"The sword flourishes, as though painting with blood." - taken from a Noxian field report
The Ionians have developed some of the most breathtaking and deadly martial arts on all of Runeterra - just one manifestation of their pursuit of enlightenment. The most remarkable blade style to emerge, however, was the unusual byproduct of foreign intervention.
Master Lito was a swordsman whose teachings were sought by ruling classes from nearly every city-state. His art was a highly guarded secret, but it was said that swords would breathe in his grasp. He withered unexpectedly from a mysterious disease which baffled the brightest of Runeterran physicians. When he died, he left behind Zelos and Irelia, his son and daughter, and a truly unique weapon.
Zelos became a Sergeant in the Ionian military and left to seek assistance from Demacia immediately prior to Noxus' invasion of Ionia. Irelia, charged with the protection of their home until Zelos returned, was alone when Noxian forces struck.
The Ionians fought admirably, but soon Ionian blood stained the land beneath the prints of foreign boots. At the Great Stand of the Placidium, Ionians prepared for surrender, but were inspired to maintain their resistance when the young Irelia hoisted her father's enormous blade and pledged to hold until her brother returned.
In the chaos of the ensuing fight, Irelia was cursed with dark Noxian necromancy. As her life ebbed, Soraka, the Starchild, made a final attempt to anchor Irelia's fading soul. Unwilling to relinquish her home, Irelia rose at the brink of death, and her father's sword lifted in the air alongside her.
Irelia rushed back to the fore, unfazed by the blade's sudden animation. The weapon danced around her effortlessly, cutting down Noxians as they gaped in horror. The decimated invaders were forced to retreat from the Placidium.
Irelia was appointed Ionia's Captain of the Guard, and when the defense of her homeland moved to the Fields of Justice, so did she.
An enormous four-pronged blade parts the air for Irelia as she enters the Great Hall. The unusual weapon, once owned by her father, hovers unaided two meters above the ground. Irelia follows it apathetically, her mind focused on the task at hand. Aside from her pristine armor, which is polished dutifully for presentation, Irelia puts no effort into her appearance. Her face is seen only in glimpses behind her swaying hair. She's young, though the youthful spark in her eyes is tarnished with the blood of the battlefield.
She maintains a bold presence, fitting for the captain of the Ionian guard. Despite bearing the responsibility of Ionia's safety, her shoulders are as square and resolute as her Mantle of Decorum - Ionia's highest decoration. The capricious sword darts ahead of her to the marble doors, halting beneath the inscription. There it shivers imperceptibly, emitting a high-pitched whine. Whether because of apprehension or excitement, it is unclear. Irelia, expressionless, passes it and walks into the blackness.
The darkness set Irelia on edge; this was an unsafe manner in which to conduct an interview. She felt the blade circling around her, probing for threats she couldn't see. She hoped the agents of the League had the wisdom to approach her with care, as a surprise assault would end unfortunately... for them.
Irelia had a knack for steel; it spoke to her. Closing her eyes, she extended her senses - a meditative exercise her father taught her to perceive unseen threats. Air is the same as water, you simply must heed the ripples. His words echoed in her mind. What did he always say after---
Irelia flung herself into a backflip, the razor edge of a knife slicing through the space her head had just occupied. She landed in a crouch as a second knife raced through the air toward her. She beckoned to her father's blade, but it was nowhere to be found. Sensing danger, she managed to duck her head just enough to evade the point of the second projectile. She didn't flinch as the blade's edge slid through her cheek.
"...every ripple is the messenger of something yet to come." Master Lito appeared from the darkness, frowning behind his blindfold. Two more knives were clenched between the fingers of his left hand.
"I smell blood."
Irelia's jaw dropped. "Father?"
"Don't try to hide it, I can hear your blood pattering on the shingles."
Irelia looked down. The red clay tiles of the roof were unmistakable; this was her home. But she'd seen it succumb to the sickly green flames of Zaunite hextorches years ago.
"You know what that means." Lito sheathed the blades in the blue folds of his robe. He inhaled sharply, his hands circling in front of him, channeling energy. Irelia did know what that meant: discipline.
"Father, wait--- ", she began to say. The protest was futile. A loud snap announced his attack; Irelia was too slow to dodge. Though he stood twenty paces away, the long cloth from the sleeve of her father's training robe lanced out, lashing her squarely in the chest. She hurtled backward, sliding down the tiles. Catching her balance, she rolled back up the roof. Tiles cracked as Lito's unrelenting strikes thundered after her. He paused for a moment.
"Messy. Your mind is clouded." Lito flicked his wrist, and cloth gripped her neck from across the roof. With another flick, he brought Irelia soaring toward him, yanking her off her feet. She could faintly see her father's devastating roundhouse kick coming to instill the day's final lesson, when a red blur appeared in front of it.
"I thought I heard someone getting disciplined. You having trouble, Irie?" A voice gloated.
"Zelos!" Irelia sputtered. Zelos was between them, his right arm blocking the roundhouse kick, and his left hand holding his father's sleeve so she could extract herself. The fabric released her neck.
"Here, I brought something for you." He grinned at their father, who, though blindfolded, smiled back. "It's only fair."
Zelos hurled a saber to her, but before she could grab it, Lito's other sleeve plucked it from the sky. He leapt, spinning horizontally in the air, reeling the weapon in. The spinning motion knocked Zelos to the tiles.
"Alright, let's go!" Zelos brandished a sword of his own from a sheath strapped to his back and slashed at his father. The blow seemed to pass through Lito entirely. Irelia sprung to her feet, flipping forward with a devastating axe kick. Her heel met the flat of the saber Lito had intercepted. Zelos directed his energy into his own reverse roundhouse, and Lito was forced to block the blow with his arm. The saber clattered from the grip of his sleeve.
Irelia wasted no time diving for the weapon. Lito's sleeve arced out as she'd expected, but this time she was ready. She landed on its cloth with her right hand, pinning it to the tiles. She twisted her body so that her foot could kick the hilt of the blade, bouncing it up in the air. Her other foot swung around in mid-air to kick against the back edge of the blade, launching the steel straight at Lito.
He tore the blindfold from his face as the blade plunged into his stomach. His eyes were wide.
"Irelia, what have you done?!" Lito choked.
Irelia stared at him apathetically. "Had enough?"
"Irelia, Dad's really hurt!" Zelos was incredulous.
She nodded. "Well he does have a sword sticking out of him."
Lito's pained expression vanished, replaced with a wry grin. "Why do you want to join the League, Irelia?"
"My home was destroyed because I didn't have the strength to protect it. I will fight to the bitter death before I let something like that happen to Ionia again." Her tone was icy.
"How does it feel, exposing your mind?"
Irelia laughed heartily, a sound she'd almost forgotten. "I thank you for allowing me to set eyes on my family again, but my father would never have let us land a blow. He joined the Elders by staying dry on this very roof during a rainstorm. According to the records, he never even moved. You can view the images in my mind all you like, but you'll never appreciate their true nature."
Irelia found herself in the waiting alcove, doors closed in front and behind her. Her father's blade bobbed complacently beside her. With a flash, it split into four blades, throwing all the doors open around her. She drew a great breath, and strode into the League.