Disclaimer: Riot Games owns all of this, you know?
Author's Note: Ugh... 40 days since last update? Has it really been this long? There is no amount of apologies to you, guys. As is the clichéd excuse, Real Life held me hostage. One of you (I don't know who, since they didn't log in), recently reviewed me with a "it's been 38 days!" and I couldn't believe it had been that long. I hurried the finishing touches of this chapter and finally managed to upload it today.
I will say no more and leave you guys to the chapter.
Chapter 6 - Are you ready?
"And you are certain of this?"
"Saw it with my own eyes in the middle of the night. It was dark but it was undoubtedly them."
"And why did you bring this up now and not before?"
"You had more important things to do at the moment. This could wait a few weeks."
"We do not know that. We are ignorant to whatever plans they concocted. You know very well by now the extent they are willing to go to obtain their goals."
"Yes, but this is new. Even the players are new to this kind of game. Inexperience gives way to mistakes and time."
"True, but someone's helping from the shadows, and that someone is a master at scheming."
"If we do not know who it is, we cannot deal with them. We can, though, deal with what we know."
"What worries me more, is what if its all a cover for something much deeper? What if the rabbit hole goes endlessly?"
"Then the Eye must look everywhere."
"You know full well that I cannot cover every nook and cranny. I am but a human and I make mistakes."
"We'll deal with things as they come. For now, we need to be together."
"Indeed. We'll confront her when she returns."
A firm nod. "There better be a good explanation. For the sake of our heiress."
It has been brought to my attention that you approached romantically the Kinkou heiress. It is not my business who you decide to court, yet I must applaud you in landing such a high standing character. There are few that I would consider worthy of you, and she is one of them.
However, while I do not mind very much, others will not be so comprehensive. Just the channel I heard this news from makes me worry for your wellbeing. There are machinations going on that I cannot keep you safe from. Even Talon has heard rumors.
We must discuss this further. I expect you soon.
General Du Couteau
Katarina put down the letter with a sour taste in her mouth and deep contemplation of the words written.
How did they find out? It made no sense! Only three people knew about it and two wouldn't dare blab. But the final... General Swain could be willing to sink her if it meant more power, but he was smart enough to realize she had ulterior motives and was not simply obeying her hormonal needs. No, someone else had to know, and she did not like it one bit. Cass' warning resounded in her mind, a shout out to devious personas after her hide.
She scoffed unworried.
She was no stranger to people plotting behind her back. Specially back home.
She already was treading carefully because of Cass' words, but hearing the same from her father gave it a whole new level of danger. It meant the higher echelons of the High Command were in the know of this.
Undoubtedly the more traditional of the Generals would see this as high treason and would ask for her head. It was not a vague assumption. It had happened before to other stains in the history of Noxus. But the more progressists, curiously led by Swain, would rather maintain the doubt and ask for a thorough explanation.
The redhead sighed, getting up to prepare her pick-me-up elixir. As she worked, her brain kept going. Would they understand the reasoning behind her hastily concocted plan? How much of it was decided on the fly and could not be allowed to strategize upon?
"You had general Swain at your disposal!" She said outloud with pursed lips imitating the tone of those old idiots, a hand holding the now ready coffee and the other making a moking speaking motion.
But she dared not go to Swain for council and give more power to the crippled man. He already had enough to threaten the throne of Darkwill to also have the Kinkou heiress at his beck and call.
No, this was her proof that she was a true Noxian and that she earned her place in the High Command, not given the spot as a way to pay some debt to her father. It would also boost the reputation of her family in Noxus. After all, power was everything in the city-nation, and social standing meant power too.
Taking a sip, she recalled the last paragraph of the letter.
The warning that he could not block all attempts meant bad news, though, but it only affirmed her leaning to go public. If her father, who was in the top level of the High Command under direct orders of Emperor Darkwill, could not stop them, meant either the Emperor himself was displeased with her choice, or the traditionalists would gather their power players and make a move to discredit her family name and remove father and daughter from their seats. It was improbable they would succeed with their past exploits and stellar military records, but if the ever young-looking Emperor had his claws in it, there would not be much future for the Du Couteau in the dark city-nation.
She leaned against the wall, arms crossed and eyes lingering unfocused on the ceiling. Where the stakes ever so high? How did things turn out to be a minefield so quickly? To great risk comes high reward, but how much risk was piling up already? The Kinkou didn't know yet! That would be a deathtrap in itself!
How could she keep everyone appeased while she executed her plan? The Kinkou would be easy as long as she kept their heiress safe and sound, but there would be retaliation.
