A Little Flame Under the Ice

© 2000 by Seiiruika

This page was last modified: 2000/10/31


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Version Française


A cold breeze blew and when it rushed through the narrow streets of the town, it became stronger. The sky in the last days of February was blue and the sun beamed down, trying to warm the ground prematurely so that the vegetable kingdom, partly drowsy by the cold, awoke. It was cool but although it was not really spring yet, the weather was nice and people were going out. They walked along the streets and enjoyed the sun after its long absence.

A woman walked quickly among people whom were strolling around the streets. She had light brown hair, so light that it seemed blond when the sun shone on and it fell on her shoulders. She firmly held a little boy's hand. The child was around three years of age and had short, deep blue-green hair. He tried to keep up the pace with his small legs but he didn't succeed and stumbled. He was nearly losing his balance, but the woman's grip prevented him from falling onto the concrete ground. But this gesture made the woman lose her pace. She stopped and looked down, frowning at the boy who looked away, guilty.

The woman tightened her grip on the child's hand, a gesture without gentleness. When she was sure he wasn't able to escape, she continued her way, albeit more slowly. The boy looked up to the woman who was looking straight ahead. Without glancing around, she avoided some passers-by, refusing to give the boy another look. He was used to the woman not looking at him. He was not used to the streets, the crowd. He rarely went out. The woman always forbade him to go out and he never disobeyed. He was always staying at home among the few books that he kept in a corner of the little flat where they lived, and with an old and shapeless stuff animal.

As he rarely went out and now managed to keep the pace, he gazed around him, in the same time impressed and frightened. He saw people, children who were laughing, he saw stores, cars and he heard a lot of noise he could not recognize in this cacophony which attacked his ears. He continued walking as he tried to analyze and understand this world with the help of his three years old child's mind. But even with his sharp mind he could not understand some things. He had come out so little, and the few books he had begun to read had not prepared him for this experience. When he felt the woman's grip tightening on his hand, close to breaking it, the child ceased to think about it and stopped trying to find the nature of things in what he was looking at.

They walked for a long time. They turned around corners, crossed streets more or less wide and the child felt lost, but he was not afraid. He was with his mother and he was sure that nothing would happen to him as long as he would be with her. Then they entered a park and once more the child stopped in surprise.

He had seen a tree in front of the window of the flat, but he had never seen grass or flowers before. The only things he could see through the window were the old tree in the dark dead end and the building in front of the apartment. Sometimes, when the weather was good, he leant a bit out of the window, kneeling on a chair, and he could make out a patch of blue sky. The sun rarely shone into the small apartment he shared with his mother. The noise of the streets reached it with difficulty and when he heard it, he felt as if it came from an another world. Sometimes, children came into the dead end and they played, shouting and laughing under the observation of the deep blue-green haired boy. He felt nothing for them, his solitude fit him perfectly. But sometimes, when a pigeon flew past in a flurry of wings in front of the window, or when one settled on a windowsill, he felt the urge to be free. He would spend his time watching them and felt miserable that he was not able to follow them, or when he could not watch them any longer. Sometimes, when he did not catch any sight of the birds or when he did not hear them for several days, he was sad and he withdrew into silence. When he had felt this longing for the first time, he had the idea of attracting them by sharing his bread with them. Seeing them, he always smiled and sometimes even laughed, feeling strangely reassured.

Here, there were numerous pigeons. They were pecking about or they were taking their flight, some settling down on a bench or in a tree, while others were waddling among the people. At his right, he saw a small man-made lake with white birds gliding gracefully on the water, and he saw other, smaller, brown and white birds swimming on the expanse of water while they fed from the pieces of bread people threw them. Furthermore, he saw children playing among the birds while women spoke to each other, time to time lulling the children in their prams or in their strollers. He noticed teenagers holding hands or kissing. He saw men reading or just looking at the landscape, old people speaking or warming themselves up in the pale sun of the end of February. The place was huge and full of noise, but it was so different from the noise of the streets. It was in the same time peaceful and relaxing.

The woman firmly pulled the boy's hand and roused him from his contemplation. The child let the woman show him the way further into the park and he made the most of looking around while he searched the pigeons with his eyes. The park seemed large, he could not hear the noise of the streets, and when he looked around, he could barely see the buildings he had noticed at the entrance of the park. Without glancing down once, his mother continued to walk, and she did not mind asking whether her child was tired or not.

They suddenly stopped and she looked around as if she checked something, and when she felt reassured, she knelt on one knee in front of her child who looked up to her. Her indigo eyes locked with his and she put her hands on his shoulders. He blinked once, waiting patiently. "I have to go. I won't be long." She looked over his head. "Wait for me. There's something I've got to do. Wait here until I come back." She lowered her look down and her eyes hardened. "Did you understand?"

The boy only nodded and the pressure on his little shoulders lightened. He looked at the woman as she stood up. She walked away without a backward glance. He saw her disappearing around a curve of the path, losing herself among the passers-by, but he did not move. He stayed there, staring at the same direction.

