Work Header

Steps measured

Chapter Text

Lux flitted through a dirty street, the staccato of her heart beat in sync with her breathing while she kept her ears open to the sounds of heavy footsteps and rattling of armor, mixed with the occasional curse. Her pursuers were not trained enough, she could hear them two streets down. Hastily she moved the papers she had obtained from her satchel into a pocket of her cloak while she moved much more soft-footed.
It was her first mission here in Noxus, she had no backup and it had been made very clear to her that she'd have to stay a long time. Things were so very different from her home country, different than anything she had experienced before. There had been at least a try to educate her on the culture that awaited her, but it had hardly been enough to prepare her for the cultural clash.
The last two months she had spent getting familiar with her new surroundings, learning her ways around a small part of the undercity and gaining Intel. Noxus was nothing like she expected, and thus, during her first mission, she had gotten caught. Well, not caught, but seen, so she had to take her leave through said undercity. She cautiously passed two more crossroads, bringing distance between her and the unfriendly sounds of the guard she had alarmed.

A silent 'thump' as if something large and wet hit the ground was the only noise in front of her. Nothing as obviously dangerous as what chased behind her. Cautiously she slowed her advance, peeked around the corner-and flinched back.
The two bodies littering the alley in front of her where not that unusual per se, but a third, hooded person, a wicked-looking blade strapped to his arm, gripping around a fourth person's throat, most certainly was. Curse her luck to run into what looked like a crime scene. Another wet sound of what could only be a dropped body resonated in the otherwise empty street, followed by the barest whisper of fabric as the only other living person vanished into thin air. Lux instantly rose her light and threw it blindly in the direction where she had last seen the shadow. The detonation revealed a figure emerging through the shadows in front of her, not from her side as she had expected. How fast was that guy? Using his temporary distraction due to the sudden brightness Lux casted and threw a quick binding, which sealed him on the spot.

Guessing from the three dead bodies, this person seemed not to be one to mess with. Cold, golden eyes glittered from under the hood as he tested out his range of motion, and Lux knew that she would not be able to hold the binding for terribly much longer. Plus, she could hear her followers. The detonation had not went unheard. Damn. Showing fear in Noxus would surely get her killed. She needed de-escalation-and a way to make clear she couldn't care less about the corpse-littered street. "Hey Golden Eye, sorry for interrupting your party. Don't you need to tend to your friends?" She chirmed in the lightest tone she was able to muster.

The answer was cold and hissed. "This party is already dead." Lux was not sure if he was taking on her joke or not. Probably not.

The sounds of armored boots on cobblestones came closer, combined with a barked "There was something!"

Lux took a deep breath, smile unwavering. "Sad, the night is still so young. Want an invitation to mine?" She winked and stepped backwards, towards another alleyway.

He leaned against the tendrils of light. Lux did not let the effort it took to hold him show on her face. "Can't be more fatigued than my guests." He hissed while eyeing her baton and her composure, clearly trying to place her and her abilities. Luckily this face would get him nothing, it was just a manipulation of light to look like someone else.

Four men in different, black armor rounded the corner in a jog, halting at the sight of her. Lux dropped her binding and just went with it. The hooded person now stood between her and the other four, looking back and forth between her and the group. In typical Noxian behavior they fanned out. The single man took a step backwards and tilted his head to the side.

"You!" The group's leader lifted his heavy sword and pointed at the dark figure separating him from his designated prey, "move quick enough and maybe we let you live." A cruel grin split his face.

The person in question took a moment to regard the four persons standing in front of him before glancing back at Lux. "I take back what I said. More boring."

She lifted her shoulders. "Maybe I mixed up the invitations?"

He snorted, turning his back to Lux' pursuers (an insult in Noxus, she had learned) and slowly sauntered back the alley he had emerged from, picking at his arm-blade. Lux did not allow herself to exhale loudly. One of the more favorable outcomes, one of her problems just leaving. When the guards where not to…"Hey, Hoodie!" do something stupid.
The man in question continued moving, slowly enough to add to his former insult. Did she see blades attached to his cloak?

"We are to grab her…" Another guard tried to intervene, for Lux had already sneaked a few more steps backwards. "We can finish him off afterwards."

The leader spat on the street, turning to Lux. He didn't see the dark figure halting his steps. "Shoot him now, get him later. Can't waste time on an insigi… isini… unimportance like that." The head of the person in question whipped around and Lux caught a glance of his face, seemingly void of emotion.

"Need vocabulary lessons?" Lux offered sympathetic and as she heard the familiar 'click' of a crossbow, not directed at her, she dashed around the corner and ran as if the seven sentinels were behind her. Not a second later she heard the sharp sounds of a blade being dragged over soft skin, wet smacking and the gurgling of a drowning person.

Her pursuers would not bother her anymore, she concluded, not without horror about the quickness with which the situation had escalated. She dashed around some more corners before abruptly changing directions, heart thundering in her chest. She needed a place to hide and change…A shabby tavern was just what she searched for and she slid to a stop, took a deep breath to calm herself, put her cowl over her head and went in.

