A Little Flame Under the Ice

Chapter Four: Lost Hearts

© 2001 by Seiiruika

This page was last modified: 2001/07/29


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Naze kizutsukeru no ka, kagiri no aru inochi o tada imi no naku
Why must we be hurt? Has our limited life no meaning?

Mizutani keiji (Hikari aru sekai e)

The heat overcame the Sanctuary. The storms that happened in the surroundings did not cool the place, devastating the humans with heat. No rain, nothing. The hell on Earth, or a glimpse of it. And even in this heat, men, young men and children were training under the impassible look of Athena's white statues. Everyone hoped that rain came but their wish was not granted by their Goddess.

Camus was wandering about the Sanctuary aimlessly as he did before. He saw a sat cross-legged blond haired boy, his eyes closed as did Serge when he meditated. Intrigued, he came closer to the boy and he noticed that he had the same age than his. He was dressed in a strange way. It was the first time he saw such clothing. It was a long pleat and white tunic holding by a fibula representing a stylized lotus. A tail of the tunic in part hidden by the golden hair which fell gracefully in his neck, fell on the boy's back.

The blue-haired child attracted by the serenity that the boy seemed to have made two paces to his direction. It was the first time he saw him. He stopped but he said nothing to not disturb the one who meditated. Serge taught them this discipline and he knew how he could be frustrating when someone interrupted him.

"Who are you?" asked the little boy without opening his eyes.

Camus bent his head and moved his head closer to the boy's face to check if he had dreamt or not. No he had not, the boy had not opened his eyes.

"Why do you look at me this way?"

"How can you know that I'm looking at you this way if you don't open your eyes?"

"It is my inside sight..."

"Your inside sight? What is it?" asked Camus.

"A form of eyesight, a picture coming from all my senses but my eyesight..."

"By developing your Sixth sense?"

"Oh you know this? So it is useless to give you long and tedious explanations as I do to people who have any skill or are totally uncultivated."

"Do you always look down your nose at everybody?"

"You're only an impertinent. How dare you to disturb my meditation and insult me..."

"Well, if you're going to take it like that, it's not my fault. But you are the one who start this."

"Who are you?" asked the boy frowning.

"I'm Camus and you?"

"I'm Shaka."

"Shaka? I've read something about this..."

"Shaka is the other name given for Buddha."

"Buddha? A god?"

"The God. There is only one God and he is Buddha."

"So why are you in the Sanctuary? This place is governed by Athena who is a goddess. How can you be here while you say that only one god exists?"

"Buddha is the supreme god. This doesn't mean that there are not other gods or goddesses. There are minor entities. In the country I come from, there are lot of religions and lot of gods. People live and respect the others' religions. I don't see what is the problem."

"By entering the Sanctuary you are forced to serve Athena, to devote yourself to this heartless and cruel goddess body and soul."

"What have you just said?" asked Shaka opening his eyes for the very first time since the beginning of the conversation. His pure blue eyes hardened and the boy frowned.

"What you've just told me is totally absurd. You said your god, Buddha, the one you have the name, is the most powerful, but you are forced to submit to the will of a goddess you describe as minor." Camus smirked. "There is no logic in your reasoning."

"Religion has no logic. Only heart, soul and our very deep Self are important. Reasoning is not the base of any religion. There is no logic in a religious dogma. Only faith exists. Only the fact of believing in something does. You certainly can't understand what I'm talking about because you certainly don't have heart and the feeling to belong to mankind."

Those words affected Camus' heart and soul. He was hit full-force and he did not know if he had to agree with Shaka or not. This made him touchy and he was about to lose his temper, not accepting that this pretentious boy was right. "Silly idle chatter! Gods don't exist!"

"Do you only believe in something, little impertinent?" asked seriously Shaka noticing the light of hate into Camus' indigo eyes.

"I only believe in what I see. Everything which is and religion order is illusory and I don't believe an utter single word in those dogma. They are only liar and illusions created by mad people. Religions don't have a single truth."

"How dare you?" Shaka was brewing and his eyes became as sharp as a blade.

"Everyone has the right to believe in what he wants. I believe in what I think it is worth to be. I despise people who are unable to face the truth and take refuge into religion. I hate all form of divinity. Gods are only cruel and selfish creations. They've been created by some people to enslave Humans."

Shaka jumped on his feet ready to jump on Camus' throat but he prevented himself in doing so and he tried to have self-control. Camus did not move. "You are the one who don't know what he is saying" revealed Shaka.

"It's useless to talk to you. Anyway, it's not interesting. You're not interesting. I leave you with your idiotic remarks about gods and your stupidity." Saying that, Camus left Shaka totally in shock.

Camus walked away from Shaka. He was furious. Religion, Gods, Athena. There were only what seemed to be important to their regard. The other things were not important. They were all speaking about Mankind but no one seemed to be preoccupied by them or to be able to definite what a human was. They were unable to explain what, who they were, and they dared to devote themselves in fruitless discussions about divinities created by humans to feel protected or to understand the world around them.

Since he had surprised this expression of adoration on Serge's features when he had looked at Athena's little statue, he could not have self-control. Every time he thought about Serge, he saw this expression and he felt a pang. He had the feeling that his heart was between hands and that someone tried to pull it out of his chest. But he did not know who. Or to be exact he had one. Serge or Athena. But his reasoning inclined more toward Athena. He did not succeed in forgetting the feelings he had to Serge. He could not bring himself to think that the Saint was the one who made him so suffer. He looked up and he saw Athena's statue. On the other hand, she did not hesitate to make suffer the others and to sacrifice the ones who liked her and who served her. Camus looked away from the statue and walked again aimlessly through the Sanctuary.

* * *

Camus continued wandering aimlessly when suddenly a firm hand grabbed his left shoulder, forcing him to stop. The anger he had let build up during the day was about to be freed. He spun around suddenly, his hands clenched, his eyes burning with anger. He did not tolerate that someone had stopped him. He saw Tsakalatos. In his companion's turquoise eyes, a light of surprise replaced to the usual light of mischief they wore.

"Camus?"

"What do you want?" asked the French boy trying to have self-control. However, a touch of aggressiveness could be felt and heard.

"What's the matter with you?" The worry was perceptible in the Greek boy's voice. Camus did not answer him. "I don't recognize you!"

"And then?"

"I heard that you would have blasphemed" said Mu.

"Are you here to give me a lecture?" retorted Camus who only noticed the Tibetan's presence.

