobbed, "KILL ME!"
Irelia burst out in a fit of disturbing, giggling laughter. "Oh! Kill you!" She leaned in close to Katarina, "Not yet. I'm not done yet."
"Doit! Youwin!" she cried.
Irelia looked at Katarina, tracing the knife along her body. "That is only one hundredth of the pain you Noxians made me feel. I'm not done yet." Irelia tapped the side of her own face thoughtfully; she rested the knife at Katarina's breast. Using one finger, she rotated the knife ever so slightly, not hard enough to penetrate the leather armor but hard enough to let Katarina feel the pressure of the tip. As Irelia tapped her cheek, she felt a new moisture precipitate on her face.
She moved her hand into view. The moisture made the blood run off her fingers ever so slightly. A tear? No, it was spit from the Noxian. Had to be spit, she had no tears left in her. That is all, just this Noxian's insolent spit. Irelia wiped her face, the droplet smudging the blood on her face. She would not shed tears. Why was she questioning herself? She was doing what was right. This Noxian deserved this, and if she couldn't have the Butcher then this Noxian would supplement for her. They all deserved this. They all did this. This made sense, this was reasonable, she was not wrong. Right, Zelos? She reached to her neck to gain some confidence, but felt nothing there.
Irelia shot off of Katarina like a bullet. She fell down to the earth and started to wildly scratch at it. Katarina didn't care to ask why Irelia released her. She took the opportunity and reached down with her good arm, snapped her knee cap back into place and promptly disappeared. Irelia's blades pulled away from Soraka, letting her finally approach the young Ionian.
Soraka had tears running down her face, she moved to try and reach for Irelia but stayed back for her own safety. Her blades were furiously stabbing the earth, tearing soil out in large, frustrated clumps. Irelia was in near hysterics, her breath hiccupping. "Zelos! Zelos? Where are you Zelos?"Irelia's fingernails scratched at the earth so hard that they started to tear off. Irelia crawled in the dirt, still pitifully calling out for her missing brother. "Zelos? Zelos!"
Soraka watched the pathetic display as Irelia crawled through the battlefield and the gore, screaming her brother's name. She finally stopped when something cut her finger. Irelia looked down and saw little wood fragments stuck in the earth, a leather string mashed underneath a boot print. Irelia dug at the earth and retrieved every piece of the wooden charm, from the smallest splinter to the largest chunk. She rocked her body with it, "Zelos…don't leave me again…You promised you wouldn't leave me…You promised… Zelos…I won…you can come back now…Don't be angry, please don't…Don't leave me again…Just come back…"
Irelia looked away, not meeting Zelos’ eyes. “Some people think that I died that day when the Noxian necromancer tried to tear my soul out. That I ceased being Irelia, and became a puppet to the will of my blades.” She shook her head, still maintaining eye contact with Zelos. “Only a part of me died that day, the day the Will of the Blades was born.”
He was not sure how this pertained to his question, and waited for her to continue. His left eyebrow twitched three times.
“When I fell, I heard a voice. It...it sounded like you. Whatever Soraka did, it sounded like you. Father was there...Mother was there, wherever I was. They were there, and they were smiling at me. Maybe it was the afterlife, but it didn’t matter. I was at peace, Zelos. I was content. But, I wasn’t done, not yet. Father wanted me to go back, and he said if I did, he would show me the true form of the Hiten style. I...I didn’t, at first. I thought maybe, maybe it was alright to rest. My countrymen needed me, I could hear their screams. I decided I would try, and so, I did, and nearly failed.” Irelia’s shoulders quaked. Her eyes actually brimmed with tears, ones she brushed away with the back of her hand, quickly drying her eyes. “Then I heard your voice. You were there, or so I thought. I open my eyes, and I see Soraka, and some shadow falling down on her. You weren’t there. You weren’t there...”
“I don’t know when it broke. I had it on me on moment, the next moment it was gone. After the battle, I went back for the assassin that attacked Soraka. I beat her nearly to death, pinned her to the ground, and I scarred her face. I carved the same wound twenty times over in the same place. When I moved on to another section of her, I could feel...feel tears, forming at my face. It...it wasn’t me, it wasn’t who i wanted to be. But she deserved it, yes? She deserved what I was doing to her. I needed to reassure myself, to make sure that you would approve of it, of what I was doing. I reach up, and you’re missing. You’re not there.”
