Part 4: Her name isn't "Destiny"…
Folding of space, or teleportation to those less magically inclined, is a pain in the ass when there's no nexus nearby. Not only is there massive amounts of concentration required for the task, but when you come out of the folded space, you are often vomiting from the tax the magic takes on your body. As such, when I teleport back to the Ministry of War, I always try to aim for my bathroom, that way the privy can take the brunt of my stomach's punishment.
I suppose that fortune smiled upon me this day, seeing as how I fell out of the folded space and regurgitated the delicious lunch I had into the metal privy. Needless to say, it tasted so much better going down than it did coming back up, and chunks of bread, cheese, and vegetable matter in a vaguely tea-colored sauce spattered all over the bowl of the privy.
Resting my head against the metal rim, I took a few deep breaths before standing up, picking up the hat that had flown off my head during my violent heavings. I hung the hat on a peg in the bathroom before trudging over to the icebox that each summoner had in their room. Reaching in, I withdrew a glass bottle with red liquid in it, and removed the stopper, taking a sip. The potion's energy surged through me, and I felt revitalized with each second that passed. Opening the cupboard next to the icebox, I withdrew a few strips of dried meat and walked out of my room, down the hallway to Jakob's room.
I knocked on the door thrice, tearing off a piece of meat as I did, and walked in without an invitation. The Frejlordian summoner sat there, his hands hovering over a model of Summoner's Rift, see-through versions of champions running to and fro. Jakob zoomed in on Olaf, whom I assumed he was working with, and twitched a few fingers on his right hand, sending the barbarian into the jungle to slay the Ancient Golem.
As he worked, I waited silently, and he paid me no mind. Jakob, more than anyone else in our circle, had a tendency to become absorbed in the match, blocking out all else. He would know you were there, but not acknowledge you until the match was over, and the outcome would often predict how well he treated you after coming out of his reverie.
However, his victory was not an accurate prediction of how he greeted me after he guided Olaf to taking down enemy champions multiple times, tearing down two turrets, and ending the enemy nexus himself. The match done, he turned in his seat, stared me straight in the eye and said, "You are such a dick."
I managed to hold back two sputters before I released a laugh that Stephen, who lived right across the way from Jakob, obviously heard, for he joined in with me. He came out of his room wearing a tied-shut robe and slippers, his face red with laughter, adjusting his spectacles because they would have fallen off his face otherwise. As we laughed, Jakob turned red with anger, "It's not funny!" he said. "Do you have any idea how scaly her skin is?"
We both stared at him for a brief second of silence before our laughter continued.
When we had both had our fill of mirth, we calmed down and I said to Jakob, "A deal's a deal, man. I got a date with Caitlyn. Two, no less, since she agreed to meet me a couple of days hence. Now for your end of the bargain. You have to kiss Cassiopeia, or have your honor be forever tarnished."
His glare could have cut steel, yet I stood there and bore it until he turned back to the model of Summoner's Rift, his face set in a scowl, "Fine. I'll do it, and you all can watch."
Stephen and I bumped knuckles before leaving Jakob to stew. As we made our way out to the common room, we ran into John and Tay, who were talking about their most recent practice match, and each bumped knuckles with me as we walked past. When we got to the common room, Stephen and I each took a seat. "So you have another date with her, huh?" he asked, removing a flask from his robe's pocket.
After taking a swig, he offered me some, which I accepted. A mouthful revealed it was bright in flavor and strong in content. Obviously Demacian. Swallowing, I passed the flask back to Stephen, replying, "Yeah. She said that there's a little tea house across from Piltover Customs that she'll met me at two nights from now."
Another gulp before passing it back, which I refused. "So I heard," he said, taking a third and final swig before replacing the flask in his pocket, "What's your plan, then?"
"You know me. I never have a plan. I don't even know which champion I'm going to work with when we get to champion selection."
"Jax," Stephen said simply, his gaze unwavering from my eyes.
"Doubtful, but I'll take it under consideration. Anyway, I just think I'm going to play the second date by ear. I'm even going to walk her home this time."
"Smart choice," my friend said, "though I would recommend that you go in with an idea of what you're going to do for your next date, if she's willing."
I nodded and stood from the table, stretching and returning to my room. I was not in the mood to step onto the Fields of Justice today, so I simply sat down and began to read a treatise on the Kumungu Jungle as written by a summoner that had paid visit to it two years ago.