"Shaka was very shocked" began Tsakalatos, "and I've been even more when he told us you have blasphemed and said that Athena was cruel.... You're mad! You don't know what will happen to you if someone more aged had heard you! You incur Divine wrath!"

"Oh, my God, I'm scared Tsakalatos" he said in an ironic voice. "Sorry, but I've something else in mind than perform my devotions to an inert statue!" Saying that, Camus turned his back to the two children who had widened at the same time disbelief and outraged eyes.

"Wait Camus! Stop! If someone else knows this, you risk..." repeated Tsakalatos thinking that Camus had not heard him.

"Leave me alone!" shouted Camus turning to Tsakalatos. "Stop trailing around after me like a little dog, you coward."

"Ca..." Tsakalatos could not voice anything else because of a punch on his right cheek.

"Leave me alone! I don't want to train with you anymore! You're unable to fight properly! I don't want to see you anymore!"

"But what's the matter with you, Camus?!" asked Tsakalatos totally stunned.

"Mind your own business! I'm free to do what I want, you little snooper! I have enough of those stupidities!"

"But, and Serge? He told us to train together" said the Greek boy who thought that Serge's name would bring Camus to his senses. He treated the French boy's black look with disdain. "It's not because you miss him that you must react..."

"Say that again!" He punched Tsakalatos' face. "Know that Serge represents nothing to me! I don't care about what would happen to him!"

"It was not what you sa..."

"Shut up!" He rushed to his companion and beat him badly. "Stop that! Shut up! Don't say another word."

Tsakalatos did not react and looked into his friend's dark eyes. What he read in was totally contradicted what he was doing. He read an immense pain and distress. Camus' nails scratched his right cheek.

Mu watched the one-sided fight. He had to intervene, but he could not. He did not understand Camus' attitude who was so composed usually. He examined the boy and suddenly he felt a little pang before he caught a glimpse of tears. Everything was blurred around him and only Camus' face was distinct. Tears were rolling on his cheeks. 'His soul. His heart. They are crying...' murmured his mind. 'He suffers...'

Mu tore himself from the hypnotic vision of Camus' tears which looked like crystal in liquid form. He blinked and saw Camus continuing to beat Tsakalatos, but he realized that Camus did not cry.

"Stop Camus!" ordered Mu who finally rushed to the French boy and had grabbed his arm preventing him to beat Tsakalatos. "You're mad!!"

"Let go of my arm! This doesn't concern you, Mu!"

"You're going to kill him! Is that what you want? To kill your friend?"

"He's not my friend! If he wants to be a Saint, he must react as one!"

"You know he will do nothing to you! So why this determination?"

"Mind your own business, Mu." A smirk appeared on Camus' lips. "Or do you want to take his place?"

"Stop that, Camus" groaned Tsakalatos. "Leave Mu alone. He has nothing to do with this!"

"Pff! Anyway you're only coward..." he turned his back to them and walked away quickly under the both children's surprised eyes, and they did nothing for him to stop. Camus forced himself to not explode. 'How do they dare to tell me what I must do or not? I've the right to do what I want. They annoy me, all they are! Everybody! I dislike them. I hate Athena! Athena, Athena, Athena! They only speak about her. Why are they preoccupied by something that doesn't exist? Gods don't exist and will never exist. They only live into people's mind, people who don't know what to do in their life, so they link to those creatures invented by collective imagination. Stupidity! All is only stupidity!'

He saw Athena's statue and lights of hate flashed from his eyes to its direction, hoping to destroy it, to stop this farce. But Athena stayed there, wearing this little smile that everyone thought it was gentle and benevolent, but Camus saw it was deceitful and sarcastic. Camus found himself in his favorite place, not the one Serge knew, but the one Saga and him shared.

Camus looked at the landscape below and saw the different ruins that strewed the Sanctuary. He let the breeze coming from the sea disturbed his hair, then he sat. He missed Serge, but he missed Saga even more. Maybe because Saga was in the Sanctuary and he could see him more easily and more often. But it was a long time he had not see him and he did not want to bother him, knowing that he was very busy in winning his Cloth. "Who... Who would help me?" he murmured sadly. "Who would end this?"

* * *

Tsakalatos looked at Mu. In his turquoise eyes incomprehension could be read and it was slowly replaced by worry. Camus acted oddly lately. He had first thought that it was Serge's absence which made him so irritable, but now he really wondered.

Mu gave him back his look. He knew Camus only since few weeks and it was a stranger he had just seen. A stranger who screamed for help. Despite this, he showed no sign of worry. Tsakalatos was already enough worried. "Tsakalatos..." he said, bringing his hand closer to the Greek boy's cheek that was bleeding. "You should clean your wounds" advised the Tibetan.

Tsakalatos did not hear Mu's advice. He was shattered and totally lost. "I can't understand him, Mu. He has so changed. He is not the Camus I know. This one scared me..."

"He starts to go too far. If he continues, the Pope himself will clamp down, that he is Serge's 'protégé' or not" noticed Mu who could not succeed in appeasing the heart of the tearaway of Rodario.

"What can I do?" nearly shouted Tsakalatos desperate, clenching his fists. "He never listened to me! I thought I was a friend for him, but I start thinking that I'm not..."

"He won't listen to me either. He listen to nobody" said Mu. 'Less me...'

"Apart from Serge. Maybe the Pope..."

"One is somewhere over the world, the second is too busy for this problem..."

"Saul hasn't a hold over him, Ornytos too. We're nothing to his regard."

"Aiolos?" suggested Mu.

"No. Camus respects him but it's all." Tsakalatos sighed and looked down. "He's my friend and I'm unable to help him! I'm unable to understand him! Mu! Do my friendship to Camus is false?" he shouted. He bit his lips piqued. 'Why, Camus? What's the matter with you? Who could help you?' He suddenly raised his head and a light of hope crossed his turquoise eyes. "Saga!" Mu looked at him surprised. "Saga is our hope. Camus respects him and admires him. They spoke to each other a lot before, and he had asked help to Saga when he tried to make change my mind!"

"Do you think it's an good idea?" Tsakalatos looked at him surprised. "It's forbidden to go to Saga's training place..."

"But he is the only one who can make Camus see reason. He is our only hope." Mu looked at him skeptical. "I don't want to see Camus like this..." He wiped the blood from his right cheek. "But you're right. It's dangerous to go there. So I will go alone. It is my problem and I must sort out it. I'm responsible of this situation." Saying those words, he walked away.

