Star Hill

© 2000 by Pollux; Alternate Ending by Toffee

This page was last modified: 2000/11/03


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Star Hill. Its very name was equivalent to the word 'forbidden' in the Sanctuary. However, to Kanon and me, it was also a place of infinite mysteries that belonged to us exclusively. In the suffocating world of our childhood, it was the only place never judged, but accepted us completely.

When Kanon and I were young, we often wandered through the Sanctuary in search of a place where we could see the stars. Not just any place where the stars were visible, but a place where we could see the stars as we remembered -- in their immaculate, natural splendor, untainted by the corruption so prevalent in this world. It was not an easy task. We had exhausted ourselves in our desperate searches, until one day, we discovered this secret passage all the way to a strange looking fortress.

The fortress was on the top of the steepest and highest hill in the Sanctuary, surrounded by cliffs on three sides. Kanon had found a cave at the bottom of the hill, and decided to drag me along for a boyish adventure. Inside of the cave, the darkness reigned supreme. The candles we brought along could only illuminate about half a meter ahead of us. The path often changed abruptly, as it went up by a sharp angle, followed by one sudden turn after another. By the time we saw the light at the end the tunnel, we were both worn out. Only curiosity, our shared vice, kept us awake and moving. Pushing aside the rock that partially covered the exit, we were both awed by the wonder that awaited us.

The black velvet sky was so closely above us that it was both fascinating and intimidating. The stars themselves were almost at an arm's reach, as they shone overwhelmingly in their golden armors and dazzled us with celestial magnificence. It took a long time for us to get accustomed to the numerous stars visible. Only until then were we able to tell the constellations, most notably the Zodiac. Breathless at the grand light show nature has so generously bestowed us, we knew, no matter what it would take, we would return regardless. Often.

This turned out to be far more dangerous and difficult than we expected. We learned that the 'strange fortress' was in fact the private observatory of the Kyoko. By the law, anyone who dared to climb the Star Hill without his permission was considered a traitor automatically. Traitors, as we all knew, were sentenced to death in most gruesome ways, even by the standards of those who saw blood and violence as a daily matter of life.

But we refused to give up this easily. We decided to go there on the first day of the lunar month when the moon was invisible. The absence of moonlight should minimize the chance of anyone seeing us. Also, we would not go until after midnight, while the rest of the Sanctuary indulged in deep slumber. In our naïve hearts, the risks were not nearly as real as the beauty and joy the stars had brought us. Besides, we were so young that it was unlikely the law would be applied to its fullest extent. Even if it would, when the day came, at least Kanon and I would be there together until the very last moment. Somehow, such a thought comforted both of us greatly.

It was more than the need for adventure and curiosity that drove us. In fact, it was the only glimpse of hope in our young lives. Since we arrived at the Sanctuary at the age of 6, we had been considered as 'bastards' and liars because we could not remember our family, our hometown, or even our names. We didn't remember how we wandered randomly into the borders of the Sanctuary. We chose the names 'Saga' and 'Kanon' out of our favorite book. The only hints of our origin were the fact that we only spoke Latin, and our remembrance of the nature's beauty so overlooked by most inhabitants here. Many speculated that there was something ominous about us, as if we were the children of an evil omen.

"Welcome to the humor of superstition, a gift from an outdated Goddess." Kanon commented when we were alone. He was correct for the first half. Supernatural phenomena were accepted as a part of everyday existence here, and we were the easy targets of people's fears and suspicions.

The ruler of the Sanctuary was Kyoko Shion, the previous Aries Gold Saint. Shion had been the Kyoko as long as anyone could remember. A demi-God himself, Shion's orders were considered absolute and equivalent of Athena's own between Athena's incarnations. Perhaps, there was a time when Shion was young and full of dreams, like all the hot-blooded warriors who sacrificed themselves in the last Holy War. But the passage of time had changed Shion's personality considerably. He became weaker physically, but increasingly stubborn and dogmatic. In his effort to keep the respect and order, he put on an air of arrogance and indifference around him. The everyday welfare of trainees and villagers around the Sanctuary was completely out of his interest list.

