Mine for Yours

© 2008 by Kuriboh

This page was last modified: 2008/01/25

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The Pope put down the shining gold helmet of the Aries cloth as he heard long-familiar footfalls approaching. With a slight smile to himself, he stood slowly - movements fluid enough to belie his age, but slow enough to accommodate the aches that time brought. "Who calls?" He asked, knowing full well the answer.

"Only me" came the reply of the younger man. The pope spun to regard him - tall and lean, with an expression of schooled nonchalance. He was leaning against the wall with crossed arms and crossed legs, wearing only a simple tunic and breeches - hardly fitting attire for a saint of his caliber, but as of yet, there was no need to don the cloth.

"And why does this young whelp call upon an old man such as myself?" A smile came to his face as he said this, picking out the lines and creases that had formed on his face with the passage of time. The younger smirked and pushed himself away from the wall.

"Does this young whelp need a reason to pay a visit to his beloved master?"

"This master was beginning to believe that his student no longer loved him, as his visits have been so scarce lately..." Manigold's expression remained unchanged, but Sage saw a brief flash of hurt in the young Cancer's eyes. He averted his gaze to the ground. "Forgive me, Manigold. That was uncalled for."

"Nah..." came the reply, "I deserved that. "

Sage looked back up, his smile re affixed, and crossed the distance between them with a few great strides. One of his old hands came up - gnarled and withered, but still covered with petal-soft skin. He cupped his student's face with it gently, feeling the fresh stubble under his fingers. His eyes searched the face before locking with the younger man's.

"What troubles you?"

"Nothing, Master."

Sage gave Manigold a knowing look and withdrew his hand, instead crossing his arms.

"Now now. Lying is unbecoming in a Saint," he chided, "and lying to one's master is quite disrespectful, no?"

Manigold looked away with a faint shameful blush ghosting across his cheeks. "Sorry...but it's nothing you should worry about."

"Manigold, I know better than anyone that very little gets under your skin - when you are troubled, I know it's significant, so I worry."

The Cancer saint sighed - Sage had seen straight through him yet again. He gestured to the two empty cloths that the Pope had been inspecting moments before. "You've found Saints to fill those, right?"

Sage nodded, and was about to chide the young man for changing the topic, but Manigold continued.

"Well, that means we're all here then...so...a Holy war is about to start, isn't it?"

Sage regarded his pupil for a long time before answering. The smirking facade and cocky posture were gone, and most of the damnable arrogance had been chased out of his voice. The man standing before the Pope now was a man Sage alone had the honor of seeing. This was Manigold, plain and true.

The Pope nodded. "We've a few more weeks at best. The Spectres are awakening to themselves, and Hades is on the verge..." Sage's voice grew soft as Manigold looked away from him.

"So...I guess none of us are likely to live through it then, huh?"

"No. In fact we may all die."

Manigold nodded slowly, accepting this. Sage smiled and placed one soft hand on the other's shoulder. "But that does not mean we can't take them with us, hm?" There was a pause, and the characteristic grin came back to Manigold's face as he looked back up at his master.

"I guess not..."

Sage spun the younger man until they were facing each other again before enveloping him in a hug. Manigold froze a moment - Sage hadn't been so affectionate in years but...he hugged back, reveling in the familiar comfort that the old man's hug brought him. "Just remember, Manigold," the elder whispered, "come what may, you will always be dear to me, and I will always be proud to call you my student...and in many ways, my son."

The younger Cancer's grip tightened, taking fistfuls of the pope's soft, white, robe. "And I you..." he whispered in reply, "I'd do anything for you master... I owe you everything... my honor... my life... and should the time come... I'd gladly trade mine for yours."

The End

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