'Tsakalatos' friendship for Camus is without limit. Even after what have happened, he still trusts him' thought Mu admiring this loyalty, devotion and sincerity which characterized the feeling the Greek boy had for Camus. "It's out of question that I let you go there alone!"

Tsakalatos turned to him surprised. "You risk to be punish, if no more. I've done enough stupid things."

'My Master won't punish me, I'm sure of this.' He came closer to Tsakalatos. "It's not your problem only, but the Sanctuary's one too. He goes too far." Without waiting for Tsakalatos' answer, the Tibetan boy took the West direction, where was the forbidden valley. 'Camus needs help and quickly.' He heard fast footsteps behind him and he understood that the Greek boy was following him.

"You're really nice."

Mu looked at him surprised. "Why do you say that?"

"I don't understand why you help me while Camus is nothing to you.."

"Means nothing to me? The bind that unites he and you is really strong, I admit it, but Camus is a person I appreciate a lot.."

"Why?"

"Why do you like him?"

Tsakalatos looked down. "I don't know. I like him very much, that's all."

"It's difficult to express our feelings, to understand them" said Mu. "Tsakalatos, I admire the way Camus and you support each other while everything there pushes everyone to the competition and forbids friendship so strong." Mu took a deep breath. 'You supported each other' Mu corrected in his mind. "You who want to become a Saint you are your usual self. You think about the others first. I'm sure that if Aiolia were in danger, you won't hesitate to help him, even if you spend your time squabbling. But the one you put before everyone is Camus, am I wrong?"

Tsakalatos only shrugged.

"It is why you haven't protected yourself, earlier."

"That's enough, Mu!" cut off the Greek child. "Camus needs help. Why do you try to read in me by asking me all those questions? Serge might read through me often!"

"Sorry. I did not mean to make you angry..."

Tsakalatos did not say anything and the both continued their way in silence. They walked a long time and finally they arrived near the forbidden frontier. No one knew why this place was forbidden, but each person who had tried to pass through it had disappeared and his corpse was found again somewhere in the Sanctuary few days after, and no one knew how he could have died. Tsakalatos and Mu stopped when they saw a rock which shape was a suffering human head. Crossing this rock meant death for sure for the people who had not been invited in.

This natural statue sculpted by the wind, rain guarded the steep-sided valley surrounding by high cliffs practically sheer. It was the only possible entrance if someone wanted to penetrate alive inside the forbidden valley.

"And now?" asked Mu.

"I don't know" replied Tsakalatos. He turned to the Tibetan. "I know. You, you stay there." Seeing the look of disbelief on Mu's face he continued. "Saga won't harm me."

"But if you are caught by someone else?"

"Precisely! I'm used to do this kind of things. It was by avoiding the guards that I came into the Sanctuary." Mu looked at him surprised and Tsakalatos turned his back to him. He walked toward the border.

"Where are you going?" shouted a strong voice that echoed into the narrow valley.

Tsakalatos stopped dead in his tracks and turned around him to look for the one who had just ordered him to stop. He saw Mu doing the same. It was not the Tibetan who had said him to stop.

"Where do you think to go like this, Tsakalatos? You know it's forbidden..."

The Greek boy turned to his right and saw a young long blue haired teenager, his hands on his hips watching him from a promontory. He was slightly frowning and he was certainly upset. "Saga!" shouted Tsakalatos relieved. He had a wide smile.

Saga frowned deeper and jumped down near the children. He leant near them and he stood up not tearing his eyes from the children. "You want to add another 'exploit' into your record of achievements, Tsakalatos?" asked Saga who was still wore a stern expression on his face to intimidate them.

Tsakalatos shook his head in denial and looked up at Saga imploring. "Saga... Help me. Please!"

Saga looked down the Greek boy and saw the swollen face of the tearaway of Rodario. "You have looked for troubles once more, haven't you?"

"For once he had not" interceded Mu wanting to support Tsakalatos.

Saga arched his eyebrows puzzled.

"Camus... You must help him! I can't control him anymore!" admitted Tsakalatos who bit his lips.

"Camus?" asked Camus surprised.

"Serge told us that you will keep an eye on us. I can't say anything to Ornytos..."

A worried light crossed Saga's blue eyes. He had heard a lot about Camus lately, and it was not in glowing terms. His training had prevented him to go and check this by himself and secretly he had hoped the French boy would have come and see him as he did before. Serge had asked him to take care about him and he had accepted without hesitation wondering why the Grus Saint had seemed to be so worried.

"Please! You're the only one Camus still respects..." said Tsakalatos interpreting Saga's silence in the wrong way.

Saga crouched in front the two boys and he put his hand on Tsakalatos' right cheek. The thin scab on one of the scratches on the boy's cheek was torn off inadvertently. Blood started to flow out and to roll on the cheek. "What's the matter with Camus? Why are you in this state?"

"I don't recognize Camus.... Since Serge has left, he is not himself!"

"I heard few things in the Sanctuary" said Saga. "You have done lot of stupid things with Camus' help, haven't you?"

"At the beginning I have! It was funny. We weren't doing anything wrong. But then Camus required more and more. It was as a demon had taken over him..."

"I thought hearing that he participates into lot of brawls..."

Tsakalatos only nodded. "He provokes everybody."

"Camus have not reacted like this last time" he said more for himself than for the two boys. "But I don't understand why you ask me to help him."

"You're the only one who can make him see reason. If he continues in this way..."

"Saga." The teenage turned his head to Mu who was staring at him. "Camus really needs help. I don't think that if he did not need some, he would not have beaten Tsakalatos as he has just done."

"Camus beating Tsakalatos? It's completely absurd!"

"It is what has happened, unfortunately" said thoughtfully Mu. "He is responsible of Tsakalatos, his best friend's wounds."

"And what do make you think I can make him see reason?"

"An intuition. Please Saga...." implored Tsakalatos. "Please.... Help him..."

Saga brought his face closer to Tsakalatos' one. He ran his fingers through the wavy blue hair. "All right. I will try" let out Saga. "But I can't guarantee you anything" he concluded quickly when he saw the relief shining into Tsakalatos turquoise eyes.

"At least you will have tried" said Tsakalatos relieved.

"You must go and get treatment."

Tsakalatos nodded after a long moment. "You will?" he asked unsure looking into Saga's blue-green eyes.

"I promise you. Go now. Never come here again, understand?"

