The Option of Peace
His hand guided by the very blade it had honed, a lone champion sat at a lone bench and stroked away the imperfections of the past. Wuju was not an art of assumptions or luck. Its martial prowess did not rely on the enemy's fear or the order of a deck of cards. Wuju meant responsibility. Wuju meant knowing and conquering the ego, and defeating the enemy within.
"To conquer one's self is to conquer all."
His hand stopped half-way along the blade. Master Yi blinked, and the memory of Karma and her words turned to darkness beside him. He resumed the motions, his hand swiping along the blade in search of anything it didn't recognize. The empty space on the bench beside him left room for his mind to wander, and in the brief moment that he loosed it, he wished for someone to ignore.
The Summoner's Rift was currently occupied, and had taken with it the attention of all Runeterra. The Champion Preparation Chambers would fill rapidly at victory or defeat. Ionia to their chamber, and Noxus to theirs. For now, the chambers remained empty, save Yi and his blade. The Master's gaze flowed from the space beside him to the darkness of the room around him. From his bench he could see the chalk pedestal, a usefull prep tool for anyone whose grip lacked confidence, or whose mind fell prey to the illusion of so many deaths. Encircling that tray, the room held five doors.
And there fell his gaze. Five doors, for five summoners and five champions. Their current engagement would determine the fate of Ionia. Victory meant freedom, and the withdrawal of Noxus from the territories they had invaded. Defeat meant slavery, forever.
Each door was marked by the corresponding summoner. Less than an hour beforehand, five champions had been selected from roll, and had stepped through a door each. In the darkness of the unlit room, each name was only barely visible. High Summoner Vorath, High Summoner Edwy, High Summoner Roku. Master Yi's gaze stopped as the last two signs were blocked from his vision. A summoner was blocking his view.
The living embodiment of the Wuju art made no response. His identity was self-evident.
"I represent Piltover."
Again, Master Yi made no response.
"I... I have no stake in this match. I understand it's very... important to you though."
Self-evident. Unnecessary. If the summoner was as wasteful with his magic as his words, he would have ended up as a carpenter. The Piltover summoner gestured toward the exit.
"Why are you here, Yi? You can watch the battle outside in the lobby."
Yi nodded. "Their faces will tell me the result."
The summoner waited, picking his words
"But... this chamber is... umm... Ionia's chamber is on the opposite..."
His words were caught by his realization. "Your contract forbids non-league combat with other champions."
Yi's mouth, the perpetual line, twitched unhappily. "Do you believe that I will poison the Noxans? Am I suspect of waiting to attack them while they are defenseless? Perhaps if I wasn't here you would think that I was sacking their cities and raping their women?"
The Piltover summoner raised his hands and bowed his head. "I am not gonna get involved in that debate. I apologize. But if anything were to happen, I would be obligated to report the truth. League objectivity-"
The room lit suddenly, blinding the summoner momentarily. Yi's headgear prevented such issues. The locks on five doors unlatched in unison, and Master Yi sheathed his blade and readied his posture, a hand on each knee. The summoner from Piltover straightened as if frightened, but then leaned toward the Wuju master to giddily whisper "Noxus didn't ward. They got trounced."
Yi ignored the show of support, like so many others before it. The doors slid open in unison, releasing bruised and tired champions. Their psychosomatic wounds were clear evidence of the beating delivered to their multiple incarnations during the battle. The mind's power over the body had bruised Miss Fortune's face a lovely shade of Ionian Justice. She scowled at Yi and exited quickly, belying a poor early game, probably due to impatience. Sion shambled his undead way behind her with Vladmir eying his back. The clear accusation of feeding was in his gaze. The vampire cleared the room as soon as Sion's bulk emptied the door. Master Yi waited, the many eyes of his mask focused straight ahead at the open door of High Summoner Vorath. A winged shadow was hobbling from the darkness beyond into the light.
"Piltover," she called.
The summoner from Piltover straightened in alarm again and turned to see Morgana emerge from her summoning chamber.
"You wanted me available on your contract last month."
He nodded. Morgana waived a pale arm.
"I've had enough of the High Command."
A disapproving stomp came from the door beside her. Singed had entered. Master Yi's leather grip could be heard on his sword. The expression on his mouth remained a dispassionate line that betrayed nothing.
