Disclaimer: Riot Games owns all of this, you know?
Author's Note: What is this? An update not even a month after the last? What is this?! I must be so good with all of you...
Not much to say for this chapter, except that for some reason a couple of reviews motivated me a lot to continue with this and actually work on it.
Chapter 5 - Shampoo and Soap
The vehicle rode under the rising sun, its silver coating gleamed like a beacon behind the horses pushing it. The driver was seated on top of it, commanding the reins with expert eyes on the road and the surroundings. While there were technologically better options for travel by land, the passenger preferred some old-school horse-powered carriage to any of those steam-powered contraptions. There was no power of life at work there, just emotionless machinery.
From within its confines, the Eye of Twilight recognized a few landmarks. His journey would very soon be over and he would be back in the walls of the Institute. Contrary to many of his underlings' opinion, he didn't have qualls about returning to the summoners' building. It helped keep his senses sharp within and outside the battlefield, and also to keep an Eye on the happenings around the continent and inform the Kinkou to act accordingly. From Prince Jarvan IV's continuous adventures, Jericho Swain's never-ending plots, Pantheon's constant need to prove himself the better warrior against any opponent, Veigar's mad plans for world domination, and more recently, Akali's penchant for disappearing for hours and lying about it, it all kept his mind and body busy trying to balance everything. He counted himself lucky that the leader of the Kinkou was personally aiding him or else he'd have snapped a long time before.
Noticing the gates of the Institute, he surmised only few minutes before arrival and prepared himself, slowly placing his Eye of Twilight persona over Shen the Ninja Surgeon that he always used in private. Basic ninja tactics said that deception was key in a ninja's success and what better deception to his enemies than feign something he wasn't? All three of the Tree Carers currently at the Institute applied this credo all the time. There were too many enemies around to show any sign of weakness.
The carriage slowed to a halt and he heard the gruff voice of the driver: "Destination!"
Shen closed his eyes and focused to put in place the finishing touches on his personality mask. As the process ended, the man sat straighter and an imposing but peaceful aura enveloped around him.
When the door opened, the Eye of Twilight descended.
Taking in the sight of the stairs before the entrance, he quickly took notice of his yordle brother awaiting his return in a lotus position with his eyes closed at the top and center of the stairs, deep in meditation.
Shen smiled behind his mask and took his bag from within the carriage. He saluted the driver, who responded in kind and took off seconds later.
Climbing the steps silently, he soon was standing next to Kennen, facing in the same direction and not disturbing him. He knew how important meditation was. He would come back at his own pace.
Minutes passed but the lightning-master did not rouse. Several champions passed by them, some spared a curious glance or a quick hello, but mostly ignored them, being used to their actions.
"Hello, brother." Kennen spoke suddenly, his eyes still closed. Speaking meant his trance would soon be over. There would be some delay to his replies until he was fully back.
"Hello, brother." The taller ninja saluted back. The man was pleased there were still constants in his world, it meant one less thing to take care of.
"... How did the meeting go? ...You weren't far long." Kennen said a few seconds later.
It was true he hadn't been away that much. Only a week and a half. Sometimes those meetings could take up to three weeks, and considering the journey to and from was about a week at full speed, this meeting was extremely short and to the point.
"Later. When you're finished."
"... ... ... Ok."
It only took him few more minutes to complete his daily routine and sluggishly opened his eyes and stood up.
"Hello, brother." He said, more vividly this time, as he stretched and popped his bones into place.
"Hello again." Shen replied amusedly, a smile invisible to anyone played on his lips.
"Shall we?" The short ninja said, motioning to the giant wooden doors, their front covered in engravings of battles, wisdom and various multi-purpose runes.
The pair began walking towards the Ionian wing of the building, where most of the islander champions resided.
"How did it go? It was short this year." Kennen inquiried.
"Quickly. Luckily there were no major problems to be solved, just lots of everyday issues but they needed our attention. Though there was that incident with a Noxian intruder in the southern coast that held us back a day and a half."