Tsakalatos nodded and followed by Mu, he walked to the center of the Sanctuary. Mu looked back to Saga once and then ahead of him.

* * *

Saga watched them walk away. He could not believe his ears and his eyes. Camus had become the opposite of what he was. That the child was lost because of the Grus Saint's departure did not explain all. Moreover, he had not reacted this way the last time. From then on, he had friends with whom he could speak, share his thoughts, but the French boy was reacting in total contradiction of logic, if logic existed in feelings and emotions.

He sighed and he went to look for the new terror of the Sanctuary. The imploring tone and the palpable worry of Tsakalatos had convinced him of the urgency of the problem. He was already late for his training when he had felt Tsakalatos and his friend's light cosmo near the border of the forbidden Valley. He could not let them cross it. 'So more or less' he had thought at this moment.

Saga looked around him wondering if he would find Camus to their place. They saw each other time to time and Saga appreciated the child's presence. The first time, the little boy had waited at the border of the Forbidden Valley, patiently until Saga came. It had been few days after their trip to Rodario. Sometimes the French boy did not say any word. He stayed there near the teenager and then left. Other times, he was more communicative and they talked about things and others. But he was still the Camus he knew. Since few weeks, he had not seen the boy. It was right he was busy to win his cloth but he could not help noticing that he missed Camus. But now rumors had it that Camus was a little devil were too worrying so that he could stretch the discipline Youri, his master, demanded of him. Camus needed him. He had promised Serge to keep an eye on him. He would keep his promise. 'Even if it means losing my chances...'

Saga found Camus at the place where they had talked together the very first time. He stopped and watched the boy who was contemplating the landscape for few minutes. From where he was he saw the tracks of the blows he had received and that marked the pale skin of the boy. He also saw his furious eyes and his tousled hair. He had never seen Camus in this state. Camus who was responsible, mature, grown up had never been alike to this boy who was sitting few paces from him. He still could feel the innate nobility he always had, but in Camus' actual mood it was more intimidating and scaring than usually. He stopped watching the French boy and he frowned slightly. He came closer to the boy. Without looking down he put his hands on his hips. "I was certain to find you here" he simply said.

"What are you doing here," asked Camus aggressive and surprised to hear Saga.

Saga blinked surprised by Camus' tone but he pulled himself together quickly. He should not have been surprised. He had heard what was said about Camus in the Sanctuary. Tsakalatos had been enough worried and lost to ask for help. Mu had told him that Camus needed help. "I did not know that this place belonged to you" retorted Saga. Camus groaned but replied nothing. "Your friends are worried about you...."

"What friends? I don't want friends! I want to be alone!"

"Human being can't live alone." Saga sighed and listened to the breeze coming from the sea. His long blue hair streamed in the wind. He only knew Camus a bit. But he knew that he was stubborn. It was hard to make him see the others' point of view. He also knew that Camus hated to talk about his past, about him, and if someone tried to know what was his life or what was happening right now, the child withdrew. Saga knew this perfectly well and the long lectures would be useless. Camus acted as he wanted to. He was free, his own master, but it was so subtle that only very few people were aware that Camus was the Master. Camus was Camus. So it would be better to say him something which would make him think enough longer so that he stopped to act as he wished for a moment. To give him something to think about. To try to make him feel guilty and to be clever than he was. It was the relation he had with Camus. He liked acting like this with him, to try to be the Master, to defeat Camus on his own territory. The boy spurred him on and more because Camus was not aware of his strange skill

"Where is the Camus I admire?" murmured Saga. Camus looked up at Saga suddenly and saw the teenager's sad face. "The Camus I know is not here..." Saga looked down and he saw distress into the child's indigo eyes. Mu and Tsakalatos were right. He needed help. He was screaming for help, but he did not know how to do. The most important right now was that Camus took the bait. Making the most advantage of Camus' mood, he continued. "You're not the Camus I know, the Camus I like speaking with. You're not the one whom is preoccupied by the others. You're not the one I respect. The Camus I admire would not have beaten Tsakalatos as you've just done. He would not have done all the bad things you did around you. No he would have never done this, at least consciously."

"I am Camus! I don't need the others! I am me!! Which right do you have to mix up with my business!" exclaimed Camus.

"Must we always give an answer, tell a reason or explain what we're doing?" asked Saga sighing. "Did not I tell you to follow your hear?" Saga looked at Camus who looked away pursing his lips. "Are you sure you follow it? It is up to you to choose, Camus. But let me tell you something. If you continue on this course, no one could help you anymore and Death greets you with open arms..." Saying that Saga walked away without another look to Camus. He had done what he should do and now he had to wait for the boy's reaction.

Camus was taken aback by Saga's attitude. He had wished he went away, but a part of him was screaming for the teenager to stay with him. He needed someone near him. Someone responsible and in whom he trusted. The only one who had those two characteristics actually was Saga. But this latter had just left him alone. "W... Wait!" he shouted.

But the teenager was not here anymore and Camus looked at the empty place. He clenched his fists with rage. Everybody mixed up with his business and then left him. He had thought that Saga would be different, that he would be more understandable, or at least he would have tried to listen to him. But after preaching him he simply left.

'Human beings can't live alone....' Saga's words came to his mind. 'And yet I want to be alone so that I don't have to suffer anymore. How much suffering saved if Man kind could live on his own.' He had the feeling that every one was running away from him after they had bound with him. 'So I'm destined to live on my own. Solitude...' Camus bent his head trying to find the meaning of his life. 'Why am I so afraid now?' he thought bitterly.

* * *

A draped shape stopped at the exit of Rodario village and looked behind him. It was the last place in where normal humans lived, even if few Saints came there for business time to time. He was soon going to penetrate into the most Sacred place for all Saints. Another reality existed there. A reality in which devoutness was next to sufferings, the courage next the fear, in which competition , the determination and death were always present. But in this place were the ones he devoted himself, Athena, her representative on Earth. And since few times, a little blue-green haired boy monopolized all his attention and most of his love. He turned back to the village and climbed up quickly the path that lead to the Sanctuary. He quickened his steps. He already saw few ruins and few antic buildings perched on the upper part of the Sanctuary. His heart jumped in his chest. He was at home at least. There were the people he loved the most. The breeze of the beginning of July brought him the so familiar noises of this place.

He adopted a calmer and controlled pace before coming out from the last curve of the path. The fighting noises, the shouts invaded the air and attacked his ears. They were omnipresent and oppressive, but did not bother him. Two soldiers holding spears stopped him by crossing the weapons when they saw him coming. The man stopped and looked at them.