Time slipped by and the child stood there, motionless, without letting the curve of the path out of his sight. Each time he saw a silhouette coming closer, his heart beat faster. The short winter day was quickly drawing to an end and in the West the sun began to sink below the dark clouds. The temperature dropped and the little boy shivered despite his coat. He tried to warm himself by hopping up and down and even though his legs hurt because he was standing for such a long time, he continued to wait. He was still keeping watch on the path and he was still hoping his mother would appear in a moment.

It was getting dark and now the park was practically empty. Some people who had still lingered, quickly went home without giving the child, who stood alone near a bench, even the slightest glance. Then it was night and some clouds darkened the sky, sometimes hiding the moon.

The child sighed and went to the bench. After another look to the curve of the path, he sat down, and his gaze returned to this place he began to know by heart. But the night had changed it and the child did not feel reassured. He shivered and he did not know if it was because of his fear, because of the cold or because of his tiredness. He raised his knees to his chest to curl up into a ball, putting his cheek on them. His indigo eyes still stared the path. He closed his eyes several times but he always awoke all of sudden, afraid to miss his mother's appearance. By rubbing his eyes, he hoped to chase the tiredness and the sleep away. But this effort was too difficult and slowly but surely, he fell asleep.

* * *

Leaning against a trunk, a man looked at the child for a long time. He looked strange and if someone saw him he would be surprised to discover he wore a cape. Wearing such a long cape was old-fashioned for quite a while now. But the man did not seem to think about fashion. The colour of his medium length hair was between steely grey and blue grey, and his amber eyes added to his strange appearance.

Serge
(c) 2000 by Seiiruika

He stood near the tree since this morning. He enjoyed looking at the people who enjoyed staying in the peaceful park. He was ready to leave the place when he felt something, something very familiar, something like a cosmo. He did not know the owner of it and this intrigued him. He was sure to know and recognize all the people who had a noticeable cosmo. Moreover, this cosmo was weak and the one to whom it belonged did not seem to really control it. The most important thing for him was that the cosmo was approaching him, so he decided to stay. He hid behind the old, nude oak against which he had leaned since the morning.

His wait was not long. He saw a woman with a child walking in his direction and he felt that the light cosmo came from one of the two people. At first, he concentrated his senses on the woman, only on her, but he felt nothing particular. She was like a deep black hole, a hole in which only selfishness and egocentricity predominated. He narrowed his eyebrows and he concentrated on the child. Indeed. The cosmo was coming from him, a very light cosmo. He tried to read more through it, but he could not. It was as if there was an invisible barrier which prevented him to read more. 'The boy's mind?' He did not know.

Anyway, he was interested in the child. He had a cosmo and he could aspire to become one of his peers and perhaps more. He had come here only to enjoy the peace and this atmosphere he missed. He often missed his native country and his duty to find new candidates all over the world exhausted him. But he did it because it was his role and nothing would change this. It was why he was trying to come here as often as he could in order to recharge his batteries. But he would never have thought it possible that he would find someone here, such a young boy already with a light cosmo.

He did not move and he looked at the two people. He decided that he could not do anything while the boy was not alone. He had a family, and he did not think that his parents would leave their child to him, even if in one of his adoptive countries, it was an honour to leave a child in service of the Goddess. 'Maybe later. I should keep an eye on him. Anyway, he is too young.' Nevertheless, he continued to stare at him, engraving the deep blue green haired child's features into his memore so he would be able to find him again several years later.

He wanted to leave and return to where he came from but something prevented him to go away, like a premonition. 'Why this one?' He wondered, as if the child subconsciously did not allow him to go away. The idea that the boy was subconsciously calling someone who would understand him crossed his mind like a shooting star falling in a summer sky. He look to the people again and he saw the woman kneeling in front of the boy. He heard her telling him that she would be back soon. They were not far of him so he could hear everything they said, and he could see the strange expression on the woman's face. He slightly narrowed his eyes, remembering what he had felt when he sensed the woman first. 'Selfishness. Why do these words she told her child have such a hollow ring to me?'

He saw her walking away and leaving the child behind without a look back. 'Is this a woman's attitude when she leaves her child?' He extended his cosmo to the woman and he only sensed relief. He understood everything and looked again at the boy who watched his mother walk away without knowing that she would never come back.

He could not believe his eyes and the opportunity that presented itself. The child was abandoned and he possessed a little cosmo. With time, he was sure, he would develop it and he would become a future Saint. The Holy War was drawing near and it was time to gather as many new Saints as possible for the time when it would be declared. But the child was too young for being trained. 'He seems to be around three years old. I must wait a few years before he can be trained. Bad luck... But if I leave him here, he will die. I have to bring him to Sanctuary. After all, Aiolos' little brother is there, too, and he is also only about three years old.'

He stayed a while longer and looked at the child who was still waiting. He waited endlessly. His premonition had been true. Besides, his sixth sense never lacked him. The Holy Father held him in high esteem in part because he knew he was one of the most powerful Silver Saints. His talent for reading the others' emotions and sometimes even simple thoughts made him a formidable saint. But he rarely used this faculty, and for that, he was respected and admired by most of his peers. His power was also a way to feel cosmo in a latent state. His power was one of the reasons for which the Holy Father sent him all over the world. But the Holy Father also sent him so that he kept watch on the politic situation in several countries. The Holy Father, the representative of Athena on Earth did not want that certain countries started hostilities which could speed up the awakening of belligerent Gods before Athena's reincarnation. It was the role and the duty of Sanctuary, and he knew that his role was important, too.

