Prologue

Heavy footsteps stomped on the wooden boards of the docks. The ships swayed with the tide of the sea, waiting for their crew to board them. Only one ship was leaving this dark night. The men leaving stood in a line. Their loved ones looked at them, all of them stony faced. They bowed to one another. Husband wife, son and mother, son and father, no emotion could be seen. They did not need to speak words or show their care for one another. They already knew.

That was when light footsteps could barely be heard. Towards the approaching people, a man ran. His long black hair seemed to flow like a river, tied up into a pony tail. Dressed in Ionia's national color of red, he looked about, smiling. His thin frame was deceptive, since underneath all of the armor and the clothes, corded muscles were coiled and ready to spring. He skidded to a halt in front of three people who had come to the docks.

A woman whose hair was reminiscent of the beating waves on the shore, stared at him with clear eyes. Her celestial nature, her smile, it gave her this divine aura as she raised her hands and pressed them against his cheeks. "Be careful," she said in a seemingly operatic voice.

He laughed, tapping her hand, "Me? Careful? You know I never am, Soraka."

The woman frowned, but the smile quickly returned, "You never change, not even in the face of war, do you Zelos?"

The woman next to her, clad completely in green, grunted, "It would be nothing short of a miracle if he did."

Zelos chuckled and started to obnoxiously ruffle her obsidian hair, "Hey, what can I say? It wouldn't be me!"

"This is serious. The League has refused to relay our concerns to Demacia. We need you to go as quickly as you can, we need you to be diplomatic..." Her eyes narrowed as she spoke, getting angrier by the moment, "Polite...Disciplined and most importantly...will you stop touching my hair?" She batted his hand away, glaring at him.

A man's voice spoke up, "Akali, he is just a little nervous."

"Me? Nervous? No, never," Zelos laughed, shaking his head.

The man stepped forward, stroking his thin, wispy beard. He was dressed in the green clothes of the Wuju practioners. He stared at the young man until his shoulders slumped forward in defeat, "Yeah, okay, I'm nervous. I just, y'know...I kind of hoped Irelia would come with you?"

Soraka's soothing voice spoke up, "I'm sure she will come."

"She's still angry at me, huh?"

Soraka shook her head, "No, I do not think she is. She is just worried."

Zelos laughed and rubbed the back of his head, "Yeah, just...that look, y'know?" His light tone suddenly took on a darker one, any merriment from his features disappeared, "I have to get going. Please, keep the promise."

Akali tapped her fist against her chest, and gave him a stoic nod of her head, "We shall look over her in your absence, Zelos. Have a safe and expeditious journey."

Soraka tapped his forehead, "May the stars carry our prayers to you, may the love of our country and those who love you protect you, and may your love for your country light your path, Zelos."

He nodded. He looked over at the man. He bowed towards the man, "Before I forget: Congratulations, Master Yi."

"This was expected of me, but thank you nonetheless," Yi bowed back towards Zelos. "Your father would have been proud, Zelos, if he were here."

The young man nodded, turned around, started to walk away. The crowd that had gathered parted for him. He boarded the ship, and yelled at his crew to lift anchor. He looked back at the dock, he sighed. Irelia had not come. If only-

"Zelos!"

He squinted into the darkness, barely seeing a young girl running at him. He motioned at his men, "Men, drop the anchor! Drop it!"

"Sir, we're already moving out of the dock. We can't-"

"Then be ready to throw the rope!"

Zelos leaped over the ship's edge, his loose clothing billowing about him as he flew through the air. He landed on the dock delicately, rolling to minimize the impact. He got to his feet, and ran towards the young girl who had pushed past the crowd that had gathered. He leaned down and scooped her up into his arms, "Hey, thought you were going to be late!"

"Zelos, don't go!"

He laughed, nudging his head towards the slowly moving ship, "They're going to kill me for ditching like that, but I was chosen. I'm going to be gone for a month at most, I will be back."

The emerald eyes of the young girl welled with tears, her long black hair messily fell about her kimono. She was sniffling and hiccuping, "Y-you promise? You'll come back?"

He pouted, "Irie, what's this? You're crying?"

"N-n-no I'm not! Something in my eye! I'm not a kid, I am not crying! I am stronger than that! I am not crying!"

He laughed softly, and pressed her head to his chest, "Irelia, I'm not coming back."

She paused. She hiccupped and stared at him as his voice hardened, his emerald eyes staring into hers, "Because I will never leave. You are all that I have left, Irelia. I will not leave you."

He reached into his chest piece, and took out a small wooden talisman. It had characters carved into it, they looked like they were carved by a childish hand. It read, 'いれりあ.' He dangled it in front of her, "No matter where I am, you are going to be there with me. You'll always be there with me, no matter where I go. You're all that I have left Irelia, I will not leave you. All that I am leaving is this land."

Zelos leaned over and kissed the top of her head, making her blush profusely, "I promise that I will come back to Ionia. I will come back to this land, but until I return, I need you to promise me something."

She looked up at him, an overly serious expression on her face, and she nodded furiously.

"I need you to look after Ionia in my absence. Can you do that, Irelia?"

"Yes," her voice was stern, even for a young girl.

Zelos patted her head affectionately one more time, "There, you see? We each have our responsibilities, Irelia, as children of Lito. I must go to Demacia to protect Ionia, you must stay here to protect it. Can you do that, Irelia?"

"Yes."

Irelia reached into her clothing, and drew out her own wooden talisman. It had expert characters carved into it, reading, 'ゼロス' . Zelos tapped it, "See? I don't break promises. I will never leave you, Irelia. Never."

She nodded. He started to stand up when she rushed over and threw her arms around his neck, hugging him. She tightened her grip and muttered aloud, "Be safe, Zelly. Please."

He laughed and returned the hug, "I will, Irie. Your big brother won't be gone for long."

They broke the embrace, and she watched Zelos run down the deck once more. The ship was a couple dozen meters out. He bellowed at the shipmates looking at him, "Rope!"

He leaped off the docks, sailing through the air. He actually managed to clear half of the distance before he started to plummet into the cold water below. Fortunately for him, the moment his foot touched the water's surface, a rope winded itself into his hand. He gripped the line, and while skidding across the water, swung over to the side of the ship. He hit the side of the hull with a dull thump, using his feet to brace himself. He looked over at the fleeting image of the dock, and saw Irelia standing in front of the entire crowd of people. She stared at him while he was being lifted by the crew back into the ship. His hand raised itself to smooth back his hair when he felt something. He plucked it out and moved it in front of him for a better view. It was a flower, an Irelia, his sister's namesake. That was why she had taken so long to get to the dock, not because she was angry at him.

Zelos smiled at the pink flower speckled in crimson spots. He placed it back in his hair, and waved farewell one last time to her before he was dragged on board the ship, the waves gently beating at the hull as it lulled them towards a faraway land.


The sword art of the Hiten style. Its lineage long, its history tragic and bloodied, it was and is considered to be the epitome of sword mastery: It can have only one successor.