"Welcome back to the Sanctuary Grus Saint" said one of the soldiers who took put his spear at his side, allowing the Saint to come in. The other immediately imitated his companion and bent his head respectfully.

"Thank you. Nothing new?" he asked.

The soldier who had spoken hesitated few seconds before answering. "No, nothing new. Everything is all right." Serge only nodded but noticed the obvious embarrassment of the soldier. "The Pope is waiting for you. He made us known that you must go and see him as soon as you will come back."

"It was my intention." After a short nod he came inside the Sanctuary and walked toward the secret way that led directly to the Pope's palace. The light hesitation of the soldier bothered him. He was only a soldier and he was aware that a simple soldier could not know the intrigues and the problems there were in the Sanctuary. But he could not help thinking that it had happened something enough important so that his question had disconcerted the guard.

He passed few trainees whom moved away from his way and watched him pass in silence. The Saint thought that this silence was not natural. Nevertheless he continued his way. He heard faint whisperings. He clearly hears few comments.

"I hope that everything will be back to normal, now."

"Do you think?"

"In any case, he won't have free land anymore."

"Maybe, but he is so weak..."

Further, others comments accompanied him.

"What the Pope is waiting for?"

"Shut up! He can hear us!"

"He did nothing because..."

"Shut up! It's Grus Saint!"

Serge did not glance at them. All those comments confirmed him in his opinion. Something had happened in the Sanctuary. He lightly frowned. He did not know about what they were talking about, but he tried to keep a cold attitude. 'Something had really happened here... Something that bothers trainees' he thought while in started to climb the secret way. 'I wonder what have happened? Why the Pope did not seem to have settled it? Why do I have this strange feeling that I'm concerned?' Those questions kept his mind busy all way long. He did not understand the trainees' attitudes and he hated to not know what happening around him. It was his role and it frustrated him and he felt humiliated to don't have the slightest idea of what was happening there.

He came out of the secret passage and appeared in front of the Pope's palace. He did not stop and walked to it. He would certainly have an explanation from the representative of Athena. The huge door towered up in front of him and one of the guards recognizing him rushed inside the room to announce him to the Pope. He waited patiently.

A minute after, the soldier came back and nodded to the Saint. He could come in. He closed the heavy door behind Serge.

Serge walked to the middle of the huge room and knelt on one knee. He heard the Pope's footsteps coming close to him. He saw the representative of Athena's sandals stopped in front of him. He bent a bit more his head.

"Welcome, Serge" said the Pope. "I have already told you to not be so ceremonious when we are alone."

"I know this, your highness, but it's a way as another one to show my gratitude to you."

"If some could have it too" murmured the Pope who stared at the Grus Saint. Surprised, Serge looked up. He stood up. "You seem to be fine."

"I am, your Highness."

"So?" asked the Pope.

"It's over. I think you will soon receive a report from our right-hand man. From now on, this government will not do that again in a hurry. The person responsible of this trouble is no longer with us."

"I see. All right. Since now, you will have another mission."

Serge widened slightly his eyes then narrowed them. "Is this mission has something to do with the strange attitude of the Sanctuary's inhabitants I've passed by earlier?"

"Exactly. You're the only one who can settle it. It's a delicate and important problem."

Serge narrowed his eyes. "I don't understand. Who could create problems inside the Sanctuary?"

At this moment, the huge door was opened and Ornytos came into the room. He caught sight of Serge but he said nothing. He walked to the Pope and murmured something in his ear hidden by the helmet. The Pope tilted his head to his right, seemingly upset.

"All right. Make him come in" he said. He returned his attention to Serge. "We will talk about this later."

Serge nodded and bent slightly in front of the Pope. He walked toward the door. He passed by Youri, the Gemini Gold Saint. His black long hair were falling on his back while his ice blue eyes threw lights of anger when he saw Serge. The door closed and Serge slightly narrowed his eyes. He did not like the feeling he just had. He saw Ornytos who seemed to wait for him. The Grus Saint came to him and they went down the stairs in silence.

Ornytos went to the secret passage with Serge. He said nothing at first then he could not stay silent. "The Sanctuary will know a semblance of peace, now."

Serge stopped dead in his tracks and turned to Ornytos. The latter stopped too and looked at him. He did not explain further. "Listen, I don't understand any of yours neither Pope's allusions" he sprang on Ornytos.

"Ask you disciples" only replied Ornytos seriously.

"But what is happening here?"

Ornytos glanced behind him. "The Pope did not tell you anything about this?" Serge shook his head. "Perhaps he wanted you to discover this by yourself."

Serge frowned. "What did Tsakalatos make up again?"

"It is strange that you first think about him" said Ornytos with a smirk. "Oh, why should I be surprised, after all? Tsakalatos' reputation as Rodario's tearaway does not help, does it Serge?" The Grus Saint narrowed dangerously his eyes. "Oh if it was only him, we could have handle this problem alone."

Serge watched the chief of the soldiers a moment, trying to understand what was hidden behind those words. Only one conclusion was obvious, but he denied it with all his strength. A light of incredulity crossed his amber eyes.

"I notice that you start to understand" said Ornytos quietly. "Your 'petit protégé' is far from being the little angel you think he is or that you only want to see in him."

"Camus, Come on! Don't be stupid, Ornytos! Camus is too much grown up and mature to do reprehensible things. He knows the rules of the Sanctuary."

"Are you sure of this, Grus Saint? Are you sure to have taught him the rules?" Serge clenched his fists. "You refuse to see the reality. You run away from it. Tsakalatos did some silly things with Camus' help, but the brawls your 'protégé' caused and the insubordination he demonstrated force the Pope to take measures, and this that you are his actual master or not." He saw incredulity on Serge's face then fear. He was so vulnerable at this moment that he only inspired pity and disgust. "It's his last chance, Serge. If he fails or you fail, there will only one solution left for Camus, death."

This last word made open Serge's eyes wider as he came back to reality. "No. It's impossible. Why would he be more punished than Tsakalatos?"

"You will understand by yourself, Grus Saint." Ornytos walked away and left Serge totally stunned in the half-light of the secret passage.

The Grus Saint stayed a long moment, unable to accept what he had just heard. It was totally impossible to his own regard. Camus was unable to act this way. It should have an error. The vision of Camus and Tsakalatos sleeping in each other's arms before his departure came into his mind. He only saw this. Camus was protecting Tsakalatos with all his heart and soul, even if it meant to carry the can.