She couldn't even explain that well to her own Noxians in fear of they robbing her of her plans before they were unstoppable! There was so much backstabbing in the upper social strata it wasn't even funny. That was why she decided to ignore all politics and leave them to her sister, the social prodigy, and left to do what she did best, stain the battlefield red with her enemies' blood.
But once she wanted to dab in some plotting of her own, she got in over her head going straight to the hardest challenge possible.
Slowly a grin stretched over her lips. This grin was darker and more predatory than any before. For the first time, she would dare confront the High Command. This was a challenge, and Katarina Du Couteau rose to meet each and every challenge with a grin and a blade.
Those old bastards could go screw themselves. She would show them who was truly loyal to the Noxian ideal.
Re-reading the letter, now with a cool head, the redhead read between the lines once again.
Talon knowing also meant that not only those old coots knew about it, but much more people than that. It was safe to assume that soon enough of the important characters in Valoran would know about her coupling with Akali, no matter how fake and pretended it was.
It would be amusing what their reactions would be. Specially the ever nosy Demacians and their so-called ethics and honour when the complete antithesis to them snagged the avatar of balance and justice. The outcry for witchery would be swift indeed.
They wouldn't be that far off. She thought amusedly. Their confusion and not knowing how to respond once they came out of the closet would be most hilarious.
Soon she would be protected by the public itself and the summoners against other champions, leaving the path free for her to do as she pleased.
She couldn't wait.
Deep breath. Things would be alright.
Deep breath. There would be no problems.
Deep breath. Balance would be kept.
Deep breath. Understanding is part of keeping balance.
No matter how much she tried to reassure her quickly beating heart, the apprehension and hesitation would not leave the female Tree Carer.
They had been trained to face many scenarios and to always keep a cool mind when facing the unknown, something she was heavily depending on now.
How much outrage would her brothers show after she broke the news to them? Even she didn't know how she'd take them if she were in her place. How exactly do you respond if one of your most important people in the world was in a deep relationship with who was virtually their counterbalance?
It was this enigma that kept Akali the last five minutes in front of Shen's door, raising her hand to knock and letting it fall when her courage waned. This happened a few times.
It was the inevitable reaction of her mother after she caught wind of who her daughter had chosen that worried her the most. She knew she would understand, considering what she was asked to do, but her mother was strange around female Noxians, and no amount of coaxing would get her to explain the frown and sneer when she dealt with one.
Deep breath. Things would be alright.
I hope she understands in the end. She thought after knocking on the door, a sudden and heavy weight lodging deep in her heart, something that surprised her slightly. But there was no room for more contemplation when the door opened and Kennen, without his mask and a solemn look on his face, appeared. Giving her a firm look that made her gulp nervously and making her feel like she was a child who had robbed a cookie before dinner, he moved aside.
Walking in warily, she was met with the stern stare of the Eye of Twilight. Once again, she felt a third her age under that scrutinizing gaze. He was sitting on his reading chair with a steaming cup of tea between his hands and a now closed book resting in his lap. His mask had also been removed, choosing to let loose once in a while.
Their eyes met and an uncomfortable silence fell on the room, like a weight was placed in the very air. Akali squirmed involuntarily under that look.
The silence stretched on for almost two minutes as the female Kinkou was visibly distressed while Shen simply sipped at his tea. They all knew who the leader of their division was, and like it or not, he had the power to demonstrate it.
"So, Sister." He said slowly, his tone heavy and imposing. This was a very far cry from the usual mellow and friendly tone she always associated with Shen while in private. "How have you been this past week and a half since I've been gone?"
Gathering her wits, Akali gave a half-hearted smile. "Quite well. Any news from the council?"
"Not any relevant." Shen's eyes hardened. "But I think you have some for us?"
The pretty ninja gulped nervously. Did they already know? She opted to keep silent a few more seconds.
It proved to be wrong when Shen exploded. "Perhaps your news would explain your recent penchant for disappearing for hours and lying about it to us! Us, Sister! Your brothers!" His tone got harder and more severe the more he talked. He didn't like berating a companion and grown woman, but their team needed cohesion and unity, something that was threatened by the recent childish acts of The Fist. This was unacceptable.
Akali glanced at Kennen, his eyes had the same steeled glint in them. The only times he had that look was when he was in battle or a mission briefing. He knew when things were serious and when to joke. This time was clearly the former.
The Kinkou heiress took a steading breath. It was better to be direct and not beat around the bush. They were her brothers after all. "I have been meeting with the Sinister Blade outside of the battlefield. We're pursuing a romantic relationship." This proclamation was received with a surprising amount of calmness. The answer was clear as pure water. "And you already knew." She deadpanned.