She calculated how long it would have taken the stranger to kill her party-he had seemed confident enough-and hoped she had reached this tavern before he had caught on her trail. If he was trailing her now. There was a possibility he'd want to repay her for the trouble he went through, so she took no chances.

At the moment she looked unassuming. Shaggy, black hair, brown eyes, slightly tan, so nobody paid much attention to her. Not more than to any other stranger. After ordering one of those disgusting fermented root-liquids the Noxian underclass dared to call beer she had analyzed the level of drunkenness in this room. She took the mug with her beer and, walking to the backside of the tavern, swept away the uneven chair leg of the most drunk, biggest and dangerously looking man in this tavern, so he bumped into another quiet drinker and, as expected, started to curse loudly. Lux resumed her way as quickly as possible, listening to the unfolding insults and the sounds of a starting tavern-brawl.

When she arrived at the back of the locality nobody paid her any attention, so she averted her face still hidden under the cowl and changed it. Eyes more muddy, hair to a mousy grey, more wrinkles of a spent life. Her clothes where nothing to be changed easily, but it would have to make due.

She waited for the first batch of people leaving through the backdoor to mingle and get out on the street again.

She exercised even more caution than usual on the way to her apartment, but no one seemed to follow her.

And when nothing happened, and the next days kept quiet, she relaxed again.

At the second meeting she wore a different face and different colors.

Lux shuffled through the notes of the mage she had been keeping her eye on since a few weeks. He had appeared at the edge of her attention, just a side-note in papers she had stolen, but he had struck her as odd. The eastern parts of Demacia had experienced an unusual plaque of insects, argoth, locusts and other creatures with too many legs to be comfortable around. They seemed to concentrate on strategically valuable basic commodities, and people started blaming witches. The annulment-slums had been searched through one time, Lux' had heard about several casualties, so she needed to find the real cause of the insect attacks-hopefully there was someone to blame-and stop them.

The shrine she stood near to was an indicator that this was a good lead indeed. Papers in hand she examined the figure of a twisted, eight legged, eight eyed monstrosity that resembled a spider. Were that teeth instead of the usual mandibles? Very inaccurate, Lux decided, and put the figurine down again.

Then she noticed something missing. It was not a tug at her conscience, like she had expected. She had tried something new, two thin strings of light lain out and tied to her mind, so anything breaking the light should warn her. But it hadn't, the light had simply vanished. Maybe a malfunction, but Lux wouldn't be taking chances, so she spelled herself invisible and stilled her motions.

Two beats of her heart later a shadow appeared in the center of the room, solidifying to a person who turned his head first, his body second to inspect the room.
A hood pulled down casted the face into shadows, but he wore the same colors, and for the blade strapped to his arm it was clearly the guy she had encountered on the street a few weeks prior.

He moved soundlessly, had made his appearance without Lux catching on the slightest whisper. She was sure he had to use some special kind of magic. The last encounter she had witnessed, especially the fact that he was here, alive and breathing, confirmed her initial suspect: not to mess with this man. An advise she'd gladly follow, so she opened her mouth to silence her breathing.

The man circled a second time, the gold in his eyes flashed in reflection as they darted over Lux' hiding-spot in plain sight. After another moment of absolute silence the man vanished as soundlessly as he had appeared.

Lux waited, motionless and as silent as she could be, until she heard footsteps approaching from the hallway.

A small man clad in dark robes entered the room, closed the door behind him and shambled to his desk. Lux looked at the papers in her hands. Oh no. He'd probably miss these.

"What…" The owner of this room exhaled, rummaging through the contents of his desk before he looked around carefully and lifted his hand. "In the name of the great swarm…" He didn't get to finish his sentence, for Golden Eyes appeared behind him, grabbed the long hair to pull it back, and drew a blade over his throat. Blood spurted out of the wound, over the desk and the notes Lux wasn't holding. Lux watched in horror while the other man tried to mutter something, but his sliced windpipe made that impossible. The assassin held the other man's head in place until the bloodstream stilled, before he took another look into the room. His expression was still hardly readable due to the shadows of his hood.
Lux continued to exercise her stillness, not daring to blink, not daring to move a single muscle.
After what felt like hours the darkly clad man pushed the corpse into the office chair where it collapsed lifelessly, before he vanished again.
Lux counted her accelerated heartbeat and let 200 beats pass before she allowed herself to move. She didn't let out a breath, she didn't lower her invisibility, she just tiptoed to the closed door and listened. It was quiet outside, so she pushed the handle down.
With a 'thwack' a dagger embedded itself into the wood of the doorframe, scratching the skin of her hand. A glance backwards revealed the cloaked form she had expected to be gone. Her hitching breath must've provided enough of a target for another blade, thrown accurately ten centimeters below her mouth. Lux had barely enough time to lift her hand, throwing up her shield with it, to deflect the weapon. She had hoped not to expose more of her abilities than she already had, but screw that now. The whisper of a cloak gave her a direction to throw another binding, the light chinking noise told her it had hit home.

"Fool me once…" She heard the silent whisper, barely above the crescending sounds of footsteps from outside. At least two more men were on their way to this study.