Kennen's brow furrowed. Noxians in Ionia? What would they want there? "How so?"
"There wasn't much information to be-" He halted his speech when he noticed a certain champion walking opposite their direction, from within the main hall and towards the entrance.
"Hello, Eye of Twilight." Jericho Swain saluted with a smirk. There was a gleam in his eyes that was rarely present. Something was going on and Shen was in the dark about it.
He did not like it one bit.
"Hello, Master Tactician." He reluctantly greeted back. He'd much rather force him to speak his secrets, but all champions were protected by the summoners against actions from other champions. There were several times Shen was about to interrogate another champion more forcefully than needed, only for the victim to be bailed out by some summoner on duty. No matter how much he tried to reason that it was necessary, they would not budge.
"It is a nice day, is it not? Good for lying in the sun with a loved one or having a picnic, don't you think?" Swain offered in a polite and conversational tone, but the sheer eagerness in his eyes was much more than any verbal taunt the Noxian was able to produce. There was something in what he said that gave an unease to Shen. But what?
"Indeed. Too bad the day is coming to a close."
"Too true. Too true." Swain agreed. Making a show of looking at a watch, he quickly quipped. "I must go. Good day, Eye."
"Good day." The senior ninja replied just as reluctantly as before and watched the man with the cane limp away. More like stalk away. The unease Swain made him feel was not a new experience. Each and every encounter with the man rekindled it with a vengeance.
"Brother?" Kennen's question brought his out of his internal musings.
"Oh, yes. Let's go."
Silence stretched amongst the ninja veterans as they crossed the crowded Grand Hall, taking a few detours to reach the corridor to the Ionian wing. A few fellow warriors halted their course for a quick chat, but soon enough they reached the corridor and, more specifically, the Kinkou area of that wing.
The only distinction over the other areas was the single corridor that opened into three separate rooms, an emblem for the Kinkou order proudly set over the arch at the entrance of the corridor for everyone to see. There was no need for secrecy since, after all, champions were protected.
Each door opened to the private quarters of each of the Tree Carers. The middle one was Shen's room, where the two ninja entered after he removed the security measures he had in place. All three of the ninjas had them put personally, as an extra measure of privacy. If they knew it was locked by skilled assassins, people would think twice before trying to break into the place. Deadly traps were a real deterrent against thieves.
The room itself was similar to the rooms of all champions. A rather big resting area to do as they pleased and a standard personal bathroom for privacy measures. In the beginning, there were two huge communal bathrooms, but it was a disaster. Fights broke out almost daily, and after the sixth time the bath was completely obliterated, the summoners decided to cut expenses altogether and assign a bathroom for each champion. Everyone was pleased in the end.
"Noxians in Ionia? Are you certain?" Kennen inquiried worriedly, having sat on the only couch his brother had. Next to him a tall but slim bookcase stood with a plethora of topics in its contents. It wasn't a rare sight to see the tall ninja reading there for hours.
"Yes." Shen replied while he was placing the things in his bag back into their place or to the washing bin. "Unfortunately, Noxians are most paranoid and placed many failsafes in case the intruder was captured. We barely managed to see him alive before he convulsed and died."
"Typical." The yordle noted. "Do you think it has something to do with Swain's weird behaviour?"
"You noted it too. I think so," He said and stopped to look straight at the lightning master "but I also think there's something else going on that we're in the dark about."
"Why?" Kennen asked confusedly.
"Swain's a chessmaster in real life." Shen started, giving a sigh and stopping his putting everything in order to start up some tea. "Everything dealing with him must be carefully analyzed, dissected and viewed from three different perspectives, and even then he'll surprise you with something completely unexpected. Today's conversation was something special." He paused to pour the now done tea in two cups and served one to his guest.
"How? And thanks."
"No problem. He revealed information about some of his plans but heavily buried under menial talk."
Kennen's brow furrowed. "I don't get it. He didn't say anything extraordinary."
"That's the point. I have to decipher what he meant, but I won't."
