The City Under the Sea - Monday

A Strong Wind Blowing West

© 1999 by Scorpio Milo

This page was last modified: 1999/09/06


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Milo

Standing alone among the marble columns of my Temple, a book in my hand, I declaimed:

  "Thou speak'st aright;
  I am that merry wanderer of the night.
  I jest to Oberon, and make him smile..."

I was performing Puck in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream. Well, to be precise, I performed all of the characters of the play by myself, and my voice was in turn light and deep, fast and drawling.

It was one of my passions; I loved theater. In the small room where I slept, I had two shelves full of play books, all of them in their language of origin. I had spent a lot of time gathering them and I was rather proud of it. I always felt some kind of comfort when reading them, without knowing exactly why.

The problem, of course, was that no one inside of Sanctuary seemed to share my passion and thus, I was reduced to perform the plays all by myself, my voice resounding alone between the cold walls of my Temple. This was bordering on the ludicrous, but it didn't disturb me. For several years I had understood that, somehow, these kinds of views did not apply to Gold Saints. Gold Saints could do just everything they wanted. They were different. Apart. And no one would dare to question Aphrodite's effeminate ways or Deathmask's cruelty. Gold Saints were as they were, and everyone else just had to cope with it.

It had been approximately nine years since I gained my Cloth, but I still hadn't gotten used to it. It was as if we were cut from the rest of the world, as if the world outside did not exist anymore. I understood, of course, that, given our power, it was better for us to stay somehow away from the rest of humankind, but some Gold Saints seemed to follow the idea a bit too far, so far as to lose their sense of reality. It was even possible that this statement was true for all of us. The fact of being able to raze a mountain to the ground in moments tends to get to one's head, one way or another.

  "And then the whole choir hold their hips and laugh,
  And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear
  A merrier hour was never wasted there.
  But room, faŽry: here comes Oberon."

A sound, at the other end of my Temple. Somehow, I doubted it was really Oberon paying me a visit.

I extended my sixth sense and, almost at once, I felt the presence of a cosmo. It was one of the customs governing the relations between Gold Saints to announce oneself in that way before entering a Temple other than one's own. It took me only a moment to figure out who it was.

"You may come in, Camus," I shouted while putting my book away.

I thought a moment about going to meet him, then decided against it. Camus quickly went through my Temple and came to join me.

"Hello Milo," he said.

I answered with a nod. A brief moment passed by in a sort of embarrassed silence while he seemed to be hesitating and I was wondering whether I should ask him why he was here. Relations between Gold Saints are very particular and we usually tend to avoid each other. I don't know exactly why. Maybe to avoid conflicts otherwise unavoidable between people with such powers. Anyway, that did not make it easy for the two of us to communicate, especially since I had very seldom seen Camus during the last six years. That was a rather long time for one such as me, who tended to always steam ahead. I remembered Camus as someone serious, rather silent, or even withdrawn, who never said a word without need. Obviously, he had changed little.

"I was wondering..." he began at last, "I wanted to ask you... if you would accept to accompany me on a journey I have to undertake."

I raised an eyebrow, surprised.

"A journey? Is it for a mission ordered by the Pope?"

It was unlikely. The Pope seldom employed the Gold Saints, preferring, probably rightfully, to use the lesser Saints anytime it was possible. I could hardly imagine what kind of mission would need the presence of two Gold Saints.

"No, no, it's... personal," he said, stumbling on the word. "I need to undertake a journey in my native country and I would like someone to... assist me."

Assist him? I looked at him with barely-disguised incredulity. It was the first time I heard of a Gold Saint asking another to help him, whatever the reasons. I almost expressed my lack of understanding, but decided against it. Camus did not seem to ask that lightly. It was certainly important, at least for him. And, even if we hadn't seen each other for a long time, he was still the one among the Gold Saints I liked best. Nine years before, we had both arrived at Sanctuary nearly at the same time, only some days apart, and we had quickly gotten along. Camus managed to bear me at all times, which, given my temper then, hadn't been a slight feat. He had even helped me out of some situation where I had angered several Gold Saints (I didn't remember why). Yes, I certainly could do that for him. It cost me nothing. And, at last, it would provide me with an occasion to go away for some time. The area of Sanctuary and the limited space of my Temple started to get on my nerves.