"He lives for a Goddess who is an abstract concept, a banner to claim his legitimacy, and a sad excuse for his existence," Kanon once said sarcastically when we grew older. I disagreed with Kanon, but I could see why he thought so.

Lynceus, the Aries Gold Saint, was the de-facto 'crown-prince' of the Sanctuary. It was an open secret that Shion had all the intention to pass his position on to him, Shion's one and only pupil. If power were the only standard for such an important position, Lynceus was an obvious choice. However, his arrogance, cruelty and cold-heartedness left much, if not everything about his character, to be desired. I learned this first hand, because he was the sensei Shion assigned me after I finished the basic training.

Shortly after our arrival, I had resolved to become the Gemini Gold Saint. It was a dream so impossible that I had made it my escape from the harsh reality. As a child, I was fragile in my body and sensitive in my heart, a combination that could be fatal in this violent world. Although the official reason for anyone to become a Saint was to bring justice and peace to the world, I had seen much simpler reasons around me -- to survive and to gain power over one's own destiny. Only after I could do both, I would be able to defeat the evil ones to protect the weak and the vulnerable. However, there was little I could do as an ordinary mortal. I had to devote my life to serve a power far greater, a divine source of inspiration and leadership. Despite the imperfections I saw around me, I always believed that Athena was such a deity, as all the previous Holy Wars had proven. Once I became the Gemini Gold Saint and one of her most trusted protectors, my life would finally have meaning. With this thought in mind, I had forced myself to meet all the unreasonable demands Lynceus placed on me. After all, a Sensei's duty was to challenge his pupil to the fullest in order to make him stronger.

Kanon, however, was much more skeptical about both the Goddess and the true motives of Lynceus. His mischievous nature let him question everything around him, especially the things that were held as holy and indisputable. When we were alone, he often spoke freely about the observations and opinions he had about everything around us, much of them could be considered blasphemy, if he was ever overheard. Of course, there was no need for him to worry, because very few could understand Latin, and I would not betray him even with my own life at stake.

As my only family and friend, Kanon was inseparable from me since both of us could remember. Fun-loving and energetic, he was as different from my quiet and melancholic nature as possible. Unlike me, he had no plans to become a Saint of whatever kind. His attendance of training lessons was at best erratic. For him, it was much more important to be free-spirited and to roam through life as his heart desired, no matter what the people in power told him. He preferred to live in the moment, to face life like the lonely sailor who greets the turbulent storms of the sea with a grin, instead of tears of fear. Yet, beneath his unconquerable appearance, I knew he had a gentle and compassionate side very much like mine. Whenever I was injured in my training and had to rest in our tiny hut, he took care of me and lightened the mood by telling his most outrageous jokes. He did so to keep me in good cheer, and to make me forget the danger I had to face daily.

That danger had a name -- Lynceus. It became obvious that Lynceus held a personal resentment against me. I didn't know how my respectful manners could have possibly offended him. I had sincerely tried my best to learn from him, to be the most diligent and well-behaved pupil. However, he didn't need a reason to despise me, like so many others. As the years went by, instead of being more accepting and friendly, the population of the Sanctuary became more hostile than ever. They saw the contrast between my devotion and Kanon's lack of conformity as a sort of conspiracy. Since I was seen as the 'Pacifist', they insulted me regularly, knowing I would not strike back at such trivial offences. Yet they saddened me greatly, as Kanon was painfully aware. It was only his respect for me that stopped him from taking revenge on them himself.

But nothing in our harrowing existence could prevent us from going on our monthly ventures to the Star Hill. Over there, we were no longer two orphans forgotten by the world. We were the young princes spoiled by the ultimate beauty of nature itself. Everything was more vivid under the sparkling starlight, as if purified by a divine force from another dimension. We could lie down on the soft, plush carpet of grass and talk about our dreams and aspirations. We could also be our spontaneous, childish selves, as if time had made a special stop for only two of us.

It was a breezy, pleasant night in the Fall. We had quietly watched the Gemini constellation rising above the horizon. Gemini, our Guardian Constellation, was always an object of our fascination.