"He never gives you enough information to deduce for yourself what he's planning. Just a vague direction to start looking. And in the end, it's a distraction to keep you busy while his true plans come to fruition."
"Diversionary Tactics 101." Kennen commented, which made Shen smile behind his mask.
"Exactly. We'll deal with him after he played his cards."
"And if we can't?"
Shen's shoulders slumped. That was his greatest fear. "We have to."
Her tail swished back and forth as she moved, the sound of grinding scales on rock floor echoing around her in the empty halls. Glancing around as she slithered by, old paintings and frescos greeted her back. This was not the usual passageways of the Institute, this was a unique corridor with a particular decoration, commissioned and supervised by herself. With her sister's approval, of course.
Cassiopeia Du Couteau, younger of the Grim Sisters, second heir to the family fortune, former seductress, previously most desired bachelorette and currently cursed by a serpentine blade to her current appeareance, moved towards her sister's room. A confident grin and a glint in her light green eyes adorning her face, the same tint shared by both siblings.
Her usual lady-like movements were foregone in this habitat, since no one dared to come to the Grim Sisters' domain without an express need. People were too intimidated by the pair, unless they were used to them.
Reaching the door, she paused and, as she always did, admired the engravings on her sister's door. It wasn't battles, it wasn't blood, hell, it wasn't even family. It wasn't whatever anyone would expect of the bloodthirsty and violent woman that was her sister. One would instantly allign her with blades, blood and death, but strangely, this was not the case.
Lotus. Lots of Lotus adorned her door.
Cassiopeia wondered again why the elder had ordered that so vehemently, but Katarina wouldn't budge about it and she wisely decided to let her be. She could be quite grouchy when pushed with stuff like this.
Now, the sisters had a certain code for entering the other's room. It was simple and effective, but only applicable to their custom-made doors.
The Gorgon tapped twice on one side of the door and then twice on the other side. The wooden surface strangely produced different sounds depending on the side they knocked. Having entered the code, Cassiopeia wasted no time, and after a quick glance down the corridor in case there were onlookers, quickly slipped into the room almost silently.
There, the sight that greeted her further widened her grin.
Half-sitting on the bed, prompted up by pillows and covered a few inches above her waist by the sheets, the Blade Master was eyeing her sister with a raised brow.
Besides the redhead, a mop of onyx hair was lying comfortably on Katarina's belly, a soft snore coming out of it. The body of the mop was barely covered above the bum by the same sheets and the arms were embracing the the abdomen of the Noxian.
"Yes, Cass?" Katarina whispered just enough to be heard, while her hand rubbed her companion's back and the thumb of the other hand did the same with the brunette's fingers.
"Time's up." The Serpent said just as softly. "Just last night."
Katarina shrugged carelessly. There was nothing they could do to stop them now. Their pieces were already set and soon things would be set in motion. "It's irrelevant. I plan on going public." This did surprise the younger Du Couteau. "Could you be a dear and make me a cup of coffee?" She asked fake-sweetly, to which Cassiopeia's face turned blank, but Katarina's nod at Akali's slumbering form forced her hand.
"Fine..." She grumbled and slithered to prepar some in the nearby kitchenette. "Public, sssissster? Are you sure?" She inquiried worriedly while her hands moved on auto-pilot preparing the beverage.
"You do know what they will say..." Cassiopeia said with note of worry. This was different than the simple bet they had. This could very well get out of hand.
"I don't care!" Katarina exclaimed more forcefully than needed. Akali shook slightly but after a few seconds continued to snore.
"She sleeps like a rock." The Gorgon pointed out amusedly. A strange thing for an assassin. Katarina was an extremely light sleeper, waking up at the smallest sound out of place. To this day, she still remembered when she had awoken her with a surprise and a blade almost left her bald. Ever since then, she roused her sister slowly and carefully.
"I would too if you hadn't woken me up." Her sister pointed out dryly, covering up a yawn with a hand.
"Late night?" Cassiopeia said, using the characteristic Du Couteau confident grin.
