Watch Closely

A nearly empty Fleshing Arena was a rare sight. Darius’ black eyes scanned the area in a mixture of boredom and annoyance; only supporters of Keiran Darkwill, a couple journalists and Jericho Swain’s allies were present. What Darkwill named the Notorious Duel was supposed to take place right before their eyes, and he could hear the crowd that had gathered outside the arena shout their protests. They wanted to be let in.

Keiran Darkwill was wearing his father’s armor. From the spikes on his shoulder plates to the pointed toes of his heavy boots, the youngest son of Boram Darkwill looked like the next Grand General. All Noxus Prime had placed their bets on him, for it was well-known that Darkwill was a fine duelist and the best swordsman in the absence of the Du Couteau family. Darius wanted to ask Swain why he even agreed on participating. The Master Tactician was well-versed in the use of magic and military strategy, but he was not a duelist.

Chancellor Malek Hawkmoon nodded at the Raedsel Captain, and they both sent looks at Darius. Lifting his hands, the General caught the two contestants’ attention, and then lowered his palms.

The first strike was deadly. Darkwill ran at full speed in Swain’s direction, lifting his father’s mace and aiming at the older man’s face. He didn’t miss, and half the flesh of his face was torn away. Darius gritted his teeth. Darkwill wasn’t an idiot; the only reason why he had deemed the stalling at the High Command a “coward’s game” was because he knew that Swain wouldn’t stand a chance against brute force. But when the Master Tactician didn’t even wince at the hard blow, supporters from both sides fell silent.

Darkwill roared once more, shoving his knee into Swain’s chest and hammering his mace into the man’s back. Beatrice flew over their heads, crowing and shrilling at the sight of freshly drawn blood. Swain stumbled back, the blood soaking his olive robes and losing his cane. He limped backwards with every strike Darkwill directed at him. The heavy mace found its way into his chest, and Swain’s crimson stare noticed the way his opponent smiled under his helmet. Darkwill retracted his weapon, and the Master Tactician felt the skin of his chest tear along with his clothes.

Darius narrowed his eyes at the scene before him. Keiran Darkwill had ripped the man apart, and Swain’s black lungs were showing under the shattered bones of his chest. Yet, he was still standing. The duelist pushed him into a wall, pointing at him with his mace.

“Surrender now, Jericho Swain,” he ordered proudly, earning himself a loud cheering from the remaining headmasters of the noble families of Noxus.

A trembling hand pulled down the ruined collar of his robes and Swain directed a toothy grin at the former Grand General’s son. “Watch closely,” he rasped, his voice almost inaudible with all the crowing above their heads.

Swain raised his other clawed hand, and a blinding light hit Keiran Darkwill in the face. His mace fell to the ground, the noise it made resounding through the entire arena. Blinking above him, the young man screamed at the sight of a six-eyed raven firing the light at him from its beak, and a sharp pain seized his legs. Darkwill took off his helmet, staring wide-eyed at the large talons that emerged from the ground and gripped at his thighs, breaking the iron of his armor and slowly cutting off his legs as they closed around his limbs.

His cries were louder than his supporters’ horrified screams behind him, and as he felt his bones crack, his brown eyes implored the Master Tactician to stop. The pain tore his vocal chords and Darkwill bit his tongue to the point of drawing blood, but it was the sound of his bones cracking that marked the end of their duel. Walking over with ease, Swain fisted the man’s black hair and forced him to look up.

“I win,” he stated plainly.

“No,” Darkwill sobbed, “You are a monster.”

His small eyes glanced at Darius, who immediately readied his axe.

“General Darius,” Swain spoke, not even taking into account the way everyone else stood in shock at the sight of his face and chest slowly regenerating flesh and skin. “Keiran Darkwill doesn’t acknowledge me as the winner of this duel. Would you kindly evaluate his strength yourself and tell us if he surpasses me?”

Darius tried not to look at Swain’s chest as it slowly closed and his lungs were once again covered by flesh and bones and instead focused on the man who lied on the ground, his legs severed from his body. It was a poor sight, he realized. Darkwill was crying like a woman in labor, and his eyes pleading him for mercy.

The Hand of Noxus raised his axe. Beatrice flapped her wings above him and Keiran Darkwill’s head rolled to the silent supporters of an era that just ended.

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