I look into Kanon's eyes. These light blue eyes were bright with joy and innocence, the mirror images of my own. It was said twins were one soul within two bodies, how true it was. In the lonely world we were thrown into, he had always been there with me.

A shooting star suddenly raced through the sky. It cut across the firmament, between the twin stars of Gemini and left a faint trail of light behind. A star of wishes!

"Alright, let me make a wish. One day, when we are all grown up, we will come here again and celebrate how strong we have become!" I said in as serious a tone as I could master. I knew he understood every word, even the ones unspoken. I was all determined to become the powerful Gemini Gold Saint. Not only for myself, but also for my brother.

"Ok... I'm sure the star has heard you." He laughed and made a funny face at me. "And my wish? I want to rule over the land and the sea! I will be worshipped more than your goddess Athena! Hey, come on, isn't that great? You should ask for that, too!"

I laughed. I knew there was no sense of seriousness in his words. Kanon was always full of mischief, and I had grown quite used to his jokes and pranks.

"Then, as the protector of Athena, I must fight you to the death!" I playfully punched him. We got into our usual vigorous and fun wresting match. Soon enough, both of us forgot about everything we said.

Yet the stars bore our silent, unmerciful witness. The stars of Gemini, the eternal twins of duality, were surrounded by a pale, ominous aura.

Little did we know that the idyllic blessings of our childhood would end so soon. Lynceus had become more ruthless in his ways, if such an 'improvement' was still possible. He enjoyed his assignment as the only Sensei for trainees aspiring to be Gold Saints. In the names of duty and the Goddess, he spared us no forms of brutality. In about a year, 9 of his 15 trainees died meaningless, agonizing deaths. Of course, no one ever dared to question him. Kyoko Shion trusted his proud disciple so blindly that a slight suggestion of Lynceus' faults would throw him into a rage. Shion believed all such atrocities were necessary to ensure only the toughest would become the Gold Saints. The fate of the rest was not of his concern.

Kanon trained under a different Sensei, but he had heard enough to insist that I leave Lynceus' camp immediately. He believed that like the trainees who died, I was nothing more than an idle amusement to Lynceus. Moreover, since Lynceus disliked me personally, my chance of survival was next to none. Yet I refused to leave. In my young mind, becoming a Gold Saint and protecting the world under Athena were the missions of my life. Although it seemed to be impossible, I believed that as long as I persisted, I would succeed someday. One thing Kanon and I had in common was this fierce resolution to fight for our beliefs no matter what. Kanon knew it too well. Finally, he gave up in order not to hurt my pride. "Be careful, Saga." He walked away with a sigh.

For years, I have wondered how things might have been different if I had done as Kanon suggested. It is futile to speculate about the 'what ifs' in life, but this was the single decision that could have changed both of our lives completely. Not only that, it might have changed the destiny of the world, preventing the loss of so many innocent lives and dreams. Yet my selfish insistence to realize my own dream had ruined them all. I had pushed my fate, and in turn, started this cycle of destruction.

I remember the beginning of this cycle with startling clarity. It was near the end of the lunar month and uncommonly chilly for the Fall. I was sparring with other young trainees with more success than usual, taking on 3 of them at once. I chose to stand in front of a hill, therefore preventing anyone from attacking me from behind. This strategy worked well, until Lynceus joined them all of a sudden and struck me with his Starlight Blast. I instinctively tried to block it with my right arm, yet its sheer force and blinding speed were much more than I could defend myself against. I felt all the bones in my arm were shattered into pieces, as I fell and smashed the back of my head against the large rock behind me.

"Still just a coward and weakling," He sneered at me, "and you will always be." He put the emphasis on the word 'always' and looked down on me with his opaque, dark eyes.

My entire body was in shock with pain. I could feel blood spouting out and flowing down my face in place of the tears I had swallowed. But the pain was nothing compared to the anger and hatred exploding inside of me. I could almost hear the evil laughter behind the emotionless expression on his face. Such a deadly attack was totally uncalled for, considering the huge difference between our power levels. And there was most certainly no legitimate training goal he could claim for this.