Now it was full night and he still saw the child at the same place. He sighed softly as he wondered if he should go and tell him that the one he was waiting for would never come back, or if he should wait until the child understood himself that his mother would never come back. Usually, this kind of question never bothered him, he chose the course of action immediately, but this child intrigued him. He wanted to know more but he could not. It was the first time that he could not 'read' someone. He knew that with some Saints and especially the strong ones, he had difficulties because they protected themselves, but this boy was only three years old and he was not aware of his latent power. 'How can he be able to put up such a mental barrier without being aware of his power? It is completely absurd.'

He felt a light change in the boy's cosmo. A light worry and fear flickered up before these emotions were suddenly suppressed by the boy's will. 'He is maybe conscious,' the stranger thought. The man saw the boy going to the bench and then he noticed that he was trying not to fall asleep. But it was a vain attempt because only few moments later he was asleep.

He waited a moment and then he approached the child. He walked noiselessly to him and examined at him. His head slid slowly down and his weight dragged the body until he lay on the bench. He saw the boy shivering, but he did not wake up and so he sat down near his head. Opening one of his cape-tails, he covered the child and leaned his back against the back of the bench. 'I won't let you die. You have something within you, little one.' He raised his head to the sky, and he looked at the dark clouds that crossed the night sky and hid the moon and the stars time to time.

* * *

The child shivered and then his limbs ached. He opened his eyes and saw that he was laying on a bench somewhere. He sat upright and gazed about him, lost. First, he wondered what he was doing here, then he remembered. He sighed and stood up. He walked a little so that he loosened his legs and in order to warm himself. A couple of minutes later, he stood at the same place he did the day before.

The park came to life bit by bit. The threatening clouds of the night had disappeared and the weather was turning fine, and like the day before, a colourful crowd invaded the park. Many people passed the child, but no one stopped. The child walked to the bench and sat down for a moment, before he went back to his post.

The morning drew to an end and the afternoon went on as monotonously as the morning. The child sighed and walked to the bench. He was hungry, but he did not want to leave this place. Furthermore, he could not even buy anything. He bit his lips so that he did not give in to distress.

"You are alone?" a woman asked, looking at the child.

He shook his head in denial. "I am waiting for maman."

"Where is she?"

"Not far."

"Ah. I thought you were alone. Sorry." Then the woman walked away and left the child alone.

"Maman, please, come back quickly..."

The afternoon passed slowly and time to time an adult came and asked if he was alone, but always the deep blue-green haired boy replied that he was waiting for his mother and that she would not be away long. Even children had come, asking him to play with them, but he replied that he could not.

For the umpteenth time he walked to the bench, his head bent and he sat down. A moment after, a shadow in front of him made him look up. Joy and relief shone in his indigo eyes. But these emotions disappeared when he saw only a tall, well-built man. He had strange grey hair and the child could not decide if it was steel gray or blue grey of colour. It was near steel grey when shadows covered him and of blue grey colour when the rays of the sun played in it. The child had a feeling of coldness. The hair fell just above the man's shoulder blades and it waved in the cold wind, like his long cape. His very light brown eyes, near amber colour, studied the child intensely. The boy stared back at him without fear.

"Why are you still staying here?" he inquired in a very deep and rich voice.

The boy gave him a perplexed look. The man was strange. The boy should be afraid but the man attracted him. He did not answer. He remembered his mother telling him one day to never speak with strangers, and without knowing why, the child knew that the man was different from the other people who had come to him since this morning. He looked away.

"Are you waiting for someone?" he kindly asked.

The child crossed his arms in front of him. He saw at the corner of his eyes that the man still waited there. "Maman," he replied, hoping that the man would go away.

But the man insisted. "Where is she?"

The boy did not answer and was ready to jump off the bench when he saw the man pacing once behind. "It has been a long time I was observing you. Do you really think your mother will come back?"

"Yes," the boy answered without hesitation. The man shook his head and then he walked away without a word. The deep blue-green haired boy sighed in relief and glanced around him. The man was not in sight anymore. He settled on the bench and he returned his gaze to the path.

A few moments later, he heard a little sound near him. It was like the noise of fabric which rubbed something. He turned his head and saw the strange man sitting next to him. He was still staring at him. The child fidgeted.

"You are still waiting?" he wondered while he settled down more comfortably.

The child did not reply and wanted to go away. But he could not move. He was suddenly paralyzed when his indigo eyes met the man's light brown ones. He felt in danger, but in same time he felt protected.

"Your mother won't come back and you know it, little one" the man said while he plunged his gaze into the child's eyes.

"She said she would come back and I have to wait, and so I do," the child replied, withstanding the man's fascinating eyes.

"Why do you hope? It is useless."

"Maman will come back. Mothers never abandon their children." He swung his legs and glanced to the children playing in the park.

"If you wait here, why do not you play with the others until she comes back?"

"I don't know them" he answered. "Maman told me to stay here and so I stay here."

The man searched something under his cape. "Here, for you," he said and held out something to the child. The latter, puzzled, looked up at the man. "You have not eaten since she has left you."

