"There's not a second that goes by that I don't think about you. I want to see your face. Feel your hands in mine. Feel you against me. But for the greater good, Ahri. Please. Kill me."
"I don't want to! I'll never do that! Not for the world! … what about me? What about you?! "
"If not for the world, Ahri, then for me. I don't want to help my master destroy the world. No longer."
"What! What could he possibly lose from killing you?! How will our suffering help anyone?! …What is he doing, Yi? What plan could he have that would make you so afraid of life now?"
Yi took one of Ahri's hands, and held it up. He gripped the shining golden hand as he waved his other about at the Wu. His hand passed over the beautiful mountainside village. It swept over the industrious farmers in their fields, and over the waterfall off to the side. He passed over the lie that it was.
Here the world was perfect. No smoke tumbled from his body in here.
"This. He wants this."
His hand shook, and his breath quickened.
"Ahri, he wants to destroy the world and replace it with the Wu."
Pantheon strode evenly, keeping his distance from the shifting shadows around him. The billowing clouds of smoke that bled off of their bodies hid their identities from him for now. Sh*t. Like he needed any more disadvantages.
A dagger tumbled out from smoke, straight at Pantheon's face. He instinctively ducked, but as he did, a lance of pain shot up his left arm. He swallowed the gasp of pain that any normal man would have made, and with tremendous effort, raised the stump of his forearm high enough to deflect the dagger.
The knife scored itself a scratch for itself in the Rakkor's shield, but otherwise flew harmlessly off into the distance. Pantheon caught a glimpse at the missile as it spun away in darkness. He recognized the blade, with its peculiarly shaped edge and the bright sheen of that special poison that a certain Demon Jester lathered his shivs with.
It was Shaco…
Pantheon swiftly, mechanically, recalled everything he had learned about Shaco while fighting the trickster clown on the fields of justice.
Just how many of these b*stards were there, Pantheon reflected with concern. Anymore, and he may as well compose his death will now.
A sorrowful, accented voice cut in.
A wave of sound rocketed at Pantheon from the billowing smoke, punching a neat hole in the fog, impacting with the Rakkor's face. The sonic wave bounced about within Pantheon's metal helm, ringing the Rakkor's head; Pantheon dropped to a knee from the pain, bringing up his shield to cover up his injury.
A slim, ridiculously muscular man burst through the shadows in a flying kick. The man, with a blindfold wrapped about his head, struck the Rakkor's shield with a heavy drive of his heel, not a small amount of that energy transferred directly to Pantheon's bloody stump of a forearm. The Artisan of War let a clenched scream escape as he struggled to control the pain. Blood started seeping out of the stump, even though Pantheon had that part wrapped in a tight tourniquet.
As the Rakkor kneeled, Lee Sin, the Blind Monk, was already bringing his hand down for a devastating slam.
Lee Sin's palm smashed the ground about them, vibrating the lava rock floor like it was the skin of a drum. The bones of Pantheon's legs shivered from the impact, smashing themselves against the walls of meat warping them. It was like being punched, on his legs, everywhere. The Rakkor's instantly tenderized legs nearly collapsed under his weight.
The hulking man fell to a knee, but not before he brought his shield up in a vicious swing. Yet Lee Sin stepped back, and as slippery as the smoke sifting from his body, melted back into the blackness.
Pantheon stuck his spear to the hardened lava, struggling to his feet. He knees shook, his arm hurt, his head rung, and he was hot. It was hot. He looked up from the smoke surrounding him, up at the sky.
"Pantheon… No, I mean, Markus…"
The Rakkor did not look down at the voice. The entirety of the world knew him as his tribal name, Pantheon, or "All Gods" as it meant in the guttural speech of the Rakkor, as his strength was perceived by the old crones who gave his name, of his village on Targon. Only one person alive would dare call him by the name he held as a child, that weak name of Markus. There was also only one person he would ever want to hear it from.
The Rakkor looked up to face his Sun, Leona, stride out from the darkness like dawn at the stroke of midnight.
"Markus, please…" Leona, stated, clearly, despite the smoke pouring out of her body, as she raised her golden sword. "Give me the honor of your blade. End my slavery. Kill me." She raised her zenith blade to the sun, drawing on its power.
Pantheon, for an instant, was once more a defeated child on his ass, at the mercy of the stick-wielding Leona. He recovered almost instantly, but the memory of the strong, willful girl that now stood in front of him, ready for combat, almost shook him.
Almost. He was still a Rakkor. And she was now an enemy.
"Child…" Pantheon muttered to the bundle of Annie that was strapped to his back as he stood, "Listen to me carefully... I will need your help."
"The Wu in our world?"
Yi solemnly nodded.
"So he's going to replace reality with the Wu… but… what'll happen to us? What will happen to the world?!"
"Those that can enter the Wu may enter the new world with the shift. Those that can't… they will likely cease to exist, or exist without meaning, only as illusions or ideas, much like these souls do now."