Yet, Lynceus simply shrugged and walked away, like if he had just stepped on an ant on the roadside. But not before he gave the order as an afterthought.

"Ignore him."

He knew very well without anyone with power or status coming to my rescue, all the sympathetic crowd dared to do was to stare in fear, as if the scene was unreal to them.

And that was exactly what they did. Alone, I lay there motionlessly, blood draining away from my slowly numbing body. I waited. I did not know what I was waiting for in this cold, senseless world where my life was worth less than that of an ant. Even an ant had its colony, a place it was born and a crowd where it belonged. Its life served a higher purpose, knowing its existence would strengthen its clan and defend its home. I didn't even have any of these reasons to be alive.

What about Athena? I tried desperately to reach out to the Goddess I had sworn to protect. Yet all I could feel was the hollowness. Then the darkness came.

I had lost my consciousness for three days and two nights, as I later discovered. When I finally woke up, I felt a warm Cosmo surrounding me. It was almost as powerful as those of Shion and Lynceus', except it didn't have their detachment or aggression. I opened my heavy eyelids and saw pure, light blue eyes looking into my own, searching for a reflection in the perfect mirror of my soul.

It was Kanon. He looked extremely tired as he hadn't slept for days. But there was something foreign in him. Something... disturbing.

I was afraid he would be furious, knowing what Lynceus did to me. But he seemed to be sad and withdrawn instead. Suddenly, he seemed much... older. I realized the warm Cosmo that was there previously had disappeared, but I was too tired and weak to think or to ask questions.

Silence filled the air in our small, empty room. He looked away from me, as he immerged in deep thoughts far beyond those warranted by our age. I felt drowsy and was about to pass out again when I heard him starting to speak. He spoke so firmly that it was more of a statement than a question.

"There is absolute evil in this world, isn't it, Saga?"

Before I could answer, he went on.

"Even if we don't believe it, it is always there. The only way we can overcome it, is to become one with it, and destroy it from within. To fight fire with fire, so to speak."

I was more than a little shocked by the sudden seriousness and determination in his words. My... mischievous, carefree younger twin?

"We can live in our dreams all we want, but it doesn't change the world around us. It's time for us to wake up and take a good look of what's really important."

"Saga, don't deny it anymore. I know", he finally turned to me, "that you want this as much as I do."

Sparkles of fire burned through his eyes, as he looked straight into mine. I shivered. I didn't know how to reply. Apparently, no answer was really needed, since he got up and walked towards the door.

"By the way", he added, "You need rest. I will go there by myself tonight."

An odd, foreboding feeling sunk into me. Although it was logical for me to stay hat home after this injury, the thought of Kanon taking the risky journey to Star Hill alone was unsettling. We had always been inseparable before, and I didn't want this to change. Not ever. I wanted to stop him, but all words escaped me as my senses faded again.

This was the last time I saw the brother I had once known and loved so much. The next day when I was awake, he seemed to be in a complete daze, and refused to speak with me about anything of consequence. He had built a wall around him that even I was not allowed within. And this wall was never taken down as the days went by.

Before Kanon and I could go to the Star Hill together again, Lynceus was dead. It was my brother who killed him with the most dishonorable technique imaginable. Without mercy. Without remorse. Facing the inquisition council headed by Shion himself, Kanon openly admitted his crimes and refused to offer an apology. Only his young age saved him from imminent execution. Still, he was sentenced to tortures and banned from becoming a Saint forever.

These tortures were brutal indeed. I watched Kanon floating in and out of consciousness, as drops of sweat formed on his forehead. He was plagued by a high fever, caused by the infections from his numerous wounds. He was in so much pain that I almost suspected the true intention Shion spared his life was to condemn him to a slower, more gruesome death. The type of death that condemned his spirit to the agony of Hell, while still keeping his body alive.