"It looks like our party is cut short again." Lux, still invisible, pulled the dagger out of the doorframe and collected the one her shield had repelled. She heard one tendril of light snap, a reminder that one trick seldomly worked twice with intelligent people. "Patience is not your true virtue, right?" She walked to the window and laid the blades on the windowsill. Maybe that counted as a Noxian peace offering?

Another snort answered her as another tendril snapped.

The footsteps halted in front of the closed door and a sharp knock resonated in the study. Lux positioned herself next to the door and let her binding fade. He glanced at where he guessed she was. Pretty accurate, the glare went directly to her eyes, before he averted his face to his blades. He shook his head and vanished right before the door flung open.

The anger surging through the interrupter manifested in a loud yell as he stepped into the room, gaze fixated on the corpse. A shudder ran through Lux as she blinked to the discarded body, laying in a pool of its own blood. She quickly averted her eyes and slipped behind the back of the newcomer, taking her leave before the yell of alarm could attract any more attention to her person.

This time she was even more careful while leaving, keeping her invisibility up until she found a crowded tavern, where she was able to mingle with people.

With the sigil she had spotted on one of his blades it was not hard to figure out who the man was. The crest belonged to family Du Couteau, famous assassins connected with the Noxian High Command since nearly forever. The most prominent member was the head of the house, Marcus Du Couteau, followed by his eldest daughter, Katarina. She was a special kind of pain and Lux was sure she had heard Garen talk about the woman at least once. What had been concealed from Demacian intelligence was that General Marcus Du Couteau, Hand and Blade of Noxus, had brought a skilled boy from the streets into the family who now, years later, acted as his extended blade. From her contacts Lux had heard not only his title, 'the Blade's Shadow', but also a name, Talon, and the notion that a surefire way to get on top of the Blade's blacklist was to call his shadow a street rat, gutter trash and similar demeaning names.

Rumors said he extended the control of the Du Couteau's far beyond the borders of Noxus. 'Talon' seemed to be a fitting name for the single-person task force of a legendary family.

Altogether not a person she would voluntarily mess with. And, if she had a say in it, never meet again.

Yet here she was, a wickedly formed blade pressed to her throat and something wet at her back, the whisper of a cloak too silent to act as a proper warning.

"I propose a truce." She sputtered out, pressing herself into the fabric clad body behind her, while spreading her fingers out in an universal gesture, letting the device in them fall to the ground with a heavy 'clink'.

"And you are in a position to... how?" A rough voice hissed in her ear.

"You are leaking on my back." It was a shot in the dark, but it couldn't get worse, she thought. And there was the coppery smell of blood in the air.

The blade in her neck drew blood. The stinging pain followed seconds later, the blade so sharp it didn't hurt at first contact.
It could get worse.

"You would likely get out of here alone, but finishing your job?" She replenished, refusing to feel fear. Fear never helped. Especially not in Noxus. She would make it out here alive. Her baton was tucked safely into her belt, close enough so she could probably sneak her shield in between the offending knife. If it would only disconnect from her skin just the slightest…She waited some more painful moments in which she felt blood trickling down her collar bone, before adding "I can do something about that leaking."
The tip of the blade pressed into her skin for a second longer, then it was gone. He must've been much worse for wear than he looked like.
Still, Lux didn't dare to use her magic yet, for the glow that always accompanied it.

"Turn around." Her pursuer ordered.

Lux obeyed, blade millimeters above her skin, while her blood stained her collar. Luckily the fabric was dark. A distant part of her mind noted that she hadn't been thit close to another person since... Since when? Close enough to smell sweat and blood and the specific scent of the man in front of her.

She glanced upwards, into the shadows of his hood, where she was met with the cold, golden shimmer of his demanding glance. "You got yourself a deal." He hissed, glance flickering to the door before it returned to her, restlessly checking and rechecking her stance, her posture and her movements.

Very slow she grabbed the hem of his tunic, shoving it up just as slow, to take a look at the nasty, deep gash, twelve centimeters long, across his lower abdomen. According to his state of training there wasn't much dermis to cover the slashed through musculus rectus abdominis under which the obliqual muscles looked also torn. The cut possibly went deeper. In that case his intestines could be damaged as well.
A potentially fatal wound, unless healed magically. Did they have magical healers in Noxus? Or did they use magic only to destroy? Lux didn't know. It had to be extremely painful as well, but his movements were perfectly controlled.

She spared herself the compassionate whimper and placed her fingers at the sides of the wound to press the edges together. He showed no acknowledgement of pain, just observed her fingers tensely. She adjusted the size of her binding spell and wove it through muscles and skin before pulling it together. The bleeding stopped and the edges of the wound adapted, so she disconnected the spell from herself and attached it on his person. The skin stayed knit together as she released her hold on it.
"This will open again if I fade." She smiled apologetically, and was surprised to see something tugging his lips upwards for a second. She seemingly played this well enough, for the blade left her neck and the man took a step back. Lux also retreated until she saw him vanishing. Only then she dared to turn and get on her way.

She wasn't surprised by the dead bodies littering the ground on her way to the library. That would make information from out of here less valuable, but whatever.

She lived.