"All right," I said. "If the Pope gives his consent, I'll go with you."

Camus' face brightened surprisingly. Usually, he wasn't very expressive, but now he seemed to be greatly relieved, as if a heavy weight had been removed from his shoulders.

"I thank you very much," he said finally. "It is very important to me. I'll explain everything to you once we've left."

"You'll have to convince the Pope before," I observed with an amused grin. "You may be able to go as you will, but I am supposed to always stay in Sanctuary. Without his authorization, I cannot go anywhere."

"Then let's go and see him immediately," said Camus as he turned and headed straight for the exit of my Temple

I followed him, still grinning. I was trying to remember the last time I had seen him that enthusiastic for anything.

* * *

"And what exactly are your reasons for going there?" asked the Pope.

"I have important matters to settle, matters I have neglected far too long," Camus answered evenly. "There is a debt it is time for me to honour."

Standing at his side, in the middle of the audience room of the Pope, I was trying hard not to show my amusement. It was at least the third time since the beginning of the conversation that Camus evaded such a question. Obviously, he didn't intend to explain himself for the moment, not even to the Pope himself.

"What about your disciples?" asked the Pope.

"I don't plan on being away very long," Camus answered imperturbably. "And they are now experienced enough that I may let them train without having to watch them. I'm sure there will be no problem. Anyway, in case of need, they can always ask Crystal."

The Pope seemed to think for a while and I used that time to watch him closely. As usual, his face was concealed under his mask, not giving away any sign of what he was feeling. What was he thinking about? I was unable to guess. The Pope was acting strangely these times. I hadn't payed attention to it at first, but strange rumours circulated about him, essentially among the guards of Sanctuary and the inhabitants of the surroundings. I was very skeptical about their veracity, but I couldn't help but notice some of the changes currently going on. Some of the Saints had been involved in unusual, nay, abnormal operations. The Pope apparently desired to control everything inside of Sanctuary and beyond. Some said he kept all the Saints whose loyalty he doubted under close surveillance. The Pope had gathered around him a large number of men for his personal service, most of them rather unsavory. Some of them had Saint powers, without the rank, beginning with this Docrates, who had appeared about two years ago. All this was very shady, and there was a growing sense of suspicion inside of Sanctuary. Even some of the Gold Saints began to feel it, I the first. But I was bound by my oath of obedience, and, unless it was proven that the Pope betrayed Athena, which was rather unlikely, I had to respect his will.

"Milo, what about your disciple?" asked the Pope suddenly.

I almost started, but managed to contain myself. I hadn't noticed he was watching me.

"There should be no problem there either, Pope," I answered. "I trained Damien especially so that he could do without my constantly watching him. My being absent for a certain while would be an excellent occasion for me to check how well he has assimilated what I taught him."

Another silence followed. The tradition of Sanctuary made the bond between a master and his pupil one of the stronger existing. The master was entirely free to decide the way he would teach and no one could oppose it, except for the Pope himself, but it had never happened since I was a Saint. I had the right to let Damien do all by himself if I wanted to, but I almost feared that the Pope would accuse me of neglecting my disciple. A grave misdemeanor, according to the unwritten laws of Sanctuary. The way I trained Damien was very particular, and I knew he was progressing slower than normal. I trusted my method, but everybody did not have to share my opinion...

"I have decided," the Pope said suddenly. "Milo, I authorize you to leave Sanctuary and to accompany Camus. But I order you to be back in a week."

I bowed.

"I thank you, Pope."

That was a bit short but, after all, what task could possibly require more than a week for two Gold Saints?

"Yet, I have to remind both of you that, whatever the circumstances, you're still Saints of Athena," the Pope said insistently. "You have no right to use your powers for personal matters, remember that. That will be all. You are dismissed."

We bowed a last time, then departed to return to our Temples.

* * *

"Milo?"

"I'm coming, I'm coming."

The box containing my Cloth on my back and a leather bag with my belongings at my arm, I hurried to the exit of my Temple, where Camus already waited.

"It took me some time since I didn't know what to take," I explained. "What's the weather like, where we're going?"