Assaulted by many emotions at once, I had never felt so lost, and so alone. I was surprised by how much hatred I had for Shion, the all powerful and good Kyoko chosen by Athena herself. After all, all Shion did was to uphold the law. The way Kanon took the law into his own hands and his lack of repentance warranted nothing less. Still, such justification could not appease the side of me that cried out for revenge -- the aggressive, unforgiving side of me I had never felt before. It itched to break free and it frightened me. I had to summon all my willpower to silence its rage, knowing that I should not let my feelings affect my judgement.

Sitting by Kanon's side in the dim candlelight, I could no longer hold my tears back. His sufferings were hurting me intensely, as twins are often mysteriously linked. I prayed I could take his place, in death if necessary, knowing fully well that I was the reason he chose to commit the bloody crime. I wished that I could have heeded his advice earlier, yet such realization came too late. The guilt would always be mine.

I was greatly relieved when Kanon finally woke up from his coma, a week later. But he was not the same. He had been reborn, baptized by the fire of the infernal torments he survived. As he slowly recovered, he remained cold and distant to me, despite my desperate effort to reach out to him. No matter if the world considered him a criminal, an outcast, a dangerous murderer -- to me, he would always remain my twin brother, the one I loved and cared for the most in this life.

Yet all my hopes were in vain. Kanon had fallen under the spell of his newly found evil reputation and started to accumulate the deeds to match it. Not only so, he seemed to enjoy this downward spiral of self-destruction and never turned back.

Slowly, I realized the sad truth I never wished to see.

My innocent brother had died. In his place, a cold, evil being stood and pierced my soul with the gaze of his icy, light blue eyes. Like a vulture hovering over its prey. Like mirrors distorted and shattered into a thousand pieces. I could no longer look through them and see my brother's soul.

Kanon's natural audacity and resolve had sealed his doom. Not even I could save him.

Neither of us went to the Star Hill anymore. Quietly, we had buried that shared adventure with the rest of our childhood dreams.

The world marched on. Shion had assigned another Sensei for me three months after Lynceus' death. He had taken on a new pupil, a young child named Mu. But this time, he knew that his disciple would not grow up in time to succeed him.

Years flew by quickly. I occupied my time with physical training, books from the Sanctuary Archive, and my newly found friends in the Sanctuary. To my own surprise, I was regarded as the natural leader among my peers. No longer a weakling, I had attained the status of the Gemini Gold Saint, a dream with such high costs attached that it brought me little joy. I was also admired for my kindness and compassion for the powerless, much more than I deserved. All I did were the little things that I wished someone had done for Kanon and me when we were young and helpless.

Most Gold Saints were still young and under training. Aiolos was the only other grown Gold Saint at the time. He was strong, firm and full of devotion to his duty. He was also extremely loyal to Kyoko Shion, something that apparently pleased him. It would not surprise me to the slightest if Shion would choose him as the next Kyoko. That was exactly what he did when he announced his decision privately to Aiolos and me.

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened that evening. Kanon had asked me to take a walk with him to watch the sunset. Naturally I agreed. It had been such a long time since we did anything together.

Silence ruled first, as the vanishing sun surrounded us with its fading glory.

"Do you remember when we were young, we dreamed to have the power to change the world?" Kanon finally spoke.

"Yes... but...?" Why did he bring this up all of a sudden? I wondered.

"Now it's our chance," Kanon interrupted me abruptly.

Without a pause, he proceeded on telling me his idea, carefully planned to every detail. Such evil genius in my brother shocked me speechless. He wanted me to kill Shion that night before he had the chance to announce Aiolos as his successor. Moreover, he wanted us to kill baby Athena and Aiolos, so our deeds would remain secret forever. After all the bloodshed, he wanted me to take the place of Shion and to pretend as the Kyoko. Meanwhile, he would take the post as Gemini Gold Saint. Nobody would suspect a thing.

"Once this is done, we will rule over the land and the sea. There will be no need for Athena, or her pathetic servants. We will be worshipped and feared, together." He put the emphasis on the last word.

I couldn't believe what I just heard.

"Kanon! How dare you?!" I punched him in the chest. Somehow, this felt strangely... familiar.

Struggling to get up, Kanon grinned and stared into my eyes boldly.

