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Not Your Hero Edit
High Councilor Kolminye struck her gavel, interrupting the undead delegate of the Shadow Isles mid-sentence. “Summoner, your time has elapsed. This Council now recognizes Nami, Champion of the League of Legends. This will conclude the deliberations concerning Bilgewater’s request that Jax, a mercenary with primary residence in Ionia, be permitted to represent Bilgewater on the Fields of Justice in the Nyrothian dispute.”
Nami took the podium and faced the gallery. “Listen, I’m no great scholar. But it sounds to me like you’re not sure whether or not the…” She glanced down at her notes. “The…Pact Concerning Contractual Representation During Special Disputes…whether or not that applies here.” She grinned and gave a shrug. “And I definitely don’t know any better than him,” she nodded toward the Shadow Isles Summoner who had just spoken, “because by the looks of it he’s been doing this a looooong time. I think some of those bandages are older than me.”
A few nervous laughs came from the audience. Her youthful awkwardness, and her obvious lack of familiarity with the nuances of cultured discourse, left an uncomfortable tension between her and the Champions and Summoners who filled the room. She sounded like a student delivering a public speaking assignment—and yet her sincerity, and her visible struggle to hold her own in this foreign arena, began to draw them in. Delegates began to lean forward in their seats, anxious on her behalf, half-consciously hoping that she would find her way onto surer footing.
Nami’s bright eyes met their concerned gaze, and she smiled as she continued. “But it sounds like the rules could go either way, so let’s talk about what’s really at stake here.” A few of the audience members began to nod. “I know a lot of you don’t trust Bilgewater. And to those of you who don’t, who say Bilgewater is just a bunch of pirates and thieves, all I’ve got to say is, those pirates and thieves were the only ones who’d give me a minute of their time when I came here two years ago.” Her eyes shimmered with the still-fresh pain and humiliation of being ushered out of the embassies of so many nations, hearing those condescending expressions of pity.
“Bilgewater listened to me.” She smiled at the memory, and around the room delegates found themselves smiling with her, without even realizing it. “They sat me down and plunked a big ol’ mug of ale in front of me—I took a gulp and I thought I was going to choke to death!” She laughed, and the room laughed with her.
In the Ionian delegation, Karma watched with a measured frown of dismay. As soon as she heard that laugh, she knew the tide had turned.
“And so, once I stopped choking on my first drink of land-walker spirits, they listened to me. I told them about the fading moonstone. About how I’d searched far and wide for the land-walkers who used to come, to make the trade of moonstone for pearl. About how I learned that it was here, at the League of Legends, that not just Demacia and Noxus and the other great land powers but even the little people, like us, could have a voice, where the wisest sages from all the nations of Valoran gathered to share their wisdom and learning. I told them all this, and I remember, they said,” she scowled and lowered her voice into her best impression of a swarthy Bilgewater sailor, “Why, lassie, o’course we’ll help. What fools we sailin’ folk would be if’n we scorned the masters of the sea in their time o’need.”
She laughed again, then coughed to clear the gruff accent from her throat. She thumped her chest theatrically to regain her voice, bringing more laughter from the gallery, and continued in earnest.
“They’re the only ones who listened to me. Maybe it’s because they’re land-walkers who sail on wooden ships across the ocean; maybe it’s because they understand what it’s like to be surrounded by danger that could swallow you up at any moment. Whatever you say about Bilgewater, all I can say is, they’re the ones who sponsored my application to join the League of Legends and become a Champion, and gave the Marai a voice here. I’m honored to be that voice now, because the League of Legends is truly our only hope.”
She cupped her palm, gathering sparkles of blue and green magical energy within. She cast it up, and it splashed into a map of the ocean off the coast of Bilgewater, showing the Marai lands surrounded by a great stretch of murky shadow. “The monsters move closer every day. Every few months we lose another settlement. The moonstone has almost gone out now. We think Nyrothian magic may hold the key to finding a way to make a new moonstone, but we don’t know how much longer we have until it’s too late. So I’m asking you, please, grant our motion. Ionia’s very, you know, honorable, and everything, but they’re not facing anything like what we Marai are. I bet that they could discover some real interesting stuff on Nyroth, and that’s great, but their lives don’t depend on it. Ours do.”
She lowered her head. Silence fell over the room. She spoke into that silence, voice beginning to break. Hearts broke with it, to see this proud young warrior brought low by desperation. “I’m asking not just as the representative of Bilgewater, or for the Marai, but also as a personal request.” She looked up again. “I beg you to please give us the help we need. Please don’t let the story of the Marai end this way.” She faltered as emotion came flooding in. “I…I’m sorry.” She sniffed. “I’m still pretty new at this whole thing.”
She swallowed, and looked over the gallery one more time. “I believe in the League of Legends. Please believe in us.” Tears were rolling down her cheeks. She wasn’t the only one in the room with wet eyes.