"It depends," Camus answered laconically.

He had given up the usual training suit he wore most of the time when he wasn't in Cloth, and he now wore navy blue trousers and a grey-blue shirt. As for me, I wore black trousers and a red shirt. I still didn't know where we were going, but, obviously, there was no need to startle the people we would meet with our Cloths.

"So, when are we going?" I asked.

"Now," answered Camus, taking hold of my arm.

A blank silence followed, then the world disappeared around us.

An heartbeat later, we both stood on an expense of thin grass where a few bushes grew. On our left, beyond a row of trees which were deformed by the constant action of the wind, I could hear the rhythmic sound of waves crashing against a cliff. The air was full of an elating marine scent, so different from the Mediterranean Sea.

"Milo," said Camus, his hand taking in the whole surrounding, "welcome to Brittany."

* * *

Camus

I was at home. I was back. The thought was spinning endlessly in my mind while I filled myself with the landscape surrounding me. So long... How long, exactly? I couldn't say. I had never been back to Brittany since my departure to follow my training, more than twelve years ago. And, in spite of that, I discovered with delight that everything was still as I remembered it.

"You know, Camus," said Milo with his usual grin, "if you always smiled as you now do, you would have to beat the girls back with a fork."

I felt confused for a moment. I hadn't noticed I was smiling. But it was true, nonetheless. My lips seemed to have an irresistible tendency to bend upward. I certainly looked ludicrous. But who cared? I was back home. And I felt incredibly relieved suddenly, freed from my usual strain. Greece and Siberia had their beauty, but nothing could equal the freshness both peaceful and turbulent of Brittany in my heart.

"Camus?"

I blinked, suddenly pulled out of my daydreaming.

"Yes?"

"Where are we?"

"In Brittany. It is a region located at the western end of France. I was born in the vicinity."

Milo threw a circular look around him. I wondered whether he was seeing this place the same way I did. Probably not. He would have had to change, and I didn't believe it possible. Milo enjoyed beauty only when permitted by the circumstances and it looked like this was not the case for the moment. Eyes narrowed, he scanned the surrounding with a sort of distrust. He seemed to be expecting an ambush. The slender trees and the shining grass were but hiding places for potential foes to him. It upset me slightly to see that even the beauty of my homeland was not enough to catch his attention, but I knew Milo, even if we had not seen each other for a long time. Defiance was a second nature to him, and he seemed never to give it up completely.

"Looks rather wild," he observed.

I nodded my approval.

"Brittany is a region apart in France. There are much less inhabitants than there were at a time and technology is rather declining in it compared to the rest of the country."

"As is the case for some of the Greek Islands?" Milo asked, interested.

"Not exactly. The big cities of Brittany, as Brest, Quimper and Rennes, and their surroundings are very much alike any other great city elsewhere. But the situation is different in the rest of the region. There are no cars, electricity is rare and people are often superstitious. Don't get any ideas, it isn't primitive. But people live here much as did their ancestors during the last century."

Milo nodded, showing he understood. He, too, was born in one of these little-developed areas, but I didn't remember exactly where. Some Greek Island, if I was not mistaken. The name escaped me.

"And you were born near here?" asked Milo.

"Yes. I spend my earlier years in a village near the coast. We are certainly not very far of it, but I don't know the exact direction. I haven't been here for a long while, and my teleportation was a bit inaccurate."

While saying that, I had expanded my sixth sense to get my bearings. It gave me a strange feeling, a bit as if I was rising up into the air to gain an overview. I precisely felt every detail of our surroundings. We were not as near as I had thought, after all.

"We'll have to walk for a while," I said.

"How long?"

"At least until sunset. Maybe a bit longer."

"If we run, we could be there in moments," observed Milo.

I shook my head.

"It is not necessary, we have all the time we need."

The truth was that I felt some sort of hesitation when I thought of what was going to follow. And, judging from the strange look Milo gave me, he had noticed it. However, to my relief he said nothing. Things would become difficult very soon, and I didn't know how I would face them.

