Akali is grinning as she leaves the venue, adrenaline from the afterparty still coursing through her veins. The two esports teams had hosted an entertaining evening, even if it was shorter than expected. The party had been Lucian’s idea, some downtime for them to relax and chill with the players and other significant guests alike. It was fun, there were drinks and food, she and Ekko had a friendly rap battle and there were no crazy fans throwing stuff at her like last year. Despite the free-flowing alcohol, she hadn’t drank a much, so Akali walks back towards her hotel at a leisurely pace.
Akali isn’t worried despite the late hour. She knows how to defend herself and her yōkai nature gives her an edge in a fight. She nods to herself as she walks down the street, swinging her bag idly to the vague flickering of the street lights. There’s a rhythm in the rapper’s head, but it’s not from her phone ringing. Akali sighs she waves away a naga fireball—what do they call it in Europe? A jack’s lantern? Willy-wisp? She digs it out to answer it reluctantly, "Yeah?”
“Akali. Congratulations on your performance.”
She stops in her tracks, staring into space because—"What the fuck Shen, how did you get this number?”
“So you did change it.” Shen says, without missing a beat. Akali thinks as she shakes her head, he's unflappable as always, her steady steps quickening. There’s a cat in her way but she skirts around it, glaring at the forked tail that flicks at her ankles.
“Of course I did. I got doxxed, you didn’t see?” And was that a clown fiesta. They hadn’t found the guy yet, but all of their online presence abruptly stopped the day after. Bummer, because she would have loved to rip them a new one.
“Yes, I did. Don't worry. The problem has been taken care of.”
Akali blinks, pausing her brisk pace. There’s a feeling of relief, of satisfaction but she latches onto the concern, “What does that mean?”
“Your hotel room was looking a bit sparse. I thought you needed a bit more decor. Let me know if you like the new incorporation.”
“Shen, that’s great, but what the fuck do you mean, the problem has been taken care of ?” Akali knows that she’s raising her voice and the people that are on the streets at this forsaken hour are staring at her if they weren’t drunk off their asses. Except Shen doesn't answer. He means every word he says, ever so serious, you just need to figure it out. It's like speaking with Master Kusho all over again, but with the care of an older brother instead of a distant teacher.
“Don’t stay out too late, Akali.”
“I’m not a kid,” Akali says back, because at least that , she’s familiar with. “Shen, what the hell did you mean?"
The jerk just hung up on her didn’t he?
Akali groans, staring at the screen. She taps on the icon to save the number as a contact, might as well for convenience's sake. The rest of the walk is uneventful, save for a few spirits stirring as she walks by the hidden alleyways to the hotel foyer. Ghosts cling to her, but showing her true form for a second is enough to dissipate them for now. Afterwards, the spirits are more wary of her, the afterglow speaking of power and death, with banished ghosts haunting her steps instead.
Akali takes the stairs two at a time, not bothering with the elevator and trifling conversation. There are smokey lights in the corner of her vision, the condensation of the spirits that were here before, trapped for eternity, without peace because their legacy won’t let them leave. It’s sad, yes, but she’s encountered worse.
Akali pushes open the door to the brightly lit hallway, the fancy architecture makes her roll her eyes as she walks to the suite she shares with Qiyana. It’s more of the singer’s taste than anything that belongs to Akali. She would have chosen to room with one of the boys if Qiyana hadn’t stabbed her nails into Akali’s bicep with a grip so tight, she had sworn her muscles would have splattered tissue everywhere if she didn’t say yes.
Akali swipes the keycard, the one modern touch on the otherwise traditional European style of the suite. Golden lights greet her as she enters the foyer, a click of the door shutting behind her. Akali tosses her bag next to the couch, wanting to crash in the fluffy bed right now. She can deal with the laundry and whatever else in the morning. Only the training that has been ingrained into her bones keeps her upright, a hand covering her mouth in a yawn as she makes her way to her room.
Akali pushes the door, weird because she swore she had left it closed, and flicking on the lights. “How the fuck did you get in here! Last time I checked, your magic eyes don’t help you pick locks or bypass a keypad!”
Shen stares passively from where he’s sitting on the bed, her bed. “I had help.”
That explains jackshit so Akali just gawks at him, taking in the new changes and how similar he looks to Master Kusho now. Except Shen is younger than she ever remembers Master Kusho being, so the comparison doesn’t really work except it does in the lines of stress rather than age and the ever-present bitch face.