"Very. Went to sleep just a few hours ago."
"Here." She handed her the steaming cup of coffee.
Smiling at the concoction, just after a sip, already some of the tiredness left her face. A pleased sigh escaped her lips.
"I can't understand how can you like it so much..." Her voice carried her disbelief. No matter how many times her sister explained how important it was in the front of war, she could never garner any attraction to the murky drink.
The redhead shrugged with a smile and took another gulp.
"Are you sure?" Her grave tone and stony face made it obvious she meant business.
"Yes, Cass. It is needed."
Cassiopeia immediately understood this was a proof of faith the redhead was sending to the ninja, and also to further the relationship beyond the sheets of some bedroom. But... Just how much more before she ensnared the Ionian completely to her bidding? Just how long would this quest take? And worst of all, what would her sister sacrifice to see it through? Would she remain the same? Knowing what she did, she couldn't help but worry for her sister's wellbeing. "I... Just be careful, sssissster..."
A certain note of concern, very rarely used by her sibling caused Katarina's brow to furrow. So rare were these occassions that she was always on edge about it, taking extra precautions. So far, her advice had not set her on the wrong path, and being her sister who gave it, she trusted it without a smudge of doubt. "Why?"
"I... I heard some things, ok?" The Serpent replied shiftly and uncomfortably. It was obvious this was a sensitive topic for her. "Just always keep an eye out." Cassiopeia silently refilled the assassin's cup and made to leave the room.
She halted at the door and turned to look back. "Yes?"
The smile that was shot back illuminated the Gorgon's face before she disappeared after the door.
Katarina sighed and closed her eyes, leanung back into the pillows. Her mind going a mile a minute, trying to understand what worried the little snake. Her sister had always been a fountain of information, having preferred social events to physical training, thus, she must have known something secret that could jeopardize either the plan or her life. Neither she wanted to be stopped anytime soon. What were her options? Throw everything away, or keep going.
A chuckle escaped her lips, her chest moving at the action and lightly shaking the slumbering ninja on top of her.
She had never been a person to hide in the shadows and control people from there. If she wanted people gone, she made it permanent. Though sometimes there were those that had a few uses.
For now, there was no stopping the plan, so she'd have to be extra wary. She didn't even know who was threatening her. Well, there was Evoin and Swain, but she was sure the former would do nothing while Akali was alright and the latter simply didn't really care that much what she did.
She sighed again and looked at her lover. Only that long, unconstrained and now wild mane of hair stared back. "What am I going to do with you...?"
"Breakfast..." A mumble was heard from the mop of black. Slowly, very much so, Akali moved her head and looked up at the redhead, her chin on Katarina's belly. Her chocolate eyes were half-lidded and showed extreme tiredness. Blinking even more slowly once again, she turned her head, glued her ear to the belly and snuggled closer and then mumbled again. "Or a shower."
"A shower? I don't have a shower."
Five seconds later, a slow and almost groaned response came. "What? ..." Three more seconds pause. "And what... Do you have?"
"A tub." Katarina grinned. There were things that just couldn't be done just as well in a shower. Removing one's grime completely, for example, or relaxing to the point of nirvana was another. Or other... entertaining things...
A paused delay, then the Ionian ninja looked up again at her redheaded beauty. "Really?" Katarina nodded once and emphatically. A smile broke out on Akali's face. "A tub sounds goooooood..."
"Then move and let me set it up." The Noxian said raising her hands from their rubbing places.
"No!" Akali clutched her tighter. "So comfy now." Her shuffling even closer to the bare body of Katarina made the assassin raise a brow. Was she always so clingy in the mornings or today in particular?
"How about this? I go and start up and the water and I come back to be your human pillow in a flash?"
"Fine." Akali let go reluctantly and moved away, taking the covers with her. "But you better hurry."
Chuckling, the Noxian blademaster got up and walked to the bathroom to start the bath.