We both started walking, our Cloth boxes on our backs and our travel bags at our arms, taking a short-cut through the trees to head west. I felt strangely happy. That place reminded me of my childhood. So long a time... And yet, suddenly, I felt as if I had remained the same all along. The only difference was this Aquarius Cloth I carried along; the only material remainder of all that had happened to me during the fourteen last years. I almost felt I was able to forget it, along with all my responsabilities and duties. But it was ludicrous to believe this; I knew it deep inside. Yet... I had the impression that I had gone back into the past, to a time where I hadn't been a Saint yet.

"How are your disciples doing, by the way?" Milo asked suddenly while we were following a thin path winding among the sparse vegetation.

My disciples... They seemed to be so far away, now. But I shouldn't allow myself to think that. They were still my responsibilty and, as soon as this week would be over, I would go back and dedicate them all my time until they were able to gain a Cloth. Even then, I would remain their master until the time when I would have nothing left to teach them.

"Crystal put an end to the training I was giving him more than three years ago," I said thoughtfully. "I wanted him to try and gain a Silver Cloth but he refused. I think... I think he keeps some distrust toward Sanctuary."

I gave a hint of a smile verging on bitterness. With hindsight, I could but understand Crystal. My former disciple, although he had not risen to my level, certainly did not lack insight. Maybe I should ask him for advice about the Pope. On the other hand, I was reluctant to admit my limits in front of someone who had learned everything from me.

"I chosed not to insist. He could have been one of the best Saints of this generation, but, after all, maybe this is for the best. He gained an Ice Cloth, I don't know exactly how, and developped powers similar to a Saint's. Presently, he helps me with the training I give to my two younger disciples. He even finally accepted to take an oath to the Pope."

A short moment, I wondered in what measure his respect for me had influenced him in this matter.

"As for my current disciples, Isaac has reached a rather impressive level, both physically and mentally. He's very much set upon becoming a Saint someday and he understands the responsabilities he will face if he succeeds. If he continues to progress in his current speed, I may allow him to attempt the test to gain the Cygnus Cloth soon. Hyoga..."

I briefly thought about my younger disciple.

"Hyoga has quite a potential, doubtlessly greater than Isaac's, but I'm not sure he has the fortitude required. On the surface, he has much strengthened during his training, but he is still very frail inwardly. His mother died in a shipwreck and he can't manage to overcome his obsession about her. If he did, he could go very far. If Isaac wins the Cygnus Cloth, I might even think of training Hyoga to succeed me. But this would require him to free himself from this emotional hang-up. Sooner or later, I'll probably have to do something about it, but I fear he might not survive it mentally intact. If possible, I'd rather spare him the experience."

Strange, but, in spite of the fact that I had not seen Milo for six years, I discovered with surprise that I confided in him as I would never do with someone else. Apparently, something remained from our past friendship. I trusted Milo. As a matter of fact, this was why it was him I asked for help.

"And you, do you have disciples at the moment?"

"Algol gained the Perseus Cloth approximately five years ago," Milo answered. "Since then, I have taken in another pupil. His name is Damien and he's French. I undertook to train him using fully some methods I had only tried with Algol. To make it short, I teach him to develop his own potential by himself. Of course, this sort of ideas doesn't please all the narrow minds who think Sanctuary has not changed for three millenniums and shouldn't do so now..."

Milo's twisted grin, more than anything else, showed enough that he truly enjoyed to bear criticism.

"But I'm positive my method will bear its fruits in time. Even if he needs ten years, Damien will someday become one of the most powerful Saints in existence. Perhaps even my successor."

He suddenly faced me directly, and in his eyes, I read something strange, even for him.

"The holy wars will soon begin again, you know," he said after a moment. "Athena reincarnated twelve years ago and the war is about to resume. Last time, there wer almost no survivors."

His lips twisted in a grin both ferocious and bitter.

"And the Saints of that time were more numerous and much better prepared than we are now."

I forced myself to shrug. I knew that, of course. I knew that in two, three, four years, it would be the time for me to fulfill my duty as a Saint, and that, very likely, I would not survive. I thought about it each time I observed Isaac and Hyoga training to gain the Cygnus Cloth. The Cloth... Whoever gained it would have to fight at our side to protect Athena, as would all the other Saints. And he would die, very likely. It was fate. I could do nothing about it.

"There's still some time," I answered simply.