The child shook his head in denial. "No. I mustn't speak with unknown people and I mustn't accept something from them."

"Then you're going to let yourself die of starvation?"

"What is death?" he replied seriously. Eager to learn many new things, he forgot he was speaking with someone he did not know.

On sensing the boy's curiosity, the man smiled. "Death is the contrary of life. When someone is alive, he moves, speaks, laughs, cries, eats, drinks. He does a lot of things, he feels a lot of emotions. When someone is dead, he doesn't move, he can't speak, he can't do anything. Death is cold and life is warm." The man held the sandwich out to the boy who looked up at him. They stayed like this for a long moment and then the boy hesitantly took it. He bit into it and closed his eyes while he enjoyed the food.

"You know, it is late. What are you going to do?"

"Wait for maman," the boy said between two swallows.

"You're going to stay here one more night?"

The boy shrugged. "I must wait for her."

"Where do you live?"

"I don't know, but it is far. It's why I must wait for her."

"Until when?" the steel-gray haired man demanded.

"Until she comes."

The strange man stood up. "All right. I will leave you alone. But..." He shook his head in denial and walked away without explaining what he was about to say. The child's eyes followed him in the growing night. He suddenly felt the cold and shivered. He returned his gaze to the path where he had last seen his mother. "Maman..." In the middle of the night, he fell asleep on the bench, as he did the last night.

The steel-gray haired man approached the bench again and sat down near the child. He took off his cape and covered the boy carefully. A moment after, he ran his fingers through the boy's deep blue-green hair. "I will not leave you alone" he whispered. "I don't even know your name." He looked up to the moon and closed his eyes. 'I am sure that you have a fine future. You already have a quite developed cosmo. Now, it remains to be seen whether you will want to come with me. Goddess Athena, please, you who are said to be kind and compassionate, protect this little boy.'

* * *

The child wrapped himself warmly into the clothing, seeking the warmth. "Maman," he murmured, "You came." He opened his eyes suddenly to see his mother, but he found himself laying on the hard bench in the park which became lighter as the dawn came. He sat up and gazed around. He was alone. He shivered and he felt a soft fabric around his legs. A cape. The strange man's cape. The child wrapped it around his body and looked around again. Alone. The man was not here. He felt a pain in his heart and he bent his head. "Maman, I hope you'll come and take me with you."

"You still hope?" a deep voice asked him.

The child turned to his right and he saw the man looking down at him. He felt relief invading his heart. The man just held out some bread and this time, the child did not hesitate. The man smiled. "You are less unsociable and savage than yesterday. By the way, what is your name?"

"Yours?" the boy demanded after he swallowed the piece of bread.

The man stared at the child and his eyes shone. "Serge and I am a Saint."

"A Saint? What is this?"

"I will answer you if you give me your name. Anyway, we have all day long, as your mother will not return."

The child wanted to reply that she would come back, but he said nothing. Maybe because he understood that in a way the man was right. "My name?" he asked.

"How did your mother call you?"

He bent his head and he swung his legs under the cape. "I don't know," he revealed in a whisper. Serge said nothing and he waited. "Maman never called me by a name. She always called me 'petit', or 'petit monstre' or 'monstre'. Maybe this is my name."

The man did not give any confirmation. "And your friends?"

The boy shrugged. "What is a friend?"

"Friend, friendship. It's a feeling you have for someone, someone other than a member of your family, someone you appreciate, someone you like to be with. In your case, someone with whom you can speak or with whom you can play. Do you understand?"

"Uh, I think I can." Then he shook his head in denial and he sighed. "So, I don't have a friend. Maman didn't want me to go out. I don't remember I have spoken with any child before."

"And people?"

"I only saw maman and her friend, when she came home time to time. It was Maman's friend who taught me to read a few words."

"How did she call you?"

"Petit."

"'Petit' is not a name. And your father?"

"I never saw him."

"So you don't have a name."

The child did not reply and he stared at the first pigeons of the day that were alighting on the gravel path. He threw them the few crumbs of bread he had and, in a flutter of wings which disturbed the silence of the dawn in the park, they rushed for the little pieces of food. Then, they flew and turned around the boy while they waited for him to throw more bread.

The man looked at the child for a long moment. 'An unwanted child. He certainly has been hidden and he certainly has not been registered at the registry office. A child who lived in a world in which there was no track of him, only a ghost existence, a ghost life, a troublesome child...' He was sure when he had seen the woman leaving the child alone that she would never come back. Her look and her cold attitude toward the child were signs that she would abandon her son. When she had left him like this, maybe she had had a little hope that someone would take him in and bring him up? Serge was not sure. He had felt so much selfishness that he doubted she had even once thought about her son. But he was sure that no one had tried to do something for the child. It was like the way he had spurned the attempt of people to help him. The child was practically invisible in his existence.

"I will ask maman for my name when she comes back."

Serge sighed. The child still hoped, and he was furious when he thought how this woman had given this innocent child such false hope. He ran his fingers through the child's hair. "So, if you don't have a name, can I give you one?"

"I have already one. I just don't know it."

"Listen, you can trust me. I won't hurt you, but you must understand that your mother will never come back for you. It is now three days that you are waiting for her. Why would she have left you here while you could have waited for her at your home?"