"Saga, my dear brother, don't fight yourself anymore. Beneath your angelic appearance, you have an evil heart just like I do. I have always known this since we were children. You hate Shion as much as I do, just like you wanted Lynceus' death as much as I did. You know very well that Athena cared nothing for common people like you and I. You know if Aiolos becomes the Kyoko, he will let his foolish faith in Athena blind him, and make all our lives nothing but lies!"

He stopped to take a breath before adding a dramatic end to his speech.

"Don't live your life a lie, Saga. Join me."

Not only did he insult my character, Kanon mocked everything I held dear -- the Goddess, and the ideals I had sworn my life to serve.

I thought of the horrible murders he had planned and wanted me to carry out. I felt a sudden chill running up my spine. Had his murder of Lynceus driven him totally insane? Yet his cool, self-assured manners suggested otherwise.

No. Kanon was in his right mind, as I should have already known. He had become a monster, a demonic being filled with ambition and hatred. I could not let his evil ruin everything I lived and fought for.

"I will do everything to stop your evil plan, Kanon," I said simply but firmly.

"Fine, just turn me over to Shion and his underlings then. I'm sure they will gladly finish the job they missed years ago," Kanon answered defiantly. Yet for a split second, he was unable to hide the fleeing sign of pain in his eyes.

There was no way that I would let Shion have him. I had promised myself that I would never allow him to go through such inhuman pains again as he did in his youth.

Still I could not let him go free. Neither could I kill him by my own hand. Despite all the evil in his heart, I owed my life to him. Suddenly, the legend of the Sunion Cape came to my mind. I had read it with great interest a few weeks before in the Sanctuary Archive.

It mentioned that during the previous Holy Wars, Athena had always pardoned traitors who repented while imprisoned in the Sunion Cape prison. The prison itself was designed to drown the prisoner when the tide rose. However, it could take a while for death to arrive, therefore, it would give the prisoners plenty of time to regret their wrongs and to ask for Athena's forgiveness. Perhaps that was the only hope for Kanon, I sighed.

Ignoring his protests and my own lingering doubts, I locked Kanon into the Sunion Cape prison. I had put up a mental shield to protect my resolution, but his shouting cut through regardless.

"Saga! You are a hypocrite! Your true nature is also evil! Just wait and soon you will..."

I had hurried away before I could hear the rest of that sentence. I knew I could never allow myself to look back.

I had hardened my heart and selfishly sacrificed him in a last attempt to seal my own evil inside. A worthless one since I had finally failed that same night. I had calmly brought an end to Shion's life, while my brother fought fiercely against the waves of death.

I was a hypocrite, just like he said.

That night, I stood alone on top of the Star Hill under the moonless, black velvet sky. The stars of Gemini, the immortal twins of duality, were cloaked in a crimson haze -- in the color of blood.

I lay the cooling body on the marble dais, watching the colour fade from Shion's cheeks as his blood ran cold. Yet surely, he could not be colder than I, not now. Kanon had been right about many things, but he had made one fatal mistake. I was evil, there was never any doubt in that, but his loving nature had strengthened the bond between us, as I took a part of him into my heart, and he too, was touched by my tainted nature. It should have been me in that cold prison by the sea, letting the waves wash away the blood from my hands. But it was my brother who took the toll for my acts... it was Kanon who paid for our shared soul.

I looked up at the sky, seeing the glimmering stars shine above me, mocking my memories, long dead. I had made my choice... though I could not remember when or how. I straightened my shoulders and slipped on the Kyoko's robes, holding the lacquered blue mask in my hands, the cool features searing into my brain. No heart, no soul... no being. A faceless face of one who lived for a lie, or the dream of it.

The death of it.

All I could do was put it on, feeling the cold metal against my face, as if merging into my very bones. As I walked back down I took one last look at the stars, knowing I would never -- could never -- return here. A single shooting start ploughed through the night, fading as it went. A star of wishes, yet I had no wish to make.

All my dreams were locked in a prison, slowly drowning under each wave until all that was left was the husk. All that was left was me.

The End


Pollux's Notes:

Many thanks to Toffee for providing this wonderful ending! :-) *PolluxHuggles*


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