Previous Update: The League Intervenes (Ionia)
Sword of the Wind
by CupcakeTrap, Montesque64, and Agrofox
Ionia had won the tournament. The Noxian fleet, which had broken through the Ionian navy and come to the very brink of the port of Shon-Xan, was now forced to withdraw by Council mandate. There would be no supplies for the Noxian refugees who had fled the devastation of the Void invasion: nothing to fortify their scanty shelters against the winter storms, nothing to supplement their meager scrounged meals, and no weapons to fend off the raids.
Noxus would fight on, but its position became ever more precarious.
Only one Noxian ship was granted passage that day, flying a Council diplomatic flag. It bore four Noxian Champions as delegates: Darius, the Hand of Noxus; Katarina du Couteau, the high-born assassin; Cassiopeia, the Noxian-appointed governor of the settlement; and Riven, the returned exile. It would be a few days before the conflict resumed on the Fields of Justice; they had a few days to do what they could here.
The Ionians searched them as thoroughly as the Council representatives would allow. On the next platform, Miss Fortune strutted past the customs officials, warding them off with a freshly inked passport granted as a reward for her assistance in the tournament. Her crew followed behind her with sealed crates as inspectors picked through Riven’s spare sack of clothing piece by piece, holding each up to the glaring sunlight to check for contraband.
Katarina sneered; her cold eyes flicked from jugular to eye socket to throat in rapid succession, as though looks could kill. (Her sister, whose looks had in fact killed on numerous occasions, was given a wide berth.) Darius flung his pack into the official’s chest and told him to hurry it up. He silently counted the crates being carried down the adjacent walkway, considering what weapons of what sorts might be within. The Council still forbade Ionia from mobilizing its standing army to clear the settlement, but would not force Ionia to police certain individuals who had personal scores to settle against Noxus.
A crowd gathered to watch the luggage inspection. It wasn’t every day you got to see what color of underwear Darius wore. As it dragged on, a few enterprising merchants made good fast coin in the sale of tea and dumplings.
Riven fought to hold her face expressionless as she stood among the weary refugees. She had thought they might show anger for her failure in the tournament, or gratitude that she was here now. Her heart sank — she saw only fear. Noxians, cowering in fear like Demacian peasants in a famine begging before their lords. Thick hate choked her throat; she could not speak a word. She could only remember the last time she saw Noxians in fear, gasping to death in a burning chemical cloud.
Darius and Cassiopeia were speaking quietly over a spread map as Katarina sharpened her blades.
Riven had something else in mind. She ate a few mouthfuls in silence and set out alone into the Ionian wilderness. She could reach the monastery by morning.
Yasuo rested patiently beneath the tree’s pale pink flowers. They blossomed early in this valley. The tumbling waters burst into heavy mist against the mossy rocks. He watched the winds bear the soft haze along intricate curving paths in the air and considered the news.
A covert messenger had informed him that Zed had arranged a secret audience between Riven and a militant monastery of the Order of the Shadow. He readily believed what he’d been told. The monastery had long been hostile to its neighbors and hungry for power, even before Zed’s heresy. When the Noxian legions had torn through the countryside, murdering all who opposed them, this monastery had merely watched and waited for the Noxians to move on, poised to take advantage of the desolation. How bitter they must have been when the Council ended the conflict before they had their chance to “stabilize” the region under their rule! Now the Noxians were back, and they surely hoped to craft some perverse bargain. The story rang true.
He also suspected he knew why he had been told. The messenger’s masters likely did not care whether or not Yasuo was innocent, but either way predicted he might be counted upon to put an end to Riven. Her demise would preclude this dark alliance and break the back of the new Noxian invasion. Nor was it dangerous entrusting such secrets to him; nobody would listen to a disgraced exile.
The wind slanted just so. He hid along the path and gripped his sword. As Riven came forth, he drew into an arcing slash aimed for her neck. Her broken sword caught the blow and seethed green with runic power.
He wove past her counter-thrust and extended his weapon in a guarding stance.
He caught her eyes and saw the despair within.
“You’ve failed, then.”
Riven’s expression faltered, and he knew he was right. She threw her pack aside and grasped her weapon in both hands. He sensed her studying him in return.
Yasuo caught the wind on the tip of his sword and cast a gust forward. Riven parted the gale with an angled cut and lunged through into a whirling slash aimed at his unguarded right side. He pivoted back and buffeted her with a wall of wind. She rode the gust back into an open stance, landing light on her feet and spinning beneath his overhead swing to threaten his flank again. She came at him with three rapid slashes. Each came close enough that he could feel the sharp air begin to cut into his armor. He caught the tip of her blade along the back of his and felt the energy course through it as he guided it away.