Irelia held her hands up, and showed at the ends of her fingernails, lightly discolored scar tissue could be seen. It meshed so well with the rest of her skin tone, that it was barely noticeable. “I lost your charm. I scrounged in the dirt for it, looking for it, I was screaming the entire time, ‘Zelos! Zelos!’ as though you could hear me. My life’s goal was not to hurt you, nor forget you, Zelos. I did not break your charm on purpose. That was an accident, and one I can never take back no matter how hard I tried to fix it.” The Ionian woman wrung her hands, seemingly ashamed of the confession she was about to make. “I...I just wanted my brother back. I wanted him to be there. I wanted to show him that...that I didn’t fail him. I kept my promise. What I wanted...all my life, what I wanted, was for my brother to be proud of me. To walk beside him, and have him see me as his equal.”
Zelos nodded and extended his right arm out. His left hand was free of holding the weapon, and he gave her a quick pity clap via slapping his right forearm. His left eye twitched three times. “Irelia, you could be a serial killer and I’d be proud of you. I’d help you bury the bodies. However, what I’m not proud of, is the fact that you’re lying to me.”
Before she could reply, he clarified himself. “You didn’t see the afterlife or whatever.” Zelos pointed at her floating sword. “Odayakana Chō told you, didn’t it? A Hiten user was needed once more. That’s how you figured out half the **** about the Hiten art, that sword told you. It told you and you were able to unlock its potential, even at that age. Truly amazing.”
Zelos pulled his arm back and started to spin the Manamune in hand. “So! It spoke to you, right? Come on, don’t act like I’m crazy, no point in hiding it now!”
“Don’t....don’t be silly, Zelos. Swords can’t talk,” she blatantly lied.
“Yeah, knives can’t either. So what has the sword told you, Irelia? Hm?”
The young woman looked at her sword, then back at Zelos. “Does it matter?”
“Yeah...it does.” Zelos’ voice and entire demeanor softened. “I’m sorry, Irelia, for doing that to you. For disbelieving you. That is one thing I wish to apologize for, among many others. I’m sorry for leaving you, I’m sorry for that time I struck you, I’m sorry I ate your cookie that dad had reserved for you, I’m sorry I didn’t realize all of this sooner. I’m sorry you suffered this long, but I can end it. I can make you happy. I can finally make you happy.”
‘Attack already, go for the throat.’
“We never said that you were the successor. That choice was never made. So, what do I want? The big end result, what will fulfill my life? I want you to be happy. Therein lies our problem. How do we do settle this? You want me to be happy, you want to be happy, we’re both successors, and so I offer you a proposition!” He tapped his forehead with the flat of the blade.
‘So familiar...need new blood.’
“Make me the successor, and you can live the rest of your life in peace, as Irelia Lito, the woman who is combating an illness instead of Irelia the Will of the Blades, the Captain of the Ionian guard, the League champion and so on. You can find a nice hubby, have a kid, maybe live a bit longer than a year, and be at peace. No more fighting, cause fighting, that’s not who you are, are you? I can live with that.” Zelos flashed a grin at her. “A fairly simple deal, yes? You’re happy, living a longer life, I’m happy that you’re happy, and we all win.”
“That’s not what I want, Zelos,” she said without hesitation. “I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to be sick like me, I don’t want you to become bar-”
“Hey, here’s some news for you, Irie, you can’t tell me what to do,” he snapped back. “You want me to be happy? You’re giving up! You’re throwing in the towel! You’re saying this is it, I’m dying anyways, what does it matter? Have you thought of all the people you’d be hurting if you died so soon? All your guards love you, Irelia. I love you. Soraka, Karma, Master Yi? They love you. Even the frosty Akali loves you. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wukong dumped me for you, and Udyr wanted you to be his greatest student while Lee asked you to be his pupil. They all love you, Irelia, in their own way. And here you are, saying that you want me to be happy, and that’s it. You’re done. It’s over. You can relax finally. How is your death going to make me happy?”