As she returned to her place in the gallery, the representatives of Bilgewater rose to greet her with applause.
High Councilor Kolminye held a mostly neutral expression, though the momentary arching of an eyebrow suggested she found the whole thing rather saccharine. “How say you, delegates?”
A few nods were exchanged among the Demacians. Lux rose with a cheerful smile. “On behalf of Demacia, I endorse the motion presented by my good friend Nami. I believe that she will keep to her word, and Bilgewater will use what it discovers on Nyroth to help the Marai.” Even the High Councilor seemed somewhat surprised; Demacia was not known to be particularly friendly with Bilgewater, given their ties to Noxus through the privateer fleet. Perhaps it was part of a ploy to drive a wedge between Bilgewater and the Marai themselves.
In the Ionian section, Karma sat with a measured frown. She did not seem to be buying it. But, declining to risk her personal stature on this vote, Irelia was put forward instead to give their formal response. “Ionia opposes the introduction of mercenaries into this dispute. You want Jax on your roster so you can conquer Nyroth and plunder it. This Marai girl is selling you a lie.”
“Mundo endorse free-market solution! Mundo have figures to demonstrate economic benefit of Bilgewater proposal!” Mundo held up a tattered fistful of papers.
High Councilor Kolminye raised a hand. “Your vote alone will suffice at this time, Doctor.” She looked next to the Noxian delegation.
Swain scowled impatiently. “Yes, yes, of course, we support the motion. Our hearts bleed for the plight of the Marai.”
Jayce adjusted his bowtie as he addressed the crowd, with a scornful glance toward Swain. “Well, if that doesn’t prove what this is really about, I don’t know what does. If this were a motion to give the Marai greater access to the League’s archives, or to send a science team to Nyroth, that would be one thing. But we oppose the absurdity of adding mercenaries to a major League dispute.”
Rumble leapt onto the table in front of him. “Like you’re one to talk about roster-padding! In the words of what apparently passes for a Piltovian Champion these days, this petition is ‘OKAY’ by Bandle City!” High-pitched giggling spread through the yordle delegation. The League’s decision to allow Rammus to join Piltover’s roster during the Shuriman dispute had been widely ridiculed, with some even alleging corruption at the Council level.
Ashe stood. “The Avarosan, on behalf of the Freljord, endorse this petition. We are honored to stand with the Marai, as new entrants to the League of Legends.”
Kolminye glanced down at the chamber’s secretary. “Secretary Torias, is the matter duly recorded?”
“Yes, High Councilor. A quorum of support exists, but the measure is not yet carried.”
Kolminye lifted her gavel. “Matter to be submitted to all Summoners of the League of Legends for individual vote.”
Nami sighed with relief. It had survived the first round. She’d been warned it might not get this far—but, her advisors had said, if it made it to a full floor vote, the odds were in their favor. Her own anxious words rattled around in her head. Had she mumbled? Forgotten something important? Said something she shouldn’t have? Well, for now, she’d just have to wait and find out.
Nami followed the splashing sounds into the dojo’s back garden. The moon’s glow fell upon Jax standing waist-deep in the pond with lamppost in hand, flowing through blocks and strikes as the waters churned around him. For a moment, she stood in astonishment, watching the particles of elemental magic bound up in the pool’s water dance and swirl alongside his movements. He was no mage, at least not so far as she had ever heard, but it appeared undeniable that he could sense the water’s magic. It was almost as though he were weaving a spell—no, that wasn’t it. It was more that he was somehow leading the water to cast a spell itself.
Wait, what? She rebuked herself for the bizarre thought. She had heard too many stories about Jax; she was starting to believe them. Like that rumor she’d heard when getting ready for her own Judgment, that Jax had no sooner walked into the chamber than the magical doors on the other side had swept open for him, before a single question could be asked. How when he first hit the Fields he went undefeated in over one hundred straight matches, rallying his teams to victory again and again. And then there was the story from the first Noxian invasion, so surreal, so hard to believe, but sworn to by tens of thousands of Ionians who said they saw it happen with their own eyes.
The Marai needed a hero like that.
“Hey, kid. Hop in, water’s fine.” He turned to face her, casually laying the immense metal lamppost over his right shoulder.
“Thank you.” Nami slipped into the cool water, holding the cased scroll up where it would stay dry. “Were you expecting me?”
Jax shrugged. No other answer came. The chirps of insects pulsed in the dense night air.
Nami hesitated. This was going to be awkward. Though much beloved here in Ionia, Jax had always insisted it was simply business: they paid him, so he fought, period. She was going to have to put that to the test here, as she came to hire him to oppose Ionia on the Fields.
She smiled her best smile, hoping that if she just spoke plainly, like she had in the League chambers, she’d get through to him. But from the start she felt the notes falling dreadfully flat. “You know, I heard an Ionian story, or I guess a proverb, about how a true master of the fighting arts reflects true technique like still water reflects the moon. I thought it was interesting. That water can flow, or crash. Like the great masters.”