"Indeed we knew." It was Kennen who spoke with confidence and she turned to look at him. "We were suspicious of you after you lied to our face the day Shen was leaving."
"Udyr and Irelia left as well. Of course." Akali pointed out her mistake and both gave her a knowing smile and curt nod.
"So, I took it in my own hands to follow you around." Kennen continued and Akali's brows shot up in surprise. "I admit you were hard to pin down, courtesy of our training and Sinister Blade's paranoia, no doubt, but I finally caught you a few days ago entering her room."
An embarrassed flush covered her face. "You didn't!"
The yordle shrugged stoically, giving the message that it wasn't his fault. "So I grew more suspicious and decided to get to the heart of the matter. I spied you from outside."
"You could have asked!" A beet faced Akali exclaimed. That was another level of personal space invasion!
"And have you lie at our faces again?" Shen said ominously.
The Kinkou heiress' visage soured and her head dipped. There was no good reply to that question. She knew she wouldn't have told the truth until she was ready. Or everything was set up. Too many things were dependant.
"What exactly are your intentions with this 'relationship' with Sinister Blade? You never showed any interest whatsoever before, and you have just proved that innovation is detrimental to your actions." Shen interrogated, a fist landing on the armrest of the chair. He was not displeased, he felt betrayed. Betrayed by someone who he'd have trusted his life with.
Akali raised her head and faced Shen, her brown eyes glinting with the usual determination she had when facing a tough obstacle. "My business with Sinister Blade is mine alone." She said with a hard tone. "It is I who will take the fallout from Mother for my decisions. Not either of you."
Shen's eyes shone with a dangerous light. "Whatever it is that your mother decides, this goes before it! We are the Triumvirate of the Kinkou! Your actions have seeded untrust in us! How can we work together anymore if we can't trust you to tell us these type of things!?" His face was stoic during this tirade, but not the volume of his voice. He was downright berating the female ninja.
Akali bowed her head in shame. He was right, of course. She was certain she'd do the same in his shoes if this happened. How could their bonds remain untouched after such a sublime show of stupidity? How could she be so shallow-minded to think they wouldn't understand?
A mental image of her mother shone through and she remembered why. Looking back up at the taller ninja, her eyes no longer held any defiant look. "I didn't tell you because Mother would find out and I was not ready to tell her. It was nothing against any of you."
"Irrelevant." Kennen stated. "You could have asked us to keep it private and we would certainly do so. Do you have so little faith in us?"
Akali looked visibly shaken. "I... No, of course not! I would trust you with my life!"
"Your actions speak louder than your words." Kennen's statement felt like a knife lodged deep in her back, cold and unforgiving. It was hard having to face a business-mode Kennen and Shen. They were relentless.
But Shen interrupted. "And Sinister Blade? Really? After everything that woman has done to disrupt the balance in Valoran and tip the scales in Noxus' favour, you pick her?"
"Balance must be kept." Was Akali's firm and instantaneous response.
"How is mingling with one of our enemies keeping the balance?" Kennen said curiously, but also sarcastically.
How, indeed... How exactly did their relationship keep any sense of balance? Katarina simply did as she pleased with her and she allowed it. There was no counterweight whatsoever.
But there was an idea of balance in what they represented. Katarina obeyed dutifully and without question her bloodlust, actively seeking new ways to appease it. Reason why she was feared in Fields and the battlefields, she always came out drenched in red, either her own or her enemies'.
Akali on the other hand, preferred to keep that internal beast on a tight leash, only letting out sporadically and when needed. It did not mean she enjoyed the thrill of the battle any less, in fact she savoured every moment as if it were her last. There was no balance there, they were actually quite similar! Both absolutely adored the feeling of taking a life!
The brunette's eyes widened. So that's what Katarina meant when she said they were alike during their first night. There was not much difference between her school of arts and her repertoire of skills.
But if they were the same faces of a coin, there was no balance... Unless...
"Ying and yang." She said finally. At their raised brows, she continued. "We resemble the Ying and Yang. How much easier is to keep the balance she breaks when acting immediately after if I'm close? There is that saying about keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer."
Shen leaned back on the chair, a pensive air around him. He stared at Akali for several seconds, gauging het words. "Sound logic." He admitted to Akali's pleasure. "But is she friend or foe?"
The heiress shrugged. "Can't she be both? She won't harm me in fear of retaliation, same as I." Both Noxus and the Kinkou had several feared strike forces to take out desired characters. The Triumvirate and the Crimson Elite were the main force, but not their strongest. There were darker and more shrouded individuals.