The child frowned as he thought about what the man had told him. "I think you have showed too much gratitude to her, but it is useless. Your mother doesn't love you anymore, so stop hoping. You are hurting yourself." The child wanted to protest but Serge's amber eyes hardened and the deep blue-green haired boy said nothing, not because he was afraid, but because he felt that he had not finished. "I want to give you a name, like this, so that you will really exist. Do you?"

"But... If she comes back?"

"She won't. And I won't leave you here alone. You will come with me."

"But..."

"I will let you wait for her until tonight. If she won't come back tonight, so will you agree to come with me?"

"You are sure?"

"I am. So can I name you?" After a very long moment the boy nodded slightly. Serge said nothing while the child was thinking. He did not want to force him to accept. He had to decide by his own. He only nodded reassurance when the child finally accepted. "Let me think about this. You must have a name which makes you different and which suits you well."

The child only shrugged and the pigeons drew his attention again. He took off the cape and by jumping down he frightened the birds. He walked a little without going too far away from the bench where the man was still looking at him, deep in his thoughts. After a long moment, he came near him again and sat down on the bench without looking at Serge. "You can't find one," he said emotionlessly.

"I have some, but I need your help. After all, it would be you who will have this name. I have thought about Pierre."

"I am not a stone."

"Oh, sorry. But as you have stayed like a stone statue for such a long while, I have thought about it. All right, you don't like it, so I won't give you such a common name. After all you are unique."

"What's this?" the child demanded and pointed with his index finger to a statue some metres away. It had intrigued him a lot since he had come, but he had never asked the man about it.

"A statue. By erecting statues, humans honour important persons, so that people know and remember them after a long time."

"Who is this man?"

"Camus."

"Camus?"

"An author. He had written a lot."

"He was famous?"

"Uh, yes. Why do you ask me this?"

"Oh, I just like this."

Serge stared at the child for a moment. "Camus... Why not? Well it's original, no. What do you think about it?"

"I don't know" the boy shrugged. "But it's a name like any other, so, I accept it. I prefer it to Pierre."

"So until then you are Camus. Delighted to meet you, Camus," Serge said while he held out his hand to the boy who looked at it for a long moment. Then he held out his little hand to the man who took it firmly. Serge shook it, and in the same time he shook all the child's body.

"What is a Saint?"

"Someone who protects Athena, the world and the peace."

"Who is Athena?"

"A Greek Goddess. The Goddess of War."

"A Goddess of War? Why do you say she protects peace?"

Surprised by the child's reasoning, Serge arched his eyebrows. The child seemed to be only three years old... "Tell me Camus, how old are you?"

"I don't know."

"It was a stupid question; as you don't even know your name, so you probably don't know your birthday either," Serge said.

"Birthday? You mean the day we were born?" Serge nodded. "I know my birthday. February the seventh. Maman's friend told me when she came last time. It was my birthday. She told me that she had helped maman to give birth to me. She remembered the date."

"A very strange boy," Serge murmured. "You have asked me why a War Goddess protects the peace, no?" Camus nodded. "In the Greek mythology, there are two Gods of War, Athena and Ares. Ares is the God of the fights. He is a God who only lives for fighting and for seeing the humans' suffering. He likes massacres and carnage. Athena only fights for the peace. She often fights Ares in order to establish peace and the humans' well being. On Earth, Athena has Saints who protect her when she is reincarnated. They also protect the world when she is not here. The Saints exist because they have to safeguard peace and harmony in the world. Do you understand?"

Camus frowned. "Not all of it, " he admitted.

Serge smiled. "I admit that it's a bit difficult to understand, for you are very young. Don't worry, many young candidates who are chosen to become Saint and who are much older than you have difficulties to understand this, too."

"So you are a Saint..."

"Yes, the Grus Saint."

"The Grus Saint?"

"The crane. It is a southern constellation."

"Crane? Southern constellation?"

"Ahhhh. Let me explain." Camus nodded. "First of all, you must know that Athena doesn't like weapons, so her Saints have to fight without weapons. Their bodies are their weapons."

"No weapons? How that?"

"A Saint has a cosmo. This cosmo is used as weapon. The cosmo can be so strong that a Saint can do incredible things, like destroying a cliff with his own fist or make the ground shake with a kick."

"Really?" Serge nodded. "What is this cosmo?"

"The cosmo is an aura that each human possesses. Some people have a stronger aura than others. With ardous training humans can develop their own aura, their cosmo. The more one develops it, the more powerful one becomes. Saints are protected by their Cloths."

"Cloths?"

"Armours, if you prefer, but their real name is Cloths. There are three ranks, the Bronze Saints who are the most numerous and the least powerful, the Silver Saints who are less numerous and more powerful and then the Gold Saints. They are the most powerful of all the Saints. The rank one attains depends on one's cosmo. The more important and powerful your cosmo is, the more powerful are you."

"And you?" Serge arched his eyebrows questionably. "Which rank have you?"

"I am a Silver Saint." Camus looked down and then he returned his gaze to the Silver Saint.

"So you are powerful?"

"I think I am," the man replied.

"Can you show me?"