Yi gazed sadly at a child who was eagerly chasing a golden butterfly through the fields. He circled about Yi and Ahri once before dashing off, giggling madly. His laughter and smile was real, but like the fantasy he was, his eyes were glazed and his laughter without soul. It was like watching a life-sized puppet dance across a real-life stage.
"So they'll basically die."
"Yes. And this world will come to life." Yi looked up, away from the child-illusion. "That is what he is planning to use the Nexi for. He will harness their limitless power to force open a hole into the Wu. Then, like a disease the Golden Dream of the Wu will spread throughout the world until what is true and what is false will mix and blend until there is no such thing."
"Oooo-wwooh!" Shaco screamed as he took a spear through the gut.
Pantheon skewered the Demon Jester straight through the stomach, drawing a scream out of scrawny man. The jester convulsed for a moment, before exploding in a shower of knifes of every length.
It was a hallucination…
The Rakkor anticipated this. He crouched behind his shield and let his Aegis deflect every last of one the projectiles. The daggers splashed against the metal of the shield like rain. But he was unharmed.
Another ball of pure sound smashed itself against Pantheon's Aegis of Zeonia. The impact sent tremors along the surface of the metal barrier until the air hummed a low tone. For a man who relied solely on his sense of hearing to fight, it was like painting a target all over your chest.
Lee Sin flew at Pantheon with yet another flying kick, aimed right at the source of the noise; the shield.
But the Rakkor did not block. He shifted his shield to the side to accept Lee Sin's kick on his chest. His bronze chestplate did little to soften the Blind Monk's blow. Lee Sin's heel rammed into the soft bronze with such force that it left an imprint of his foot on the Rakkor's armor. The monk could hear the snapping of ribs as his heel drove deep. The Blind Monk frowned in confusion at Pantheon's self-destructive action.
Why… Lee Sin pondered, confused... didn't he block the kick?
The answer came swiftly. Pantheon's shield swept down, and collided bodily with the Blind Monk's temple. The force that would liquefy most men's skulls merely stunned the iron-like body of Lee Sin. The monk stumbled back, drunkenly. He was alive. But with his auditory nerve going haywire, the Blind Monk was for a moment, truly blind.
Bearing cracked ribs, a severed arm, and tenderized legs, Pantheon barely mustered the strength to shoulder his spear. He leveled his aim at the Blind Monk.
He flung the javelin with deadly force at Lee Sin's throat. The weapon shot through the air like an arrow.
Reach, Pantheon pleaded desperately.
The spear was halfway to the Blind Monk's throat.
It was almost home.
Leona's voice sharply cut in, along with the sharp whiz, thud, or a blade cutting through wood effortlessly. Pantheon caught a glimpse of a golden crescent drawing itself over his spear.
The spear fell to the ground, severed, in two separate pieces. The halves clattered harmlessly against the lava floor, as the Blind Monk recovered his senses.
"Leona… Thank you…" Lee Sin bowed his head, still rubbing the welt where Pantheon cracked his dome.
Leona lifted her Zenith Blade. She stared coldly at Pantheon. Then, with slow deliberation, she brought her shield over her head, and slammed it down on the ground before her. A holy light wrapped about her, protecting her. The light of the sun shone from the Verdina Sun, the spiked star that was affixed at the top of Leona's relic shield.
"Markus! I'm coming!" She thrust her sword forwards. "Zenith Blade!"
A solar projection of her sword shot out at her friend.
Pantheon reached up, and without a trace of fear, plucked the Zenith Blade out of mid-air with his only hand.
"Ha! That's new, Markus!" Leona almost grinned as her solar image dragged her forwards to her childhood friend. She swept her shield forwards; still shining bright from the star carved on top. "Can you handle this though? Aegis of Daybreak!"
She held her shield in front of her the instant before she would collide with Pantheon. He replied the assault with his own attack, leaping forwards and sweeping his Aegis of Zeonia to meet her Aegis of Daybreak.
"Markus!" The holy light exploded around Leona, smashing into Pantheon, as he put all of his force behind his shield.
Through the blinding light, Pantheon looked up, staring straight into her bright, brilliant eyes. Even the corrupting smoke could not hide her beauty. The Artisan of War, overcome, let loose a bellow:
The two were blown back, Leona from the force of Pantheon's swing, Pantheon from the explosion of light. Leona rolled across the hardened lava, and bounced up to a knee, while Pantheon, unable to muster up even a modicum of strength to control his flight, slid on the lava like a corpse.
Just… like old times… Pantheon brooded.
"M…Markus…" Leona almost fell forwards in her armor. She brought her head up. A wisp of a smile made its way to her lips. "It's better this way. That you died by my shield. "
Pantheon, weakened to the point of helplessness, looked up, as the Shaco burst out of thin air, bringing down his wicked dagger. He could barely hear Leona's words over the cackling of the Demon Jester.
"Don't worry… I'll follow you soon, Markus. We all will."