Now, look, Akali doesn’t yelp because she’s trained in martial arts and raised in an environment where it could have cost her life, but the sound she makes isn’t one she’s most proud of. “What the fuck!”
There’s the sound of a pained groan behind her, and that sounds way too familiar for her liking. So Akali turns around and says, “Zed, you bastard. Why the fuck are you here? When did you two make up? Because last time I checked, you,” a finger stabbed into his chest, “killed his father.”
Zed clutches his bleeding shoulder with a grunt, falling into a smaller form, cat eyes gleaming with irritation. The kunai she threw instinctively clatters to the ground, but she’s too shocked by Zed, as a human again, shifting behind Shen, an elbow supported on his shoulder. There's the whispers of the twin tails that always follow Zed, with no wound in sight. Shen doesn’t react, except for a slight flinch to the trained eye, when years ago, he would have probably held Zed in a chokehold without a second thought. Akali narrows her eyes at where they are perched on her bed.
“It was just over a year ago,” Shen says, unbothered.
“And you didn’t think to tell me! He killed your dad!”
“You had just announced your recruitment to K/DA. We were working through our own issues at the time as well.” Here, Shen shrugs, grief around his edges, “We talked more about the circumstances surrounding it. Zed was trying his best with a first shift and Father knew what could happen. There is very little you can do against a fireball once it spreads. You know this, Akali.”
His mouth twists into something mournful, “It’s all a part of this life and the legacy I carry.”
And Akali's protests die with the tug at the heartstrings. The man lost his father and best friend in a night. She knows that her leaving hadn’t made anything easier, but she was feeling constrained and trapped, and Shen knows the feeling more than anyone so he let her go. She’s glad that she wasn’t there for Mayym’s inevitable yelling at Shen for doing so, it is a nightmare to be on the receiving end of.
Akali sighs, she's going to do a favour for this emotionally stunted idiot, stepping forward to wrap herself around Shen in an awkward half hug on the bed. His arms hesitantly come around her and it feels like it’s been forever since she’s felt this secure. The familiar warmth reminds her of when she was still a kid and Shen and Zed were almost twice her age, physical affection was easier. Akali didn’t have to worry about people finding about her nature because they were the same, they knew of the supernatural and the spirits that wander the boundaries. Back then, she still called Shen nii-san , Zed by a nickname lost to arguments and time, where they were happy with their family of shamen and yōkai alike. But now they’re all adults, flow from the nest because their lodestone that was Master Kusho fell, and with him, Shen’s heart and hopeless dreams of being free from his lineage’s responsibilities.
Akali doesn’t cry, but she comes close to it sometimes, so she pulls back after who knows how long. The two wisely don’t comment as she scrubs her face. Zed sneers at her, though, she sneers back and says in the steeliest voice she can muster, “Get the fuck out of my suite, you dickheads. You guys didn’t pay for it.”
Shen graciously nods, “Goodnight Akali,” but Zed says, “See you tomorrow,” with a grin smeared across his face.
Akali rolls her eyes, hefting another kunai to throw at him as they leave. Unfortunately, it misses, which has Shen sighing, plucking it out of the door frame to place on the shelf next to it. He then works his magic, no scar to ever tell the fact that there was a weapon embedded into the wood in the first place.
Zed snorts, muttering, “showoff,” but has his arm slung around Shen, the two of them so close, you would think that nothing would tear them apart. Shen closes the door with one last smile at her and Zed throws a peace sign over his shoulder.
Akali rolls her eyes at the bare door, “Well damn, leave some lovey-dovey shit for the rest of us.”
There’s the sound of distant chuckling and then Akali can feel them fade from the hotel floor at the edge of her senses. She sits in silence, solemn but exhausted from the long day. Akali, feeling sweaty and gross, drowns herself in the shower, until the hot water has run out and the mirror has been fogged beyond recognition. She steps into her bedroom, a towel wrapped around her hair, to see a notification on her phone.
[00:35] Jerkass: Did you like the new decor?
Akali narrows her eyes, fingers darting across the screen. The next message has her running into the living room, towel wrap falling around her shoulders. The sight that greets her tells her there’s no hope of going to bed anymore.
"SHEN, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK?!"
[00:59] sent: what
[00:59] sent: what new decor
[00:59] Jerkass: Have you not seen the living room? The bloodstains were Zed's fault.
[01:01] Unknown Number: youre welcome bitch xD