He pulled himself together and hurried down quickly the way, at the same time to be clear in his mind about this and to settle this problem the quickest. He treated few people's look he met with disdain and closed hi ears and mind to the rumors and thoughts, especially when someone knew who he was in reality. He came in view of his house, but he did not stop to contemplate it as he did usually. He hoped to find the children at home. It was their daily lessons time.

Serge opened the door and he looked around the room. He saw Saul who was helping Tsakalatos to do a writing exercise. Both raised their head and caught sight of Serge. The latter gave them a quick glance and his looked around the room once more. Someone was missing. The person concerned, Camus. "Where is Camus?" he demanded in a firm voice.

"Welcome, Serge" said Saul getting up again. "I don't know where is Camus..." revealed Saul bending his head, feeling guilty.

This gesture said a lot to Serge. His eyes narrowed and their color amber turned slightly red. "Find him!" he ordered. Saul simply nodded and he came out as quickly as his disability allowed him. Serge put down his bag and turned to Tsakalatos who had bent his head. "What is happening there?" he asked.

Tsakalatos raised slightly his head and then bent it quickly. He was relieved that Serge was finally back but the light he caught sight in the Saint's eyes there would have nothing good to expect. Serge knew something, that was sure. Camus had already enough trouble and he was responsible, sort of this situation. He tried to think about nothing, knowing the Saint's skill in reading the others' mind. The saint had told them that he seldom used his power, but he was certain that Serge would use it to know the truth. He had to protect his friend. He did not know what Serge could do to Camus.

"So?" asked Serge.

"I... I don't know..." whispered Tsakalatos.

"You certainly have an idea. You would not feel so guilty if you haven't one." Tsakalatos said nothing. "Look at me when I talk to you!" Tsakalatos swallowed with difficulty and raised slowly his head. This time, Serge saw how badly wounded the Greek child's face was. He saw the tracks of the recent blows, the scratches that just began to heal and his swollen right eye turning to a black one. "Athena" breathed Serge who bent and took the boy's chin between his thumb and index. He made it lift a bit more so that he had a better view. "You have once more made enemies, haven't you?" he said in a soft voice passing a finger on the wounds.

"No... I..." He bit his lips and closed his eyes when he felt his eyes were stinging and his tears near to roll down his cheeks.

"I would know what is happening there" He let Tsakalatos' chin and the boy bent his head. He did not reply and serge sighed. He tried slowly to read the child cosmo and thoughts but only sadness, guilty and fear could be read. As for his thought he could not. It was confusion. He gave up. The Saint took his bad and sat on a chair near the child. He would wait for Camus and then everything would be clear. He opened his bag and he got out a little packet wrapped around by blue silk. He unfolded the piece of fabric and the little statue of Athena that he always had with appeared. 'Please, Athena, help me...'

At this moment, the door was opened and Saul appeared and pushed Camus inside. The latter gave Saul a black look whom left him with Serge and Tsakalatos. The soldier did not need to be asked when he had to leave them alone. After having given a look to Serge, he closed the door and walked away.

Camus looked at Serge who was staring at him. He had some tracks of blows and disheveled hair. Serge barely recognized Camus. Then his eyes met the child's one. It was a shock for him. What he read in was pure rage. This amazed more because Camus did absolutely nothing to hide his emotions from him, as he did before. "Why are you not here to study?"

"I don't know why I would obey you!" said Camus defying the Saint.

"Because I'm your master" replied Serge seriously withstanding Camus' look.

Camus let out an evil chuckle. "Strange master who leaves the education and training to other people..."

Serge's eyes narrowed. He did not like Camus' tone neither the way he responded him. "I have asked you a question and I require an answer."

"I've already answered it." His look fell on Serge's hands and he saw Athena. He saw red and his rage became hate instantly. Without warning, he rushed to Serge and snatched the little statue out of the Saint's hands. A light of triumph appeared in his eyes and his lips wore a smirk. Then in a furious gesture, he threw with strength Athena's statuette onto the ground.

The stone statuette bounced once on the ground and then rolled a bit. It did not break. It only fissured. Serge and Tsakalatos opened wide alarmed eyes before this impious gesture and none of them were able to react or say something. A light of deception and hate flashed into Camus' eyes. His body built with anger when he saw that the statuette was not broken as he had expected. He rushed toward it and bent to take it.

"Stop that, Camus" shouted Tsakalatos scared.

"CAMUS!!!!" Serge's stentorian voice broke out as a clap of thunder and stopped Camus dead in his tracks. The boy stood up and turned to the Saint, his eyes burning with anger. Serge looked at him with an expression he had never seen before. A gnawing rage drove him and he tried to not explode. While he contained this feeling, he stood up and came to Camus. He bent and took the statuette with love. He watched it and sadness crossed his features. The head of the little statue was fissured from its forehead to its chin, and a little piece of its nose was missing. He fingered the statuette once and his fingers squeezed up around it with caution. He raised his head and a firm expression appeared on his face. He looked at the children but his amber eyes stayed on Camus. He tried to read the child's cosmo and thoughts. He knew he was vulnerable at moments like this one, as he always was when he felt a strong feeling. Nothing. He could read nothing. He could not succeed in reading the child. Camus was protecting himself, consciously. It was another shock for Serge. Camus was able to protect his thoughts even when he was in a highly emotional state.

Serge tore his eyes from Camus and looked down at Tsakalatos during few seconds. "Go and bring water" he said in a neutral voice, but the Greek child felt that the Saint tried to conceal his wrath.

Tsakalatos glanced at Camus who kept his eyes on the Saint obstinately. He could not catch the French boy's attention, so he took the empty pot and went to the well, not without dreading what would happen after. He knew what would happen. Camus had really gone too far this time, and he did not know why Camus was acting this way. He did not recognize him anymore. Words and acts were two things totally different and his friend had just taken the plunge. He closed the door and walked away. 'Saga had not succeeded in making Camus see reason, yesterday.'

Serge had not torn his eyes from Tsakalatos until he closed the door. He waited few seconds and he projected his cosmo toward to the Greek child to be sure the child was really away. It was useless to get Camus angry even more and to make him a real rebel. He felt the intent look of the child. When he was sure that Tsakalatos was not around, he turned his attention to the French boy and his amber eyes darkened until they became red.