"Here? Now?" the Saint asked in surprise. The boy merely nodded. "All right," he said while he looked around to find a target and to see if people could see them. The park was empty and two hundred meters away he saw a huge rock. He glanced down to the child who stared at him expectantly. With his index finger he pointed at the target and walked to it. He turned to the child and with a sign of his hand, he invited him to follow him.

Camus nodded and he joined the Saint. About fifty paces away of the target, Serge bade him stop while he walked three paces ahead. He took up a fighting stance and Camus could sense a change in the air around the man. Then the Silver Saint threw his fist toward the rock and the child noticed a movement of the air, as if the place where Serge was standing had become blurred. Then everything was clear and Camus heard and saw the rock crack and break apart before it exploded into little stones. Camus gaped at the shattered rock before his indigo eyes went to Serge, then back to the pile of stones and again to the Saint.

Serge smiled when he saw the astonished expression. "Was this demonstration enough or do you want me to do it again?"

Camus shook his head in denial, unable to take his eyes off the crumbles. He swallowed and turned to the man. "You are really powerful," he said amazed.

"If you think so... Can we return to your favorite place?" The child nodded and they went back to the bench and sat down. Serge looked up at the sky and resumed his explanations. "Each Saint is protected by a constellation."

"What is a constellation?"

"A constellation is a grouping of stars so that humans can get their bearings in the night and when they are on an ocean. There are eighty-eight constellations in the sky."

"Eighty-eight... So there are eighty-eight saints. A lot!" the boy exclaimed while his eyes were wide open.

"Unfortunately not. The number seems to be high for you because you probably don't know how to count yet. But even if there are eighty-eight Saints in theory, they never have been reunited all in the same time. During the last Holy War, seventy-nine Saints fought." Serge stopped speaking when he saw Camus sitting deep in thoughts. "Something is wrong?" the Silver Saint inquired when he noticed that the child was frowning deeper.

"I don't understand all of this. Why are you a Saint?"

"Because I love humans. Because I want to protect our world. Because I believe in a better future."

"Ah." The boy frowned. "Why do you tell me this?" the child asked, looking up to the man. "You want me to go with you, so you want me to be like you, is it?"

"Your reasoning impresses me, Camus. I hardly believe that you are only around three years old, maybe four. No, you have to be three years of age, I'm certain of it." He sighed and he looked up at the sky in which the clouds were gathering and turning grey. He frowned. 'It's going to rain...' He returned his attention to the child still waiting for his confirmation. "You are right. I don't want to lie to you. You already have a light cosmo. It would be a waste not to develop it. But you are entitled to your own free will. I won't force you. Your mother has abandoned you. You are alone and if no one helps you, you will die. I propose you a goal and an destiny. It is up to you to decide, Camus."

Camus stood up and walked to the place where his mother had left him. "Maybe she has had an accident..." he told the man without turning to him.

"No, Camus, she hasn't. Until tonight, Camus, until tonight."

Camus replied nothing and stared at the curve of the path. He hoped that with the help of his determination, his mother would appear suddenly and take him with her. He did not feel bad with the man, but something prevented him in trusting him completely. The future without his mother scared him, especially a future in which only fights would govern his life. He was too young to take such a decision, when he did not even know what he wanted to do in his life.

Time slipped by. The park was almost empty and the few people walking around were more in a hurry to go back home than to stay outside. Camus sighed but he forced himself to stay still and to look at the curve. He did not want to turn to Serge. He knew the Saint was still there. He knew he was sitting on the bench, and was certainly staring at him. But the man respected his silence and his wish to be alone.

A cold drop fell onto his forehead. Looking up to the sky, Camus wept it away with his right coat sleeve. He noticed that the sky was grey and raindrops began to fall. First some, and then it was raining heavily. Camus bent his head but did not move to protect himself from the cold water. He felt the raindrops fell onto his head. His hair was wet and drops ran over his face and down his coat. He shivered, but he stood still.

Suddenly he did not feel any more drops falling onto his head, onto his shoulders. He blinked and slowly looked up where something obstructed his sight. He heard the raindrops fall onto this thing with a muffled but still audible sound. He gazed around and to his left he saw grey trousers. Glancing up, he noticed a deep blue sweater, then an arm which was holding the light grey cape over his head.

"You're going to catch a cold, Camus," Serge said in a soft voice.

Camus looked up but he could not see the man's face. He poked his head out of the flimsy shelter. Drops fell onto his head, but he looked up and he made out Serge's face. The man stared straight ahead of him, quite unperturbed. The boy blinked, admiring the stoicism and the nobility of the Saint.

"Take shelter under the cape, Camus."

"But..."

"No buts, Camus. Do it."

"But -- and you?"

A smile crossed Serge's features. "Don't worry. This rain is nothing. I won't be ill. But you will be if you don't do what I tell you. So do it."

"But..." the child stubbornly voiced.

Serge sighed when he understood that Camus would not give up. He glanced around until he saw a huge and old fir tree. He returned his gaze to the curve the child was stubbornly looking at since his mother had gone. He knew by intuition that he would not take any shelter where he could not see the path. He estimated the distance and whether he could see the 'place' from the tree. When he had a solution to his problem, he took the child's hand with kindness and covered the boy's head. "Come with me."

"Where?" Camus asked, but he followed the man.

"As you don't want to be sheltered until I am not, so we go under this fir tree."