Two days seemed to pass in the blink of an eye as I passed the time by reading and operating my pitiful skills on the battlefield. I did, however, take some time to pay a visit to my home town of Bilgewater, and fight a few matches in the boxing ring there. I won two out of three, losing only to a bear of a man whose speed I underestimated. The man left me with one cracked and two bruised ribs, and not even the potent healing potion in my icebox could remove all of the superficial contusions.
I woke up at almost noon the next day, the beatings I had taken causing me to sleep like the dead. Groaning, I rolled off my bed, which may as well have been filled with rocks, but it suited me just fine. A few stretches cracked all of the joints that needed it before I lumbered to the shower and turned on the hot water, standing in the spray for a little while to wake myself up. Once awake, I started, almost slipping, as a realization hit me.
I had a date with Caitlyn today.
"HOLY SHIT!" I screamed at the top of my lungs, thinking that not even five hours was enough time to get ready for a date with a champion of the League. Madness ensued as I ran to and fro in my room, pulling on three different pairs of trousers, trying on four shirts, and inspecting my various pairs of boots to see which would have the least number of holes in them.
Apparently, Lee heard, since he came a-knocking at my door asking "Is everything alright in there?"
Between metaphorically tearing out my hair and twisting the shirt I was currently wearing around so it was no longer backwards, I managed to shout back, "Of course not! Why would you think that everything was fine?"
Thinking he didn't need an invitation, the large Ionian entered my room, the top of his head almost brushing the doorframe. Looking around, he saw the assortment of clothes on the floor, and me with one arm in a fifth shirtsleeve, looking like Tryndamere on a very bad day.
Sighing and shaking his head, Lee simply strode across the room and slapped me right across the face. I stood there in utter shock, looking a little to my right before turning my head back to face him, rubbing my cheek.
"Feel better?" he asked.
"Much, thank you," I replied, before he nodded in self satisfaction and left the room.
My composure regained, I went about my business, cleaning up the assortment of clothes strewn about the place and finally deciding on an outfit that would suit my purposes just fine. The end result was a pair of black trousers stuffed into black leather boots with silver filigree worked into it, and a blood red shirt similar to the one I wore when I first met Caitlyn, though of assuredly higher quality. Atop my head, I wore a round hat with a short brim over spiked hair, and I kept a small pouch of gold sewn into the lining of my pocket, my winnings from my fights hidden carefully enough that a pickpocket wouldn't be able to steal it without my notice. Completing the ensemble was a black satin vest with silver buttons. If the place was more formal, I could close the vest across my chest, yet if it was slightly more casual, I could leave it unbuttoned as it was. Looking myself over once again, I decided that I was as good as I was going to get.
Finally, to ensure that nobody would bother me while I was out, I reached into a cabinet and withdrew two sets of five throwing knives and tucked them in my vest pockets. They were small enough that none could see, yet close enough on hand that I could get them easily. However, taking my lute in hand, I noticed that the dark brown and brass instrument would clash with my outfit. This problem was easily solved, though, as I wove a minor illusion to change the wood's color to black and the brass to silver. Keeping the fine instrument in hand, I began my incantation.
My arrival in Piltover was less than gentle, as the unstable magic on the city-state's end caused me to be forcibly ejected, landing me flat on my face in an alleyway. As I got up, my bruised ribs pained me, causing me to wince. "Well," I said to nobody in particular, "at least I'm getting all the bad stuff out of the way early."
Pushing through the pain, I rose once again, walking to the end of the alley. Nobody paid any mind to me as I emerged from the darkness and made my way down the street. My emergence from the portal was fortunate, because as I walked, I saw the sign for Piltover Customs in the darkness, and the light coming from the tea house across the way.
Entering the tea house, I noted how relaxed of an environment it was, though the general dress code was similar to what I wore. Giving an inward sigh of relief that I had not overdressed, I approached the seating host.
"Just one?" he said, a short and slender man with an accent I couldn't place, though I believed it to be Demacian.
"Two, please," I said, holding up fingers to emphasize my point, and he nodded, "Right this way, please," he said, taking me to a two-person booth with an oil lamp on the table. I seated myself as he gestured, setting my lute on the floor underneath my seat so it wouldn't get damaged during the course of the evening.