Camus stood squarely and firmly in front of the Saint and pursed up his lips. He looked back at him. He did not feel guilty. Which right did the Saint have over him, he who had left him few weeks? No one.

Serge passed Camus and opened the door of his room before looking at Camus. He enjoined him to come in. Camus did not move. Serge frowned lightly and glared at the child. Finally the child went to the room. He came in and serge closed the door behind him.

The child looked around him. It was the first time he came in the Grus Saint's room. By mutual and tacit agreement, no one was allowed to come in, but Saul to do the cleaning. Camus and Tsakalatos respected this rule. The room was not like a bedroom if not the bed and the nightstand that said the function of it. The window which was at the East side was lighting the room in which a chair and a little table used as a desk completed the furniture. Against the West and South wall, there were lot of books. Camus looked at them few minutes, amazed by the quantity. He did not know that Serge had so much books.

A movement tore him from his inspection of the room and he saw Serge throwing informally his cape on the bed and walking to a little alcove in the wall near the nightstand. He put the little statue inside the hole after having fingered it. Camus felt his anger building once more and he clenched his fists.

Serge stayed a little moment looking at the statuette. "What's going on, Camus" he asked in French language without turning to the boy. Camus did not answer. "What's the matter with you?" The child still did not answer. "I did not hear good things about you in my absence. I don't recognize the Camus I met or the one I left few weeks ago."

"You think you know me?" hurled Camus in French language, his eyes burning with hate. "You think to know everything!?"

"Why?" asked Serge who spoke a bit loudly trying to control himself. "Why have you thrown Athena onto the ground? You must respect her..."

"I hate her!" shouted Camus without hesitation and without being aware of what those words would bring him. Serge spun around to the child. His eyes were now only two slits and a mad light was burning in. Despite him, Camus shuddered. Serge's features were hard. It was a different man that was in front of him. He seemed that the Saint looked taller.

"What have you just said?" articulated slowly Serge, not believing what he had heard.

"I hate her! I hate this goddess! She doesn't ha..." A slap on his right cheek made him feel onto the ground.

"How dare you?" Serge's body shook with anger. "How dare you to be disrespectful toward Athena?" He now understood the inhabitants' reaction of the Sanctuary. If Camus had claimed this in the Sanctuary, it was natural that Ornytos' threat would be implemented soon.

"She is cruel and heartless goddess" shouted Camus who tried to pick himself up, but another slap made him stay down. "You lied to me! She's cruel!"

"Athena is everything but a cruel goddess. Know that impious thoughts like yours are bad form here! They bring death to the ones who say them! Are you only aware of what you are saying?"

"The only thing I'm sure of is that I hate her!"

Two slaps rang and Camus' cheeks turned red. "Athena watches over you. You BELONG to her! Do you understand, Camus? It is the reason you are in the Sanctuary."

Another slap hit Camus' cheek, but Camus did not cry neither did he cry. "I hate you. I hate everybody here! You should have left me in this park in France! You should have let me die!!"

"That's enough Camus!!" shouted Serge indignant and hurt. A light of incomprehension crossed quickly his eyes. A blow hit Camus' right cheek again.

"She takes me everything! She does everything so that I suffer!!"

"To become a Saint we must suffer. You have the making of a Saint. At least you had it! You perfectly knew what would happen to you when you came here. I've never hidden the truth from you."

"She takes away from me everything and everyone! You hadn't the right! You hadn't the right to do that! I hate you!!" hurled Camus under his breath who was unable to gather his thoughts to explain his hatred toward Athena and the others.

Serge's felt a pang but he swallowed his pain and beat Camus. His heart was bleeding while he did so, but he had to give him a trashing for his impiousness, his insubordination and for his lack of respect for the others.

The door was opened violently and someone came between him and the boy. A slap aimed at Camus rang and all became silent.

Serge saw Tsakalatos and the swollen cheek he had just slapped turning red. He blinked and his features hardened. "What are you doing here? This doesn't concern you" he said in Greek language.

"Why do you beat Camus? It's not his fault. It's mine."

"Come on Tsakalatos! Don't be stupid! Even if you have encouraged Camus to do few silly things, you're not responsible of what he had just done. Moreover, Camus should know where is the Good and where is the Evil. He must be able to tell the difference." Serge's eyebrows arched slightly when he realized what he had just said. 'And if...'

"No, you're wrong..."

"It's useless to discuss, Tsakalatos. At the moment I'm your master and you have to obey me. Camus has been punished as he should be. His misdemeanor was to insult Athena. I doubt you've gone so far, Tsakalatos. Camus is punished and will go to bed without eating. As for you, don't go into his bed to consolize him . Have I been clear enough?"

"Why? Why do you do this?"

"I don't have to justify my points. From now then, your training will be harder." He came to the door and took the handle opening it wide. He turned to the children and waited. Tsakalatos looked at Camus who was obstinately keeping his eyes down. He held his hand to his friend.

"Tsakalatos" groaned Serge.

Tsakalatos looked at Serge then Camus who seemed to think that the ground was really interesting. He caught sight of his friend's furious face. It was pure rage, a fury in which humiliation and hatred were mixed up. He swallowed with difficulty, surprised to see Camus in this state. He stayed few seconds near him, then driven by his instinct he came out of the room in a heavy silence.

Serge stared at Camus whom avoided his look. Slowly, he picked himself up and passed close to Serge without looking at him. He clenched his fists and gritted his teeth. 'I hate you, Athena! I hate you with all my soul...' He bit his lower lip and a trickle of blood came out of the right corner of his mouth. He did not glance at Tsakalatos, although he felt the Greek child's worry. He wanted to run away. His heart hurt him. It hurt him more than when he had realized his mother had abandoned him and understood that she had never loved him. He came to his bed and curled up into a ball against the wall of the house.

He wanted to cry, but he held up his tears. He would not give Serge this pleasure. Camus did not understand. He had only told his opinions. He hated Athena. When Serge had told him about this goddess, he had admired her because even if she was the goddess of the war, she was protecting the humans and the Earth. But the reality was something else. Serge devoted his life to a religious entity which existence was only a wild dream. Athena stole Serge's affection from him. She stole the Saint's attention by making him suffer. She took Saga and Tsakalatos' affection. Athena was possessive and started to hate her.

The Sanctuary had become a real hell for him. Athena was everywhere. Everybody was speaking about her every time. He could not stand this anymore. He only desired to run away knowing perfectly that it was impossible.