Milo gave a hint of a mocking grimace, but said nothing. I knew his thoughts. Time would not necessarily prove to be an asset. The fact that I spent most of my time in Siberia did not prevent my knowing the situation in Greece. The legitimacy of the Pope was questionned. Not openly yet, but it would happen one day and if it was, it would certainly lead to a war between Saints... I shuddered at the thought. If only Athena came out of her isolation to give orders herself... I knew it had happened during the last war. Athena had taken the lead of Sanctuary and the Saints, more than seventy at that time, had followed her into battle. Galvanized by her presence, they had fought to the end. But now, Athena still had not revealed herself to us and our supreme leader was under terrible suspicion. I felt exceedingly pessimist about the outcome of all of this. What did Athena's silence signify? Did it mean that she wanted us to obey the Pope without question? Or did she disapprove him? How could we know?

The only true asset that would be provided by time was new Saints. More than fifteen Cloths would gain their owners during the next two years. Mostly Bronze Saints. They would certainly be the first to fall in battle. I felt some sadness at this thought. To die like this, without having gone as far as one could... I would have wanted to spare my disciples this fate. Vain wish, of course. I had neither the power nor the right to shield them from their destiny.

The gloomy thought followed me for another ten paces, while we went through what seemed to be an abandoned orchard. Then it began to fade and finally disappeared, like a dim shadow under the sun of noon. I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with fresh air, and felt all my dark mood and bitterness leave me. Siberia and Sanctuary were far away, and the Cloth on my back seemed to be dormant, inert. I was back home.

* * *

We walked for several hours. I had finally found a small, half-plowed path leading roughly into the right direction and we were both walking rather quickly by now. The landscape here was rather low in vegetation, but uneven enough that we couldn't see anything clearly that was more than a few miles away. Moreover, the sky was already darkening to our right.

The path, obviously not much in use, finally ceased winding and was now heading straight ahead. If my memories were right, it would take us another four or five hours to reach the bay of Douarnenez. I told Milo.

"The sun will set in less than half an hour," he observed. "Unless you intend to walk part of the night, we'd better hurry. With full speed, we'll be there in two minutes."

I thought for a while, more to find a good reason to refuse than for anything else. I didn't want to arrive this evening, I acknowledged it now. It was even possible that I had unconsciously meant to teleport far enough for us not to be able to reach the bay before nightfall. I had wanted to rediscover my country, it was true. But I had also wanted to prepare for what was awaiting me. It wouldn't be easy. I shuddered from anticipation when I only thought about it. No, it wouldn't be easy.

"We'll finish the journey tomorrow," I said finally. "This way, we'll have all the day before us to do what we'll have to do."

"As you wish," Milo answered, his usual grin on his lips. "But I remind you you still haven't told me what it will be about."

I smiled without thinking. What a child I was, hesitating this way.

"That's because I don't know it myself yet," I answered calmly.

Milo raised his eyes upward.

* * *

Milo pointed ahead and I nodded in approval. A light, not too far away. Maybe a village, or an isolated house. With some luck, it might mean that we wouldn't have to sleep outside after all.

Night had fallen an hour ago and I had seen the stars light up one after the other over my head in the cloudless, moonless sky. Stars... So different from how they looked in Siberia, and yet the same. Aquarius was here, too, and a dim, glittering light flowed out of the jug he carried, guiding my path in the complete darkness. I recognized each of its stars. I felt them inside of me, beating with the same rhythm as my vital centers. Sadalmelek, the lucky star of kings, as it was named by Arab astronomers of the past. Sadalsuud, the lucky star of the whole world, beating at the level of my heart. Sadalachbia. Skat. Albali. Ancha. - And all the other, nameless stars forming Aquarius I could feel inside of my body.

Scorpio was not visible and, anyway, Milo seemed to be very little interested in the sky and much more in that dim light we were drawing closer to. I wondered with some sort of amusement whether he hoped he would find a comfortable enough place there to rest this night or whether he was just distrustful. Since our arrival in Brittany, Milo had been rather relaxed, but never more than to a certain limit, which irritated me a bit. But what could I do? Milo was always like this. Both blasť and constantly suspicious. He had been like this as long as I could remember. Nothing ever seemed to surprise or amaze him. And he never marvelled at anything. I wondered how he could always be like this, without ever letting his guard down. But maybe the same could be said of me, after all.