I waited patiently, waving away the waiter that brought by menus, saying that I would prefer if they were presented when the rest of my party got here. Not ten minutes later, she arrived.
Caitlyn looked resplendent in a sleeveless dress of purple with white embroidery, her hair unbound, with an amethyst on a silver chain around her neck. I stood as she entered the tea house and waited for her to come towards me and be seated before I sat down again.
A five second silence ensued as I just tried to take in who was sitting across from me, inciting a chuckle from the champion. It was only then that I realized that my mouth was hanging open, a situation which I rectified with a clack of teeth. "You look gorgeous," I finally managed to force out, those three words doing their best to sum up all the thoughts rushing through my mind. She smiled at me and said "Thank you very much, Jack. You look rather handsome yourself," another bad habit kicked in as she gave me the compliment: I began twiddling my thumbs.
Noting this, she said, "Am I making you nervous?" cocking an eyebrow as she spoke.
Shocked, I stopped the motion of my thumbs, though I still kept my hands together on the table. "My apologies, Caitlyn," I said, my voice regaining composure as my hands did. The eyebrow remained arched in its incredulous gaze, so I began to explain myself, "You see, it's just that I consider myself lucky. There are a bunch of people, civilians and summoners alike that would kill to be where I am right now."
Laughter lilted out from her mouth as she threw her head back, "I knew I was popular," she said through the dying vestiges of her mirth, "but I doubted that such was the case." She and I laughed together again as the server came by with two menus. He stood there while we examined it and we each ordered our tea. She had a Noxian blend, strong and dark, while I preferred a lighter taste from Ionia.
Our tea was brought, a small kettle for each of us, and we sipped quietly before continuing our conversation. We talked about more work on and off the Fields of Justice, her work in Piltover, and my upcoming duties training the newest batch of summoner recruits.
"So how are you going to train them?"she asked me, holding her ceramic cup in one hand, sipping from it gingerly.
"When I first joined the Ministry of War, I learned how to summon from a former drill sergeant from Demacia. I'm going to use his techniques along with some that I learned while working on the ships in Bilgewater."
"Like?" she replied expectantly, moving her cup to just under her mouth, which was slowly curling into a smirk.
"Well, I'm going to use a rather unique introduction," I said, clearing my throat so I could speak more clearly, "'Alright, maggots. Spicy Jack's going to teach you the pecking order. It goes you, the dirt, the worms IN the dirt, Spicy Jack's stool, the High Councilor, then Spicy Jack. Any questions?'"
Caitlyn's expression was of utter shock, to which I responded by bursting out laughing. "What are you laughing about?" she almost shouted, "That's utterly barbaric! Totally uncivilized! I think less of you that you would even consider such a thing," at that last statement, my eyes widened, and I held up my hands in a form of surrender.
"No, no," I told her, explaining my intentions, "After that little monologue, I would laugh it off, much as I did just now, and offer a formal introduction. I'm a nice teacher, much nicer than the people I sailed under in my hometown."
Her glare could have curdled milk, yet it served as a warning. I would have to watch my dark humor for the remainder of the evening. As the night progressed, however, as our idle conversation continued, we eventually returned to that same state of relaxed conversation as before, incurring laughter as the evening went along. Even when we had both finished our tea, we still stayed in that booth and talked.
Finally, I asked for the check, and our server brought it, setting it on the edge of the table. We both reached for it, yet her reflexes were quicker, snatching the piece of paper away from the tips of my fingers. "Come on!" I shouted at her, making a gesture of exasperation as I did, "The gentleman always pays for the first date."
The words had escaped my mouth before I even realized what happened. Giving me a wry look, she spoke, "I suppose this is a date, Jack," and passed me the paper. I counted out the money for the check and tip from the hidden pouch sewn into my trousers, containing a smile with some difficulty as I felt my heartbeat grow faster.
She considers it a date! She really believes it to be a date! I thought to myself, my joy running rampant through my thoughts.
With this, we both stood and left, me donning my hat and taking my lute before we left. I let her leave first, and walked out behind her. "May I walk you home, Caitlyn?" I said to her, offering my arm in a chivalric gesture.
Looking up to meet my gaze, she responded "Of course, I would have to ask to pay you back for tea if you didn't," and slid her arm through mine. With that, she led the way back to where she lived, and this time I couldn't contain my grin.