“Death comes for everyone, Zelos, there’s no way to prevent it. So what if I lived another year?” Irelia chuckled and shook her head, her tone becoming morbid. “I’m a dead woman walking. I can’t have a family, I can’t act on my feelings, I can’t do anything for myself. I tried, oh I did. I tried, people tried for me. Udyr tried, to let me be me. Akali did, Soraka, Karma, they all did. In the end, it doesn’t matter. If I could sit by and watch, and see others trample over us, then maybe I could have lived a longer life.” The young woman threw her hands up in frustration. “Others may be content dying in their beds decades from now, but would you be willing to trade for all of those days that lead up to your death for the price of an atrocity? I will not. Karma, Soraka, Yi, my guards, my soldiers, all of them will be able to live on without me. They’re strong, I know they are, but you...You’re my brother. You need to be strong, and I need to know you’ll be alright without me. I need to know you’ll be happy. I’m so...so happy you’re home, Zelos. That’s the only reason why I can find any peace in this.”
Irelia took a step forward, which earned her a blade pointed at her throat. “You have the same cracks as I do. You’re...you’re so like me, Zelos. Put the sword down, there’s no point to this. You...you can avoid my fate. You can be more. You can be h-”
“Make me successor and I assure you, I will put the sword down. If you don’t, then first to draw blood is the new successor.” Zelos’ grin disappeared once more. “You will live. No matter the cost. That’s all that matters to me.”
“Zelos...They love you too. They-”
“They can all go head first burning into a ditch and die screaming,” he sharply replied. “No one, absolutely no one is above you, Irelia. You. You are all that I have left, and all that I have. All of Ionia could have been slaughtered but if you lived, I would have been just as happy. You are not going to die in a year, Irelia. Do you hear me?”
Irelia stepped back. That look in his eyes...that tone...what was this? Who was this person before her?
“What’s wrong, Irelia?” Zelos slapped the blade down on his left palm. He sliced it cleanly open and wetted the crimson crusted metal with fresh blood. “Have I said something weird?”
“Last chance, Irelia, name me successor, or I will be named successor by right.”
Irelia closed her eyes, taking a breath in. When she opened them, they lost all emotion, all life. “Then make it by right.”
Zelos slammed the Manamune into the ground in front of him, making Irelia jump back in preparation of a strike.
“One thing I learned, in all my travels, what a wise Lokfaran man said to me?” Zelos twisted the blade, a surge of vile, violent chi encapsulated the blade. It burned bright with orange, then quickly changed into some strange, bluish flames that settled onto the surface of the metal. “The good that men do? Is often interred with their bones...”
The blade of the Manamune shifted, changed. It started to become thicker, more viciously curved, more elongated. Irelia grabbed her head and screamed out in pain. Pain? What was this? It was not physical.
“But the evil that men do?” Zelos stared at the transformed blade with bored eyes. It was not a surprise to him. “That, lives on.”
It was voices, all yelling, all screaming, all thirsting for blood. What was this blade? What was this? She...remembered this sensation. Many years ago, many many years ago. She felt something like this, right? How come this was so familiar? She knew this sensation. It was a single burst, a single death knell for thousands.
Irelia’s sword split apart and surged forward with vermillion energy, aimed at Zelos. Before she could react to stop them, Zelos raised his hand and the blades stopped. The faintest amount of orange energy started to emanate from the weapon towards his fingertips.
“Sh sh sh, it’s alright. It’s between me and her, swordy. Alright? No need for you to get involved.”
The blades tilted every which way, then drew back to Irelia. Zelos chuckled and pointed at her sword, “Y’see that? Dad’s blade knows that it can’t attack another would be successor. So, you’re already handicapped. I’ve got this in the bag.”
Irelia straightened her posture, the voices constantly ringing in her ears, she could barely hear her own thoughts. The whistle of wind, and a dagger was thrown to her feet. Her eyes focused on it, trying to make sense. “Since..when can you-”
“Your old training dagger, Irie! I brought that here just for you. Come on, let’s make it like old times, when we were young. The only difference is that the stakes are higher.”
Zelos paced around Irelia, humming aloud. “No secret Hiten techniques, Irelia. I’m not going to shorten your lifespan or I really screwed up.”