I reflected about it for a while before abandoning this train of thought. Now that I was back home, I did not feel like losing myself in useless introspections. During the week we had, I would certainly find at least one thing that would take the Scorpio Saint's breath away.

We were quickly drawing near to the light and, soon, I saw it came from some kind of middle-sized building, located on the top of a small hillock. A church, I realised after a moment. A small church, with walls of grey stones and a slate roof. There were many churches in Brittany, some of them rather isolated and little frequented. Nearly all of the inhabitants of the villages were very religious, and even more superstitious, but some churches were simply too distant, half-lost in the countryside, as if no one had thought for a moment before building them where they stood. It seemed to be the case of that one. I saw nothing suggesting the presence of a nearby village.

"I fear we'll have to sleep outside after all," Milo observed, obviously coming to the same conclusions.

I didn't answer, for I had just seen someone standing in front of the church, with what seemed to be a lantern in hand. The person seemed to be waiting fo us, but I couldn't distinguish his or her features because of the light.

Surprised, but determined to understand what was going on, I covered the distance remaining to the entrance of the church in a moment. The figure lowered his lantern when I came to stop in front of him, and I perceived a man approximately sixty years of age, very thin and nearly bald. The priest, judging from his clothes. He looked worried, but nonetheless, our arrival seemed to have comforted him somehow.

"Thank God," he said with a surprisingly deep voice. "I thought for a moment that you wouldn't come."

Without turning, I guessed Milo's incredulous grin.

"Did you expect us, father?" I asked, also surprised.

The priest made an evasive gesture.

"I prayed to the Lord to send us someone and you came, just on time. Heaven must have answered my call. But there is no time to lose if you agree to help us. Come with me."

And, with a wave, he headed back to the church. Milo sent me a questioning look, which I answered with a shrug. Then I followed the priest.

The inside of the church was very sober, nearly austere. Apart from the altar and the crucifix hanging above it, there were only a few benches in rather poor condition. Two candlesticks located to each side of the altar gave a rather bright light, filling the space up to the heavy stone vault. Just in front of the altar, two young women were waiting. One of them carried something in her arms, wrapped in white material. The priest went to her and said a few urgent words. The young woman seemed to hesitate, then went to us. I realised then that she was cradling a baby in her arms.

"I... I don't know how to ask that of you," she said, stumbling over each word. "But I would like... I would like to ask you... if you could... if you could accept to be the godfather of my son."

I stared at her without answering, stunned.

"Hang me," Milo muttered in Greek at my side.

I opened my mouth, then closed it, not knowing what to say. Her son's godafther? Why did she ask that of someone who... A spark of understanding suddenly crossed my mind while I was lost in confusion. Paralyzed by amazement for a moment, my brain began to work again, taking in details. The girl, younger than I had thought at first, barely more than an adolescent, in fact. No ring at her fingers. The embarrassed look of the other woman. The sadness almost visible in the features of the priest. The child, silent and unmoving, almost as white as the fabric he was wrapped in.

Religion and traditions had a great importance in Brittany, and most of the inhabitants of the villages had a rather closed mind on this subject. Few people would have accepted to become the godfather of an illegitimate, unrecognized child, lest they were considered the father.

"And you don't have any relative who would accept," I murmured almost unwittingly.

The young woman lowered her eyes, red of shame and grief.

"I'm at odds with my family," she said with tears in her voice. "Only my cousin Catel accepted to come. All the others refused."

Each child was christened as soon as possible, here, for infantile deaths were common. And, from what I could see, the child of this woman was effectively very seriously ill.

"What are you going to do?" Milo asked, still speaking Greek.

I kept my eyes on the baby wrapped in the white fabric which looked like a shroud.

"I cannot do anything," I said after a moment. "He will likely die very soon if he doesn't see a doctor. I can teleport with him to the nearer city and there..."

"I'm not sure it is a good idea."

I turned abruptly and looked him in the face.

"And why not?" I asked with barely-concealed anger.

Milo withstood my look without blinking.

