“Your movements lack focus, young summoner.”
Finishing my flourish, I slid my blade into the scabbard at my belt, perhaps a little more forcefully than required. Smoothing my rumpled robe, I bowed to the lithe figure standing at the edge of the sparring circle.
“It is an honor to be observed by a master.” I said, straightening to meet the seven-fold gaze of Master Yi. The Seven Lenses of Insight had been a strange sight to behold when I first met the man, but the whirr of their constant adjustment was now oddly soothing.
“Yet, you decided to stop your training the moment you noticed my presence.” Yi noted, a half-smile on his lips. “Why might that be, young summoner?”
I hesitated, wondering if it would be proper to confide in the man before me. The thoughts that bothered me were simply petty sentiments. They were not worth talking about to a Champion of the League, surely?
A new voice joined the conversation. Irelia strode up to the sparring circle, her body in full armor, her massive sword slicing the air above her head, as if eager for action. The armor did not carry the full embellishments the woman used during League matches, but functionally, it was the same. Always prepared for duty, as expected of the Captain of the Guard.
“I see you have come better equipped this time, young Captain.” Yi said, a playful grin on his face as he glanced at Irelia’s outfit. “I see even you are a woman at heart.”
“What is that supposed to mean, Master Yi?” Irelia frowned. I wondered too, at the comment.
“To wear such heavy armor to a sparring match can only mean you care about bruises, no?” Yi smiled. “Do not worry, young Captain. I too, have come prepared.”
Hooking his foot under a smooth wooden branch lying by his side, Yi flipped it up into the air, catching it with a graceful, flowing motion.
“I shall use this as my weapon, instead.” Yi announced, swinging the branch through the air as if it were his greatsword. “Combined with that armor, it will certainly spare your skin. Your pride, however, may be another matter.”
“My pride will be fine, Master Yi.” Irelia shot back a grin of her own, her sword now stock-still by her side, all four blades poised for combat. “It is yours I worry about.”
“And I worry about the pride of our young summoner, here.” Yi replied, pointing at me with his makeshift weapon.
“Huh?” I blinked, not expecting the sudden shift in conversation.
“You have yet to answer my question, young summoner.” Yi reminded me. “I sense doubt within you, and doubt is the greatest enemy.”
“What is this about, summoner?” Irelia asked, her gaze on me, as well. I swallowed. Being the focus of attention of two renowned League Champions was a stressful experience, to say the least, especially ones I also respected as masters in the martial arts.
“I…I am worried about my usefulness to Ionia in our dispute for Nyroth.” I finally admitted.
“Ah, I see.” Yi nodded. “Our record in the featured matches is certainly lacking.”
“I feel I represented your ability in an unworthy manner.” I continued. Now that I had begun, I could not contain myself. “During several matches, I sensed victory was possible, but I was unable to grasp it due to my failures. If only I could understand your skills better, I am sure I could have turned the tide.”
“Yet, now you doubt your own worth.” Irelia summarized, her eyes seeming to see right through me. Then she sighed. “You are far too serious, summoner.”
“I agree with the young Captain.” Yi told me. “Mastering the true art of Wuju is difficult. Even I am but an eternal student.”
“The League places five Champions on each side for a reason. You attempt to take too much responsibility.” Irelia said. “Balance in all things. Ionia’s stake in Nyroth is not solely your own burden to bear.”
“But…I could have won.” I protested. “It definitely was possible. I just feel so…helpless when the victory I can see slips away like sand through my fingers.”
“I can sympathize. I do wish more Ionian summoners would choose me for our battles.” Irelia sighed. “It is difficult to watch our brethren defending Ionia’s interests without being able to lend my aid upon the Fields.”
“Yet, you must remember this: True will cannot be defeated.” She advised. “As long as you stand resolute, this battle will be won.”
“The focused mind can pierce through stone.” Yi added. “Cast away your doubts, young summoner.”
I felt my resolve grow stronger just at the sound of those words.
“I understand.” I bowed. “I am grateful to hear such encouraging words from such respected Champions.”
“There is no need for such formality, young summoner.” Yi smiled. “We are all here to train and polish our skills as fellow martial artists. Perhaps you would like to spar with us?”
“I could not possibly match either of you!”
“That is the point, summoner.” Irelia grinned. “You must face those who are stronger, in order to perfect your own technique.”
“I-I suppose that is true.” I stammered.
“Your skills are currently inferior, but you have potential.” Yi remarked. “Even I began much like you.”
“Then…if you will have me.” I bowed again, accepting the proposal.
“Excellent.” Yi smiled.
“Agreed.” Irelia nodded.
That night, I lay in bed, my body screaming from the beating I had received at the hands of those two fearsome opponents. Yet, my heart felt at ease. The battle was not yet lost.
There would be no more doubt.