"But if maman comes?"

Serge did not reply and then he stopped under the conifer. He turned and when he lifted the cape-tail under which the child was, he showed him where they were. "We can see the path from here, and we have a limited shelter."

Camus looked up and he noticed the branches of the fir, but he also saw a few drops falling onto the ground here and there. He saw the Saint putting his right hand to his hip, and one of tail of the cape was lifted and protected him. Camus shivered. His hair was wet and sometime a drop rolled from his forehead to his nose. He came closer to the Saint but he did not touch him. He felt warmth come from the man.

A long moment slipped by and Camus felt dizzy. He was too tired to stay awake. The monotonous noise of the rain did not help and it invaded his mind like a monotonous lullaby. He tried to keep his eyes open, but it was too much for him. He closed them and his head fell suddenly onto his chest. He opened his sleepy eyes quickly and to keep his balance, he extended his hand to the man's leg. He tightly clung on the gray pants.

The man did not move. Hesitantly, Camus put his arm around the Saint's knee and tightened his grip. The he put his head against Serge's thigh. He felt a warmth that radiated from the man and he gave a contented sigh. He looked ahead of him to the landscape.

It was raining heavily and he had problems to see the curve through the curtain of rain. Camus felt a hand on his head and then fingers slightly ran through his deep blue-green strands in a reassured way. Camus, contented and reassured, tightened his grip and closed his eyes. He let the tiredness overcome him. He felt that he was going to fall, so he grabbed the pants with all his strength.

Serge felt the tug and he bent. "You are tired," he said while he took the child in his arms. Camus fought against the light grip for a few seconds, but then he stayed quiet. Still under the man's cape, he looked to the path. "Take a little nap," Serge said while he clasped him to his chest. "You are really tired."

"I can't. I must..."

"I will wait for your mother. Take a little nap."

"Really?"

"If she comes, I will wake you up. Don't worry. You can trust me."

"You really will?" demanded the sleepy child.

"I'm a man who honours his word. Sleep."

Camus looked at the path and then he put his head on the man chest. It was the first time he felt warmth. It was in the same time odd and pleasant. His mother had never taken him into her arms clasped him to her chest, as far back as he could remember. He had been afraid when Serge had done this, but now he felt well. It was the first time he was feeling a human's warmth, the love of a person for another one. He had never sensed this feeling before and he was afraid not to feel it again. This feeling invaded him and calmed him down.

Camus looked to the path and wondered if he really wanted his mother to come back. He was afraid of encountering her coldness again. He only knew this man since one day, but he had already given him a lot. Even in his silences, he had learnt a lot. The monotonous sound of the rain, the regular breathing as well as the slow and regular beating of the heart near his left ear and the warmth enveloping his body threw Camus into a deep sleep.

* * *

Serge felt that the child became heavier and he heard his breathing become more regular. He knew that Camus had fallen asleep. He continued to look at the path, more to keep his promise to the boy than because of his strength of his conviction. The woman had definitely abandoned the boy and would never return to pick him up. Now, Camus had to believe that he was abandoned and alone. He was sure that it would not be easy. It would be a delicate situation in view of the love that the child still seemed to have for his mother. However, by not giving him a name or by only calling him 'petit monstre' or 'monstre', she did not seem to have truly loved him. But children had this instinct to still love their parents even when they were subjected to blows, pain and ill-treatment.

At least Camus did not seem to have been subjected to ill-treatment, he did not have traces of blows. No, the child had not been beaten. The man understood that if the child seemed so grown-up it was because his mother had simply ignored him. Until the last three days he had lived in a world of indifference and the child did not know how to react to someone else. He glanced down when he felt that Camus unconsciously gripped his sweater, sighing relieved.

Serge returned his look to the path even though he perfectly knew that no people would come here in a weather like this. But he did it for Camus, for this child who intrigued him more than any other people before him, a young child who already thought like an adult. 'But do I have the right to take him to Sanctuary, to deprive him of a normal youth and life?' He could not believe he would think this way. Until now he had never felt so much hesitation, so why now? 'Because of Camus and his ingenuous innocence?' He sighed and shook his head while he decided to wait until the child woke up.

* * *

Camus woke up a long while after but he stayed still just to enjoy listening to Serge's heartbeat and to feel the warmth. He closed his eyes contentedly.

"You are awake?" Serge asked.

Camus looked up and met the Saint's amber eyes. He stared away and his eyes fell onto the path. "She has not come?" he asked in a little voice.

"No, she hasn't. But the weather is bad, you know."

"Hmm," the child replied, not convinced. He sighed and then he moved a little. Serge opened his arms and the child slid down. He stayed under the cape and close to the man. While he chewed on his lips, he took the man's pant in his hand and tightened his grip on it.

"The night is not yet over," Serge told him while he stared at the rain which was still falling. "Camus, I won't force you to come with me. If your mother won't come and if you don't want to come with me, so I can take you to an orphanage. There, someone might adopt you."

Camus said nothing during a moment. "Might?" he voiced softly. "Nothing sure, as life..." He sighed and he closed his indigo eyes. "I don't know," he said a moment after.

"What is it you don't know?"

"Nothing," Camus replied. "Nothing important. I'm just thinking..."