When she finished, she went to the doorway and looked at the bed. There, curled like a cat in the middle of it with all the covers and hair like a black and white human typhoon, was Akali snoring again.
To Katarina, this was an endearing sight. To see the nornally intimading and dangerous woman being so carefree and childish was an unexpected, but welcomed sight. It continued to try to jumpstart those memories long past forgotten of days with warmth in her chest, and youthful attitudes. It didn't work much, but it made Katarina wonder if after her plan was executed, if she could ask the High Command for an unscathed Akali as her only prize for showing a deep loyalty and devotion to her city-state. She didn't fool herself, though. Once she showed her true colours, the brunette would forever hate her. And just when she was starting to like having her around...
A quick glance behind and she surmised the water was at optimal level. She stopped the flow and went to rouse the ninja. "Hey, bath's ready." She shook Akali but she gave no response for almost a minute.
"Um... Carry me..."
Katarina's face turned to stone. That was too much. "No."
The assassin uncurled and looked up at the blank-faced Noxian. "Please?"
"Fine... Party-pooper..." It took thirty seconds for the brunette to get up and leave the sheets on the bed. As she walked by, Katarina suddenly grabbed her by the waist.
"I didn't say I wouldn't kiss you all the way there." She said huskily at Akali's surprised gasp. But before she could act on those words, the assassin had beaten her to the punch and enveloped her lips with her own.
Easily five minutes were lost trying to cross ten meters.
"You go in first." Akali ordered once they arrived. Katarina shrugged and complied. There was enough room for both to get a side each.
The hot water, kept at that exact temperature via summoners' runes inscribed on the tub, first swallowed the redhead's leg and then the body as she leaned back and sighed. Warmth seeping instantly through her tired skin and muscles, a relaxing wave of heat coursed all through her.
Akali managed to surprise Katarina with a renewed boldness when she entered the tub and leant back against her, the black hair tingling all over the Noxian's skin.
"Ahhh..." Akali sighed contentedly, rubbing her now wet head against Katarina's shoulder.
Was she having some sort of cat phase or something? Shrugging, the blademaster hugged her "assailant" by the waist. Savouring the moment, they took a minute to spend in quiet reminiscense and enjoy the shared heat and each other's company, as long as it lasted. Minutes went by in silence, only broken by their breathing and the drip of water from the taps.
She figured this was a good time as any to drop the bomb. "I'm tired of being secretive. How about we go public?"
The silence that followed was not an easygoing one. Depending on her decision, there would be some very interesting happenings around the League. Her recent talks with Cassiopeia and Swain led her to believe that there were more machinations behind the scene than this coy manipulation she was doing. And from the queer way Cassiopeia insisted on her being wary, some of them were about this very thing. So, the best defense to keep her hidden agenda protected, and herself by proxy, was to be in the eye of the public. If she was kept under constant gossip and she were to disappear overnight, things would not remain quiet.
Akali's head lowered slightly, her wet hair sticking to her skin and covering her features. "Are you sure?" Her tone was fragile and very hesitant. It was no surprise, since they were from enemy nations and were pushed to not deal with each other socially by their peers. What would people say when out of nowhere they were together?
"Yes." Katarina said instantly. "I'm not afraid of what people might say."
"That's not what worries me." The brunette said in a low volume.
A brow raised. "What then?"
"I don't think my brothers will take it well." Akali said sonething completely expected, considering the enmity between Noxus and Ionia. Looking over her shoulder, she fixed a pointed glare at her living cushion. "Nor did I know we were dating."
Katarina's brows shot up. That was new. Akali never even hinted about wanting to go through the courting phase of an intimate relationship. She'd have perhaps acquised and went through those trying times, but they were too time-consuming for her. The curiosity nagged at her, though. Maybe she overlooked some clues? Some word, look or anything obscurer? Or maybe she had simply ignored that phase and jumped straight to vicious, sweaty and loud sex. Yeah, the latter was much more plausible, or truer to the real happenings. She was the one that sexually assaulted Akali to start all this, after all.
