A Star of Hope - Chapter One Preview

(Note: Italics missing because riot's format suck - also accidentally posted this at Art & Sound due to misinformation on my part, so I'm reposting it here.) _The taste of blood in her mouth wasn’t nearly her biggest concern – nor was the exhaustion so horrifying her bones felt as if they might give way and crack at the smallest sign of pressure or force applied to them._ _No, the biggest worry, which made her already erratic heart want go out of her chest was seeing Xayah and Rakan splayed on the floor before her, motionless. She saw Neeko on her knees, quick and pained breaths pumping out of her as her chest beat up and down harshly._ _It was hopeless, she thought miserably. Hopeless. She had failed, and hope no longer existed in her life. It was not supposed to have been like this. The mission was supposed tot have been a simple assistance; a small life-filled asteroid being plagued by voyaging pirates that would not stop bullying them._ _Simple, a few days’ worth of work, another perfect ace in her record. The mission report resembled nothing with the devastating reality of the events; an ambush, led by the anti-Stars. She and her team had been no match for them. After all, anti-Stars were more powerful than ordinary Star Guardians._ _She gave a prayer to the First Star for strength and forced her body to come alive, willed adrenaline into her body and forced it to move. Her hands came into motion before her and they boosted her up, as her knees scraped against the now-lifeless floor of the asteroid, the blood that tore open there dismissible in her mind._ _Neeko was already on her feet, her right arm clutching her left elbow, the arm laying there motionless on her side. Broken, her mind supplied. She didn’t dare give way to the thought that threatened to consume her and spit her out, the simple fact that she couldn’t feel Xayah and Rakan’s lifeforces any more._ _No. She couldn’t think about that. If she died, if she gave the thought so much as an inch, it was all over. She lifted her right hand and drew upon whatever reserves her energy had left, a small, bright sphere forming in it with considerably more strain than it should. She scanned the horizon for them, failing to see them. She knew they were there. She was bracing herself for the blow when she noticed them far on them far away, rurnning – retreating._ _A small shudder left her, sucking the strength out of her. She collapsed on her knees with a thud, this time registering the searing pain of torn skin making contact with rough, scorched earth. They were leaving. Her friends were safe, because they were leaving-_ _The relief didn’t last long. She felt it, like nothing she had felt before. An endless strength, a wave of pure power she could not see yet she felt in the marrow of her bones. Zoe. Fresh tears flowed down her eyes._ _It was over. She saw Neeko looking at her desperately. She shook her head. What little magic power she had left was no beyond her reach. Her lips trembled. Failure, worthless. The words circled in her mind._ _A look of determination took over Neeko. She ran to Xayah and Rakan, ripped their fractured Star-Gems from their chests and threw them at Ahri, landing them in front of her. She looked at them, Magenta and Green – pulsating. Alive._ _She looked up and breathed out in relief, the rest of the pain in her body clashing in on her. It was not yet over. There was still hope. She felt the insurmountable wave of power draw closer. She closed her eyes and took a breath. When she opened them, she looked at the world with all the rage and fury of her soul._ _She forced her magic to expand and thread through her fingers, through her tails, to encompass her being. All she had to do was reach them and ensue her signature move, to travel at lightspeed. All they had to was get away from Zoe, back to where the First Star protected them. She could do it. She had to._ _She took a step and saw Neeko looking at her with tears down her eyes, sadness in her face and acceptance. Before Ahri had a chance to reach out, to scream, Xayah and Rakan’s Star-Gems in her arms, Neeko lifted herself in the air, her magic glowing around her like a Star being born, with all the grace and light of the First Star - and clashed onto the ground._ _The force of her attack sent ripples through the ground, filling the air and shattering. With more precision than Ahri knew her friend was capable of, Neeko’s magic spread around Ahri, shattered the ground around her, and exploded under her._ _As her scream filled the air alongside Neeko’s magic, her heart tearing into a thousand pieces in her chest, Ahri knew what she had to do. Be a leader, her master’s voice was heard in her head. With a sob to Neeko, her friend whom she knew she had no hopes of seeing again, she pulled all her energy in._ _Still being thrown backwards from the shattering blow, knowing that Neeko’s magic, still intermingled with the air, would protect her from being traced, she unleashed herself, and with the speed of a star exploding, she fled._ Jinx awoke with a scream. She was covered in sweat all over as her hands spread across her body, her survival instinct racing and adrenaline pumping, trying to establish safety. “Jinx?” Lux asked from next to her. She felt Lux’s warm hand touch her arm. “What’s wrong?” Still shaken, she breathed in and out erratically. She closed her eyes and drew a few firm breaths, steading