Irelia grabbed the dagger and pointed it at Zelos, barely able to stand. The dagger’s warm emotions ran through her fingertips. They felt familiar. She could swear she smelled sap on its edge. That did not matter at the moment. “You...You already did.” Irelia hated telling him the truth, but she had to let him know his hypocrisy. “By making me angry, by making me yell. By making me-”
Hyena laughter interrupted her. He shook his head and tapped the side of his head, yelling at her. “That’s not what’s killing you! Emotions? Are you serious?! Look at you, Irelia! Look at the facade! Tell me this is you happy! Tell me this is you content with yourself! Tell me this is what you wanted to do when you got older! You never answered me, Irelia! What were your aspirations? Is this how you viewed yourself at this age?”
Zelos swung his blade down at her unprotected back.
Irelia spun around in time and easily caught his blade with her hand. Her eyes were lit with life, focused like a hawk on him. “You want to know, Zelos? What did I want in life?” Her fingers held the steel easily. “I wanted to run alongside you, Zelos. I wanted you to look at me as your equal for once.”
His left eyebrow twitched three times. Zelos pulled the blade back and leaped away from her. “That’s it? Pft!” He burst into a fit of laughter, his left eyebrow twitching wildly. “Alright then, come on. Go ahead. Prove you’re my equal. Dagger, against the Muramana. Younger sister, older brother. I’m not going to hold back on my next strike, Irelia.” He shifted his feet, took a stance and stared at her. “Next st-”
Zelos was barely able to parry the blow Irelia made. In fact, he outright failed to do so. Irelia had struck his sword arm so hard that the blade nearly flew out of his grip. Only by leaping away did he manage to escape her vertical slash at his exposed flank. Unfortunately, it still caught his leg.
“I have won,” she stated in a flat tone. She sounded like an automaton, no life, no care. This hurt her worse than it hurt him. “I drew blood. You’re acting strange, Zelos. Please, talk to me, we don’t have to fight about this. You just...you just need to accept it, brother.” Irelia closed her eyes, her tone resuming its usual cold formality. “I am still going to die, this fight was meaningless. If you had taken me seriously, then I would not feel as insulted as I do now.”
Zelos whistled back at her, drawing his torn hakama to the side. “Better take a looksee, Irelia. I’m not bleeding.”
Her eyes snapped open. She stared at the wound she thought she made. His hakama was torn open, only to reveal makeshift armor on his legs. Made from carved wood, Irelia’s strike elicited a deep gash on the carved shin guard. “Knowing that you could probably hear the metal from armor better, I thought to myself, ‘how can I make myself less readable, less bulky but have some protection?’ Well, then the good ol’ memories of dryads made me go, ‘why not wood?”
Zelos grabbed his gi and whipped it off, making Irelia’s eyes go wide. His body was lacerated with vicious cuts, barely sealed by stitches and some odd looking gel substance. The scars from frostbite were most clearly evident on his pectorals and his abdominals, his nipples completely missing and most of his skin discolored. His forearms were both covered with wooden arm guards strapped together by cloth. Irelia’s keen eyes and memory would recognize the cloth as the same color as the one Riven wore the last time she was at...the...Placidium...
“Come on, Irelia, it’s only fair. You came armored, I protected myself, so let’s go!” Zelos took a stance yet again, staring at his sister with a sinister smile. His sword, that grotesque blade, was screaming for her blood, for the deaths of many. Man, women, children, it wanted to feast on them all. Was this who he was now?
“...This is not what I want, Zel-”
“Since when did you ever get what you ****ing wanted, Irelia?!” he screamed back at her in a half manic voice. “Since when did you get what you wanted, Huh? When?!”
“...I had a friend, that I wanted. She gave me hope...” Irelia actually shed tears. She hastily wiped them away. “But you took that away too, didn’t you?”
“You tell me, Irelia! Do you think I did? Do you really think I would do that to you?”
Silence fell on them. Irelia’s lips moved to answer him, ‘no, you would not.’
Before she could, Zelos fell upon her again, smashing his sword in a wide horizontal arc which made her leap away. “No time to think, Irie! You can just say the words, just say I’m the successor and this will be over!”
“...No.” Irelia readied herself, inhaled, exhaled, and surged towards her brother, dagger in hand. “I will not.”