It was true their current relationship was in a dubious limbo, where they didn't know what the other meant. This must be the ninja's attempt at breaking through that and extend an olive branch of sorts. Katarina didn't know whether to be flattered or pleased with herself that her plan was going so well. Was she willing to go so far and fall in the danger of perhaps falling for the nude gorgeous woman on top of her? Of course their dating would be fake, but...
Hell, even she would like to have a courting phase if she ever decided to have a real relationship. There was a certain charm about getting to know the other, their quirks and joys, what made them tick and what made them roll on the floor laughing.
Sighing, Katarina looked straight into those brown eyes, a decisive glint in her own. She would have to dance to her tune, for now. But since the brunette looked so upset at this, it needed to be said with meaning, even if it was absolutely fake. "Akali, my princess," She began and smiled warmly, a faint blush spreading on the Ionian's face at the nickname. "I know we started oddly compared to other couples and perhaps you wanted to go out on dates and I failed to notice it, but now I can fix that. Would you do me the honour of being my one and only girlfriend?"
The tense seconds rolled by as a flushed ninja stared mutely at the assassin. The brown eyes scanned every feature, looking for something only she knew about.
When she was sufficed with it, she turned around in the embrace they still shared and faced Katarina directly. The maroon on her visage deepened in embarrasment as what she was going to say was infinitely sappy. "If I'm your princess..." She began and her lurched forward, burying her face on Katarina's chest before mumbling something.
"What was that?"
"I can't hear you if you don't-"
"Will you be my Kitty?!" Akali interrupted suddenly with that proclamation, her face shooting up and the blush seemed to spread all over her torso. She visibly deflated after saying it and burrowed back on Katarina's bosom, only her onyx hair visible.
The redhead officially understood that Akali would forever surprise her. It was a constant. Now wasn't any different. "K... Kitty?" She asked incredulously. "Why Kitty?"
"You know..." She whispered from her safe and warm place.
A hearty and true laugh rebounded on the walls of the bathroom. "Actually, I don't! I'm stumped!" She said amusedly. All this business was incredibly entertaining. She definitely wanted to hear the reasoning behind this now.
"It's not funny!" The ninja shot up indignated.
"Then explain." That was enough to crumble her resolve and make her go back to the meek mood she was currently in and hide her face on her chest, deep between her breasts.
"Your name..." Her breath on that spot tickled her, but she was not about to say it so simply. Oh, no. Akali would have to pry that knowledge out of her if she wanted it. "Shortened is Kat. But I wanted something endearing, so..." As she said all this, the volume went lower and lower until it was barely understandable. She didn't have to look at her to know that Akali was beyond embarrassed. Even she would be.
So, it was with a mental shrug and quite a bit of carelessness that she spoke. "I love it."
The brown eyes peered at her green own from below. "Y-you do?" She said faintly.
A firm nod was the only response needed.
Continuing with her rate of unexpected, the ninja planted her lips on the assassin's, sealing the deal about advancing their relationship and the Du Couteaus' plan.
But the latter was not relevant now. Now was the time for the princess and the cat to have some time for themselves after an emotional bath.
People would have their opinion and would surely try to interfere, but they would face them in due time.
There was no rush.
Final note: And another chapter is gone! No smut again this time (but I hope the fluff and copious lack of clothes made up for it). The last parts of the chapter were fighting with tooth and nail to come out, but after plenty of struggle, they did. I'm not quite content with how it came out, but the idea's there and if I try to better it, I'm not sure I'll get something as good.
Plot-wise, things are moving quite well. I expect quite a change in pace in the happenings around the League in the next three chapters. Oh, I won't tell what they are, but they are somewhat obvious by now and I also gave you a lot of hints for some and some very hidden ones for other plot points.
Now, just a heads-up, I'll try to reply to your reviews as much as I can, but some of you send them as anonymous and I can't reply to those. Please do try to login if you want feedback, it's only ten seconds.
I don't have much more to say, except to hope you enjoyed this chapter and expect next one when it comes out!