herself. She turned to Lux and gave her a warm smile. “Just a nightmare.” Lux looked at her doubtfully, but she didn’t press her. She knew that, even still, Jinx sometimes needed to be alone. “I need some air.” She said. Lux pursed her lips, thinning them, as she often did when she worried. “I’ll be back soon, promise.” Jinx said, leaving before Lux convinced herself to ask. She didn’t feel like answering. She exited their rooms and went through the large corridors of their castle, wanting to take a stroll through the bridge connecting the Southern Tower with the rest of the Crystal Castle, reflecting the glow of the Stars in the night. It was there she met Janna, her hair down, her light purple gown seamlessly mixing with the wind. Her master looked at her softly before turning back away, facing the Horizon as she leant on the bridge. “Couldn’t sleep?” Jinx asked her. “I like to feel the air on my face at this hour.” Janna replied softly. Jinx stood next to her and leant on the bridge’s fencing as well, though with her back. It was a while before Janna finally said, “Whatever it is, decide if you want to say it or not and stop fidgeting.” She hadn’t been fidgeting of course – not externally anyway. But the bonds within a team were sacred, especially between their Master. Janna was their Guardian, she knew where they were and how they were at each given moment. Jinx took a deep breath and held it before finally deciding she was going to ask. “Can Star Guardians have prophetic dreams?” Janna turned to look at her for a long second. Then she laughed softly. “Yes, Jinx, some Star Guardians have the potential for oneiromancy – a very difficult skill which takes the very gifted ones decades to develop, and those simply possessing it need centuries.” She gave Jinx a soft smile. “I still haven’t come close to mastering mine, and I’ve been practicing for over one-hundred and thirty years.” It was at that moment something flashed before Jinx – for less than a second. For less than a second, she was Ahri again, her face twisted with pain and horror, something sharp cutting into her arms, forcing them to bleed. She jumped back to reality. Janna stared at her with wide eyes. The moment Jinx noticed, Janna’s shock faded away to be replaced by her usual stern warmth. “Now go to bed. We’re expecting Ahri and her team tomorrow, and we need to look our best.” “Why?” Jinx asked. “I took down Thresh. The most powerful Dark Star. Why do I need to scrape and bow before her?” She preferred not to tell Janna anything about the nature of her dreams. Janna rolled her eyes. “I told you to be respectful, Jinx. Not to scrape and bow.” She grabbed Jinx’s hand. “You might be the most powerful Star Guardian we’ve had in an era, but Ahri is not someone you should take lightly.” Janna looked up, with a longing that resembled her age. “While Lux is excellent and precise with her spells and you are overflowing with power but can’t for harness it without your Channels to save your life, Ahri is different. “Not as powerful as you, but still extraordinarily so, Ahri is in perfect alignment with her power. She uses it as a perfect extension of her body, not needing any Channels to harness it to its fullest extent.” Janna looked back down at Jinx and smiled. “Not only is she extraordinarily talented, but in combat, she would hand you your ass.” Jinx snored. “As if.” Janna laughed and released her hand. “Go back to sleep, Jinx.” Not feeling like getting on her Master’s agitated side, she smiled Janna goodnight and went back to bed. _Her tears flowed before the council, her grief so great it overruled the cuts and bruises on her body, from the window she’d smashed through. She wasn’t speaking, just howling and crying, her pain so great it tried to rip her chest open and kill her, though she couldn’t figure out how to let it. She clutched their stars with all her might, their firm golden-metal cutting into her skin and drawing blood. She didn’t care about the Elders around her, all she cared was about her friends whom she could no longer feel, about the pain splitting her. Neeko’s sacrifice was forever etched into the fabric of her being._ _Her Master’s hands touched her shoulders and shook her. “AHRI,” she spoke roughly. “AHRI TALK TO ME!”_ _“THEY’RE GONE,” Ahri howled back. The realization broke something fundamental in her chest as more tears flowed. She opened her arms to reveal the Star-Gems of her friends, “Take them to the First Star!” She begged, her eyes closed from the pain of all the crying._ _A Star Guardian had two hearts. Their real one and their Star-Gem. If a Star Guardian’s body failed, but their Star-Gem, containing their Soul and Essence, was not shattered, they could be brought back to life by the First Star._ _She opened her eyes to look at her Master, Janna’s eyes red and silver with tears. “Ahri,” She said, her voice breaking. “Ahri, it’s too late. She has them.” Janna said, her voice a whisper._ _Ahri, breathlessly, tears still flowing and hiccups escaping her, dared to look down at her friends’ Star-Gems. In her worry, in her pain, she hadn’t sensed them. She hadn’t sensed the vibrant Star-Gems go out and lose their glow and pulse. She hadn’t sensed them truly die. Her scream tore through the fabric of the Universe itself._ _Jinx awoke, eyes red with tears flowing, shaking all over, Ahri’s scream still piercing her ears._
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