Jax dipped a hand into the water and gave it a purposeful churn, roughing up the surface and scattering the moon’s reflection into disjoint flashes of light. “Yeah, you know what water doesn’t do? Tell cute proverbs. It’s too busy being water.”
Nami’s heart sank. All her anxiety about her speech to the League came rushing back. The Summoners she’d spoken with made it very clear: they needed Jax’s help. She should have known better than to start trying to talk Ionian philosophy with him. No matter. She was good at this. You took down a sea-dragon by yourself and joined the League of Legends. You can do this, too. She forced her smile back onto her face and was about to start along a new track when he spoke again.
“Take it easy, princess. You’re coming from Bilgewater, so I know the money’s good. You don’t have to put on the charm.”
“I’m…not actually a princess.”
Jax laughed. “Yeah? Funny. Coulda sworn you were some kinda princess.” There was something odd in his tone, as though he were the one correcting Nami as to her princessness or lack thereof. She found her mind wandering to the strange stories she’d heard about him, about his mysterious entrance into the League, about how nobody knew where he was really from, or what exactly he was behind that mask.
“Well, uh, the money is good, I think. It’s all written down here.” She held out the scroll. “I know it means going against Ionia, but I think having you on our lineup might help us reach out to Karma and the others, bridge the gap between us.” A bridge. A very strange land-walker concept, which had taken her a while to get used to.
Jax shrugged. “Eh, they know it’s nothin’ personal. So, yeah, about that money.” He cast the last clinging droplets of water from his left hand with one flick of his wrist, and unrolled the scroll to give it a read. “Yeah. Money looks good to me. Lemme just get my stamp here.” He rummaged around in a side pocket. A few moments later, Nami held in her hand a slightly dampened scroll with Jax’s seal firmly affixed in purple ink.
“Thank you, Jax. This means a lot to me. A new moonstone means a future for the Marai. I came to the League to be their Champion, their hero, but I’m starting to see that I’m not all they’ve got—”
Jax held up a hand. For once, his voice turned stern. “Hey. Don’t talk past the sale, kid.” He looked aside, at what she could not say, before returning to her. “You pay me, you clear it with the League bureaucrats, I fight. That’s it.”
Nami nodded. Excitement set her heart racing. Bringing Jax into this would fill a major gap on their roster. And what a way to fill it! He was a true “legend”, from the early days of the League. She hadn’t expected to be quite this overjoyed to have his support. Somehow, everything began to change in her mind. With Jax on their side, how could they lose? He’d brought hope to the hopeless in Ionia. He could save them. Suddenly, everything seemed possible. Not just survival, but victory. Glory. A new age for the Marai. For Valoran. For Nyroth. For all of Runeterra. “I understand.”
“Yeah, I don’t think you do.” Jax began to sound irate. “The Ionians get this. You don’t, not yet. So now you’re going to get a folksy little talk from ol’ Jax, just like the stories.”
His angry words tore her out of her trance. And indeed a trance it had been. She furrowed her brow, and had just started trying to work it all out when he took a step forward. She looked up.
He stood over her. “I ain’t your hero. I’m just in the background. I’m filler. You get me? I’m a merc, and you’re paying me real good for that. But the price of me being your hero, leading you Marai to victory, that’s something else. Nobody’s paid that price yet, and you don’t want to be the first. Got it? I’m nobody’s hero, kid. Heroes don’t fight with lampposts. Heroes fight with swords, and bows, and guns, and spells, and torches, and sieges, and whatever else they can use to split their enemies’ guts open and burn their cities to the ground. Yeah, you’d win. You’d be unstoppable. And one day, you’d cross paths with another you, and you’d shove that trident of yours through her heart and grin while she thrashed to death on the other end. I ain’t your hero, and you don’t want me to be.”
Nami stared back. All that enchanted fervor that had begun to cloud her thoughts had drained out of her. It left her cold. She felt herself shake. “I don’t really know what to say.”
Jax answered with a nod. “I appreciate the honesty.” He clapped her on the shoulder, and warmth flowed through her veins once more. She was herself again. She couldn’t see his face—if he’s even got one, she thought—but she felt like he was smiling back. That he was glad to see her come back. “Now get going, ya little scamp. You’ve got yourself a destiny to follow. Oh, yeah, and remember: twenty percent up front waiting for me when I get back to the Institute.”
Nami nodded back. “You got it.” She slipped the stamped scroll back into its case, turned, and left. Out of the corner of her eye, she glimpsed a row of faces peering down from one of the dojo’s second-story windows; they quickly vanished soon after. His students, presumably.
As she crossed through the dojo’s gate, she heard the sound of water splashing in the pond.
Jax, the Grandmaster at Arms, will fight for Bilgewater!
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