This was the wind technique. Each instant confirmed the suspicions he had gathered since joining the League of Legends.
For though he had faced Riven many times on the Fields of Justice, here he felt it so much more clearly. Here there was no clash of Summoners’ magic between them to muddle his perception. Here he felt their mutual conviction that the next instant could be their last, that there was no revitalizing power that would have made this anything less than a fight for life or death.
The clash of swords brought an instant of clarity. In that instant, he finally touched the inner power behind her techniques. At once he knew it. It was the same power that had slain the Elder.
Yasuo watched Riven’s balance break as he deflected her slash. He listened to the breeze swirling around them. All he needed was … yes, there it was. He attuned his blade to the one current among many that whispered her death and let it carry him forth. The tip of his sword drove toward her heart. At last.
There was no counterstroke. The gust was too swift, Riven’s sword too distant, too much air between where it was and where it would have to be to stop the thrust. But she fixed his eyes with a defiant glare that stopped him as surely as a knife in his lungs. Her shout scattered the winds and sent ki surging up from the ground through his feet. He could not breathe. He could not move. And as her spirit coursed through him everything changed.
His instant of clarity shattered and he felt the cold agony of enlightenment.
She wielded the techniques that had killed the Elder. She held the power that had killed the Elder. But he sensed her spirit and no longer knew.
Its power broken, his thrust faltered and struck only a glancing blow on her side. The edge of his sword sheared cloth and flesh. A heartbeat later, blood welled up in her wound.
Riven threw desperate strength into an off-balance swing that crashed against his shoulder and chest. The impact knocked him back, and as he rose again he felt that it had split his armor and opened a gash beneath.
Each raised their weapons again, each well outside the other’s reach.
Riven’s stance did not falter. Rich red blood dripped, dripped, dripped as they stood.
She looked him over and found something amiss. “What is this?”
He flicked her blood from his sword. “Riven. The exile.” He spoke each word slowly. It wasn’t a reply. In truth he only wanted to hear it aloud.
She cast a soldier’s practiced glance to the side, and finding no ambush snapped her attention back to him. “First I thought you wanted a fight. Then I thought you wanted to talk. Now I think you just want to waste our time.”
He stepped back and lowered his sword as he unpacked his new realizations. “You value your cause above your life.” He paused and inclined his head, finding a new insight. “And your cause is power. Power for Noxus. Glory for Noxus. Blood for Noxus. But also … honor.”
These new revelations soon sank in a flood of memory, a sea of blood now long gone cold. His uncertainty sank with them. Whatever the truth of the Elder’s murder, a Noxian butcher stood before him.
“Here, I can only take your life. One Noxian’s death could never pay for all the lives you have taken. The past has long been lost to the winds. But I will stop this new invasion. Such evil will not come to pass once again. I will go to the Fields, and there you will see Noxus broken and Ionia protected. I will take your honor from you.”
Riven’s eyes drifted down, heavy with a strange sadness.
“Perhaps you will.” She looked back at him.
“But I will know that I at least have sought atonement. You chase shadows, Yasuo. You chase after one more death.” She shook her head. “So much death. And you think that one more will ease your guilt?”
She saw his gaze falter and fixed him with a cold stare. “I can’t change what I’ve done. I deserve my guilt. It drives me to become stronger than I was, strong enough to protect my people, to avenge the wrongs done to both our nations. But if your guilt has defeated you, then stay in the shadows where you belong. Keep thinking about whose murder might give you peace. ”
She hesitated. Her eyes lost focus. Perhaps cursing Yasuo to exile had reopened an old wound of her own. She glanced off to the side and spoke softly. “There is a place between war and murder … ”
Ah. Scarlet Shon-Xan. “ … in which our demons lurk.” Yasuo finished the line. The war-poem, as true now as when it was first written, was a telling choice. No further words were needed. Riven turned, took her pack, and left.
Yasuo stood in silence until she had vanished from sight, his mind finally made up. The wanderer had found his way again. It led him back to the League of Legends. He expected no pardon, and no restoration of the honor he had worked so proudly to maintain before a lie took it from him. But even honor’s ghost made its demands, and he would answer them: Ionia would be defended by the man it had condemned.
Yasuo, the Unforgiven, will fight for Ionia!
Ionia has won a new Champion through its victory in the tournament. Yasuo has come out of exile to defend his homeland and reclaim his honor.
Next Update: Echoes of the Past
Images are from the LoL wiki; I believe they are Riot’s.