"Use your eyes, Camus," he said with a cold voice. "Even if you bring him to the best hospital there is immediately and if you find the best doctor, it's more than likely he won't survive. He's too seriously suffering. Even if you manage to save him, and I'd say you have no more than a chance of one to six to do it, he'll still keep after-effects and he probably won't reach adolescence. Check for yourself, damn it!"

It was true. I hated to admit it, but my sixth sense told me the same. The child was too fragile. He had probably suffered from an infection before his birth. He wouldn't live through the night.

"So?" I asked weakly.

Milo shrugged, his glacier-blue eyes revealing nothing of his thoughts.

"You can as well accept. I don't believe in this sort of things, but it can only help the mother to overcome her feelings of guilt."

A shadow of his usual grin crossed his face lightning-quick.

"And you'll have to be the godfather. I'm supposed to be orthodoxe. They need a catholic."

I forced a small smile at that. Yes, it would be better that way. I was a catholic, in theory at least. I had been christend nineteen years ago, in a church which probably had looked much like this one. I hadn't gone to mass since I was a Saint of Athena, yet, in that instant, it seemed irrelevant, insignificant. As a Christian and as a Saint, I couldn't refuse my help to one who asked for it.

"Very well," I said to the mother after having put away my bag and my Cloth box. "I'll be your son's godfather."

The young woman wiped away a tear running down her cheek and thanked me as warmly as she could in that moment. She was truly very young. Certainly no more than sixteen. Possibly less. I could feel her grief almost perceptibly. What a waste, this death of a thinking being before he could explore all the possibilities he had. Her grief found an echo inside of me, as a fear inhabiting my heart.

The ceremony began immediately. I gave my name to the priest. It took me a moment to remember it. I had been called Camus for so long that I had almost forgotten it. Then, the baptism began. I stood next to Catel, in front of the officiating priest. The mother was slightly set back on the left, her child in her arms. Last, Milo was standing in the back of the church, unmoving and withdrawn, like the incarnation of death.

The ceremony itself didn't take as long as I had expected. I briefly had the occasion to hold my godson as I vowed to ensure his religious educatioun. A useless vow, one that I would never have to fulfill. Looking at the child, whose chest was rising more and more labourously, I couldn't help but think of my disciples and the responsability I had for them. What would have happened if this child had been allowed to grow up? What would become Isaac and Hyoga if they survived what was in store for them? I had no answers to these questions. At this moment, I would have given much to have some.

I held the baby once again in my arms when the priest poured the sacred water on his forehead, giving him the name of Youenn Garlez. Then, suddenly, it was over. The mother, whose name was Marguerite, took her child back and thanked me a last time before departing with her cousin. The priest smiled and thanked me in turn before he began to put the church in order. And, suddenly, I was outside of the building, in the cold wind of the night, my Cloth box on my back and my bag at my arm. Milo watched me with curiously.

"So?" he asked after a moment.

I frowned, trying to concentrate. I had just taken a part in that ceremony of baptism and yet, I remembered almost nothing. I had certainly said certain words during the ceremony, I supposed, yet I did not remember them. I just remembered the weight, light, so light, of my godson in my arms. Youenn, my godson, who would certainly be dead tomorrow. And, suddenly, I did not want to continue this journey. I wanted to be back in Siberia, to see Hyoga and Isaac again and to resume their training until I had taught them everything I knew, until they were both as strong as I was. I feared so much to lose them, too.

I took a deep breath. No, it was nothing. I was simply still shocked by what had just happened. Tomorrow, I would certainly have regained my senses.

"Well, since we have to spend the night outside," I said, forcing myself to speak, "we can at least find a comfortable place."

Milo wore an equivocal grin, but did not answer and followed me when I started to walk down the path to find a usable spot.

Not much later, we were both wrapped in our blankets, lying under a pine grove. I watched the star-dotted sky where my guardian constellation glimmering softly, and I tried to remember everything that had happened. I could feel questions rising in my mind. Important, maybe essential questions, if I wanted to find peace inside of me one day. I tried to think about it for a while, but, but before I managed to express one of my thoughts, sleep descended on me like a curtain of lead.

Continued in Chapter Two: Tuesday -- Princess of the Deep


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