"You are walking on thin ice, Akali." Him calling her by her name instead of sister hurt more than she was willing to admit. She was that used to being in their confidence. "If Kennen was able to find out about this, there's a good chance others could as well and this got to your mother's ears. You could have gotten sanctuary for both of you, but your lack of trust is a serious matter that cannot be avoided. Your actions created a rift in the Triumvirate and it must be fixed."
The Fist of Shadow's eyes widened. "What are you saying? Are you kicking me out?!"
Shen quickly recoiled a few inches. "No. But it will not be the same. We'll see if you ever regain our trust." He shoved his arm to the door. "This meeting's over."
Looking at her two brothers, the female ninja nodded once in finality. There was nothing more to be said, and more words would do more harm than good. "I... Understand." She shuffled to the door and silently left.
Kennen watched her go with unnoticed worried eyes. "Weren't you too harsh?" He inquiried well after Akali was gone, turning to see his expression. It was stoic, as always.
Shen closed his eyes. "No. This will be a social training for her and a way to regain our trust. If she manages to stay true to herself while in the company of Sinister Blade, then she proved her point and I'll welcome her with wide arms."
"But what if she decides to push us away?"
"She won't." The Eye of Twilight said with conviction in his voice. "The Kinkou are her life and the Triumvirate her blood and air."
Kennen sighed, motioning for the door. "Sister's a grown and smart woman. She'll do what's right."
The human smiled warmly. "Of course she will. We trust her."
Kennen mirrored the caring smile and closed the door.
As ninja, they were allowed to have secrets, something both Kinkou had in spades. How could they keep it against their sister?
They had already forgiven her sister even before she spoke.
"You were the one." There was no doubt in the tone of voice. "You let this cat out of the bag, Master. Why?"
"Make some tea first. Then we'll talk all you want."
There was no response, but the sound of china clinking resounded in the room. Minutes later, the Apprentice presented the tray with the beverages. Handing a cup to the Master and taking one, the Apprentice laid on the seat, waiting. The younger knew that the Master would speak at their leisure, somehing picked up over their many meetings.
"Great tea, as always."
"Thank you." The tone lacked any sort of emotion.
Minutes passed by, much to the present impatience of the Apprentice.
"I made it public ahead of time to force Sinister Blade to hasten her agenda." The Master interrupted. The older laid the cup on its dish, a chiming sound echoed. "Much hangs on the fruition of her plans. Things that even she dares not try to disturb. Things way above her."
The apprentice's brow furrowed. "Above...? You don't mean the High Command, do you?"
"Oh, god... You do..."
"Indeed I do, my young apprentice. One of the main lessons you will learn is, when planning, plan big. You have the resources, why stick with the sandbox when you can have the park?" A grin stretched on the Master's face.
"Do you even know what they would do if they find out?"
"You are assuming they don't already know."
"T-they do?" Shock was evident in the Apprentice's voice.
"Some. The relevant ones."
"They sided with you, I assume."
A laugh. "Of course they did! Some of their own volition, others through... Darker means.
The student didn't even flinch at the implication. It was a common ocurrence around the Apprentice's circle. "What does this have to do with Sinister Blade?"
"Everything!" The master's arms were thrown wide. "Don't you see? She broke a circle in Noxian history! To pick an outsider as a amorous interest out of the several open options for her is very well reason for accusing her of treason, and being the Fist of Shadow of all people, I'd be surprised she wasn't already killed!"
"W-what? But don't your plans depend on her success? How can they come through if the High Command won't accept it?"
"Ah... That is a matter for another time." A prominent smirk. One did not reveal their cards at once. What if someone had an ace of spades in their sleeves?
"I assume you have a backup plan for when Sinister Blade faces the Council?"
"Please cease your outbursts. They are unbecoming of a person of your status."
"To answer your question, Du Couteau is a Noxian and also of the High Command. If she isn't able to deal with those old geezers, she's not ready to face what is in her path. If she dares tread through it."
"Am I to assume you will not aid her?" The apprentice sounded unsure.
"Indeed. Only the weak need guidance."
"Am I able to aid her, though?"
The Master grinned. "Of course you are. Let this be a teaching and a bonding experience, my student."
Final note: First of all, this chapter fought with tooth and nail to come out, and it shows. I struggled to complete round it while trying to make progress with the main story. Next chapter will be fun, so I'll try to get it out ASAP.
So, Kitty received a letter from her father telling her of dark schemes in Noxus while Akali gets distrust from her brothers for her choices. Both of our ladies are currently almost alone versus the world. The Master and Apprentice plotting behind their backs plans of grandeur and conquest. Just who are those two?
Give me a shout what you think about it.