"About what?"

"Nothing important."

Serge gave up and saw that now it was drizzling. When he looked further to the horizon, he saw rays of sun breaking through the clouds. A rainbow appeared and without a word he showed it to Camus. "The rain will stop soon," he told him.

Camus replied nothing and watched how the coloured arch faded as the rain stopped. The clouds tore open and the winter sun appeared in its complete splendor. Some cold drops fell from the branches. The boy stayed a moment near the man and then without warning, he walked to the place he was waiting for his mother since had she had left.

Serge did not move but stayed under the tree. Then he leaned back against the trunk, still staring at the child. He knew that he needed to be alone and, like he had said earlier, he would not force him to come with him. He saw the child walk to the curve of the path and then coming back to the place. He saw him doing this five times and then he stayed still as a stone statue.

Camus waited. He was waiting but his mind was elsewhere. Serge's words were still ringing in his mind. 'I won't force you to come with me.' At this moment he had felt relief but also sadness. Without knowing why, now, he really trusted this man, and certainly more than he trusted his mother. This man had shown him what being human was, his mother never. The Saint had spoken to him, had regarded him as someone. His mother rarely spoke three words in a day to him. He had taken care of him, his mother sometimes left him alone during all the day or two. The Saint was warm and his mother was cold. 'So is Serge life, and maman is death?' he thought as he remembered the Saint's earlier explanations.

What would he do if his mother would not come back? The answer came clear as daylight. He would follow the Saint. He would learn what he knew. He would learn how to love and how to help the others as Serge had done with him; he would understand Serge's reasons to be a Saint. Suddenly the future did not scare him. It was the thought of seeing his mother again that scared him. If he went with her, he would lose the new feelings he had felt. But children had to stay with their mother, he knew this, his instinct told him that children had to live with their parents. And if she came what would happen? How would she react? How would he react? Why would he go with a stranger while his mother had taken care of him until now? 'Why do I hesitate? If maman comes I will go with her. It's simple.'

Camus blinked and he returned his attention to the path. He felt the cold wind that blew and froze his nose, but he did not care. His eyes filled with tears because of the cold, but he closed them a moment to protect them. He suddenly felt the presence of Serge not far away. He was not close to him but not far either. He did not turn to him and he did not feel the man come closer. He was glad that he left him alone.

The time slipped by and the day finished. Only few people had crossed the park but none of them had glanced even once to the strange man and to the child. Camus fidgeted worriedly and then he calmed down. He was suddenly afraid of being left alone with the man. Why was he so scared suddenly, while he had trusted him before? He did not know. He did not look at the man, but he saw the shadow of the Saint at his feet. He glanced down before he stared at the curve.

"Camus..." the man called.

"The sky is not yet dark," the child said without turning to him. He continued staring at the curve with intensity.

"She won't come, Camus," Serge told him, waiting.

"Until the first star appears," Camus demanded. Serge replied nothing and he continued to wait. Few minutes after, the dying glow of the sunset gave way to the night. Camus swallowed and his breath quickened. He chewed on his lips. By looking up at the sky he hoped that he could stop time, but he was aware that the sky was getting darker as the seconds slipped by. He returned his look to the curve. There was still no one.

Then the first star appeared. Resigned, Camus bent his head and a tear rolled down his left cheek. With his left hand he wiped it away and he approached the man still waiting few meters away. Without hesitation, Camus took his hand. "We can go," he said in a breath.

"Where?" Serge asked, surprised by Camus' resolution. He would have thought that it would be more difficult to ask him to come and leave this place, but seemingly, he had stopped closing his eyes on his mother's attitude.

"Far from this place." He looked up at Serge. "Take me with you, Silver Saint. It's my destiny..."

"You won't regret it?"

"What would I regret?" Camus asked bitterly while he stared straight ahead of him.

"So we will go. We have a long way to go." He closed his hand on Camus' one and he walked toward the exit of the park.

Camus followed him, but he once put a glance behind, engraving the place in his mind and still having this little hope in his heart to see his mother. But she was not there and his lips trembled. Silent tears rolled over his cheeks and he wiped them away. 'No. I mustn't.'

'Why? Why?' his mind shouted.

For the first time, Serge heard the mind's call and he glanced down. He noticed the child's distress. "I don't know why she has abandoned you, Camus," the Saint said seriously.

"I've always obeyed her. I've been good and kind, so why?"

"I don't know, but you have the answer in your heart."

"No, I don't!"

"You have it. Later, you will know why. You are now shocked and offended, and the truth is hidden in your heart. You don't want to see it now. But in few months or in few years, you will understand your mother's acts."

"Why would I think about this?"

"Because it's human nature. Humans want to know everything, and you are a human, Camus."

Camus was not convinced and his heart hurt him without knowing why. He felt that he was ready to cry but he forced himself not to. His features hardened when he looked in front of him without another look behind. "Where are we going?"

"We go to Greece. To Sanctuary, Camus. You will have a family, a family of which you can choose the members." Camus nodded and he tightened his grip on the Saint's hand. By this gesture, he showed him that he would follow him and that he trusted him. He just glanced up to the stars and he returned his attention to the way ahead of him.

End of Chapter 1 -- Chapter 2: Tsakalatos


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