Piltover took a step back. Morgana glanced between the two enemies and smirked through crooked, split lips. Singed acknowledged nothing. He shuffled his feet and rolled his shoulders, trying to shake off injuries that didn't exist. His head rolled to the side, then back, and all through its full range of motion before returning upright.
Piltover nodded a thank you to Morgana, seeing the lull as a chance to escape the interaction silently. But as he turned to leave, Singed cleared his throat to speak.
"Noxus recognizes strength as a virtue, no matter who wields it."
He glanced at the Wuju Master, swinging his arms across his chest and then behind his back. "Zaun recognizes truth, whatever it may be."
Still nonchalant, Singed lifted a knee to his chest and held it, then switched to the other. Master Yi only stared. Morgana's smirk grew tired, then impatient.
Piltover tried another inch towards the door.
"Ionia is strong,"
Singed continued. "So Ionia is free."
He hefted his shield and bottle, and proceeded to pass Yi toward the exit. Piltover scooted out of his way, Morgana balked, and still Yi made no gesture. But as Singed was a moment from crossing the threshold out of earshot, the Wuju Master said, "The dead are not freed."
Singed stopped, turned, and mumbled through his bandaged face, "The dead are weak. And I recognize their death as Truth."
Yi turned to face him.
"Do you recognize the work of your hands?"
Piltover had now backed against the far wall behind Morgana. Singed and Yi held glares, attempting to come to an understanding. Singed finally reached one, or a guess. He stepped toward Yi, once, twice, until they were easily in striking distance of each other. With his back turned to Morgana and Piltover, Singed removed the bandages covering his face. No poison, venom, or agent of any sort had reached Singed's enemies without first touching his skin. The horrors inflicted on Ionia were each marked on the hardened body of the mad chemist. Yi said nothing, and so Singed covered his face and left.
Piltover sighed and laughed. "That was almost very bad." He wagged a finger at Yi and shakily scooted to the door, leaving the champions behind and finally making it to safety. Morgana did not watch him leave. Yi seemed to watch nothing, but even then Morgana could sense his focus. She swallowed enough blood to mumble,
"Is this how you gloat?"
Her split lip still spit poison pretty well, but Master Yi allowed her his gaze.
"Is this how you pout?"
Morgana the Fallen was still catching her breath. Her chest still heaved lightly under labor, and she was resting her hand inside of the chalk pedestal. The arcane power was twisting up her arm and soothing away non-existant maladies. She considered his words, then chuckled, then laughed.
"I have nothing personal against your people, Yi."
"You just spent an hour trying to enslave us."
She paused to consider it, rolling her hand in the healing essences, before wondering aloud, "Do you know anything about me?"
Master Yi pondered her. Witty answers were swept aside, and he finally settled on "No."
Morgana did not laugh. She waited for him to speak again.
"Do you know of oppression, of helplessness at the hands of a tyrant?"
Morgana nodded. It felt as if she had asked herself, as if she had woken in the morning and the mirror was now questioning her and preening itself by her flaws.
"Then yes," Master Yi answered. "I believe I know everything about you."
His hands were now stationed on each knee, having moved from his sword. Morgana could not help but think that she was being insulted by the show of unneeded arms. She had faced Yi in battle before. He knew the power of her spells.
"Why are you here?" she asked. "Why did you join the League?"
"We," he answered. "We are here because we have known the excuses of tyrants, and we have heard the justifications of madmen uttered as eulogies to their victims. We have seen lives cut short by The Sword, and The Art, and The Mind. We are here because our pleas for mercy went unheard. Because our supplications were accepted by one hand and punished by the other. Because our cries for help fell on deaf ears. Because the silence of our friends was louder than the war cries of our enemies."
Here Yi drew his sword, slowly, respectfully, with one hand balancing the tip for her to see its keen edge.
"I am here because the option of peace has been exhausted."
Morgana said nothing, blood trickling from her lip, following the trail of so many tears from her cheek to the rim of her jaw. It dripped into the chalk tray. Otherwise, she stood motionless. Yi sheathed his sword again and Morgana realized that, yes, she was being insulted. She had just exited the arena on Noxus' side. The plea for help and the silence of friends was a burden that he placed on her. She swallowed a mouth full of defeat and answered, "So be it." Hiking up her skirt to leave, she was only stopped at the doorway when Yi added,
"And, yes. This is how I gloat."