His heart hurt him. It felt like it was bleeding and that his heart was crying, the salt tears increasing the gaping wound of his heart, as when his tears rolled on his cheeks bringing the pain back of his wounded cheeks. 'Why? Why does it hurt so much?' He raised his knees to his chest trying to isolate himself from the others. The silence of the house was palpable and Camus tried to escape from it.

A long moment slipped by then the door of Serge's room opened. Despite of him Camus tensed, but he did not move. "Tsakalatos" called Serge in a firm voice, "It's training evening time. I hope I won't have another surprise!" He turned to the laying boy whom heard his companion jumping down his bed. "Camus. You too."

The French boy did not move and he said nothing. Serge waited a moment. "Camus! We're waiting for you" ordered in a firm voice Serge.

"And then?" hurled Camus in a breath. "You're not my master..."

"At the moment I am. So you're going to do what I will tell you."

No!" shouted Camus without turning to the Saint. "I don't have to obey you!"

Serge was taken aback by Camus' attitude. He replied nothing. "All right then, as you want." He turned to Tsakalatos. "Come." He walked to the door. "I will ask the Pope to find you another master quickly..." He opened the door and walked out, leaving Camus hanging around alone in his bed. The door closed on Tsakalatos' protest.

"But I don't want to be separated from Camus!"

"Don't argue, Tsakalatos! Anyway, you will be separated one day! So better do this now!"

"But..."

"There are no buts about it! You've done enough troubles until now!"

Camus heard them walking away. He sat up suddenly on his bed and clenched his fists. "You too..." he murmured. "You too! All is only liar!" he turned to the window and saw through it Athena surveying her place. "Curse on you!" Tears of rage rolled on his cheeks. "No I won't cry. No I won't cry..." But it was more than he could stand. "Not this..." he murmured tortured.

* * *

Sat on a piece of a broken and fallen column, a little boy was looking at the night sky. The clouds had finished crying and here and there were few stars lightening through the holes of the dark clouds. He shivered. Although he had protected himself from the rain most part of the day, he was totally wet. His makeshift shelter had not totally protected him, and now he shivered because of his wet tunic and the cool breeze that drove away the clouds.

He ran his fingers in his wet hair and sighed. He took his knees up against his chest and clasped them in his arms. The night passed and he stayed there, waiting while he should have come back home. But he did not want to. He loosened his grip around his knees and he let his leg dangle. He would wait until down ad if what he was expecting did not happened so he knew what he had to do.

The last crescent moon appeared between two clouds and lit up briefly the landscape. The boy looked up toward the moon which hid again quickly, darkened the landscape and his indigo eyes. He felt a pang as the night went along. He had given himself time to think, and even if he had decided to follow through, he couldn't help having this twinge of sadness.

He wondered why his heart hurt him while he had made the decision which was obvious. 'The fact to not see Tsakalatos anymore? The fact to not have been able to explain my attitude to Serge? Maybe I'm not ready.' He let out another sigh. No it was not this. He knew what bothered him but he could not accept it. he hurt because he was now aware that all he had thought and believed in until now was only liars. He had believed in wild dreams, as the others believed in Athena, and discovering the truth hurt him.

Serge did not care about him anymore. He was going to expel him and he was certainly waiting with impatience that the Pope gave him a new master. He avoided Tsakalatos. Since this day, the Greek boy was looking at him not at ease and sadly even if he tried at few moments to go to the French boy. But the latter did not want to. If they had to be separated so they should getting use to not be together. It hurt him much more than when he had understood that his mother had never loved him. 'But she was frank' he thought bitterly.

What could he expect? Why did he still wait? "Until dawn" he murmured, "until dawn and then..." He contemplated the landscape lit by the ghostly lights which was more unreal by the hide and seek game of the moon behind the clouds and the wind.

A long moment slipped by and he heard a noise behind him. His heart started to pound fast in his chest. He forced himself to stay sill and to calm down. Maybe he had imagined this sound. He heard footsteps then he felt a presence close to him. He did not turn. He concentrated on all his senses to recognize the people near him. His heart jumped in his chest. It pounded relieved. He gave himself a little moment to regain his composure. "I was waiting for you" he simply said hoping he had said this in a neutral voice lacking in emotions.

* * *

Sat at the table in his room, a book opened on, Serge looked through the opened window and shivered. Although it was warm, the rain that had fallen on the Sanctuary the most part of the day and the wind that was blowing and driving away the clouds to the North East had cooled it. The wind flickered the flame of the paraffin lamp and his bangs were lifted. He had a wrinkle of anxiety across his forehead.

'Why do you say nothing? Why do not you help him?' The words that Tsakalatos had hurled him this morning rang in his mind once more and this for the umpteenth time this day.

He bent his head. He had to react. This situation had lasted too long. It was now more than one week that he had come back, more than one week that he had beaten Camus, one week that he had not seen or heard him. It was now more than one week that his heart hurt and bled. His eyes were stinging. It was no good his trying to convince himself he had to stop this, he could not. He was lacking in courage. He had tried that leaving Camus alone so that he could thought and regain his wits was the best solution, but he was wrong. But he still could not go and see the child. He was afraid to appear weak before the child. He was scared to lose Camus definitively. And yet this situation was unbearable and had lasted too long. Camus came back home late in the night, very late. He always stayed awake until he heard the child coming, but never he had gone to him. Then the child disappeared before the dawn. He did not come to the training anymore and he knew that he had refused to talk to Tsakalatos again. He did not want to be disturbed.

He should go and see Camus. He had to. He had no choice. It would be now or he would have abandoned Camus as his mother did. He had to know. He had to stop running away, as the Pope had told him this afternoon.

* * *

Serge was standing on one of the tops of the Sanctuary but he was looking into space and he did not mind about what could happen around him and less about the rain. Half-closed eyes, he seemed to concentrate on something. He was looking to a certain direction and his cosmo seemed to go toward this precise place. He sighed but he did not know if it was of relief or resignation. He was there, in his favorite place and he did not move. Since more than one week, everyday, he checked in this way if the boy was fine and if he was still here, trying to read his cosmo. But even his cosmo was protected by a mental shield that the child had erected to protect himself.

He shook his head and a sad expression appeared on his features. He had hoped and he had been thwarted once more as he was since more than one week. He turned to his right and he walked away with heavy steps to the place where his other pupil was certainly waiting for him. He stopped dead in his tracks when he felt a powerful cosmo he knew very well. He raised his head and he saw the Pope going with Ornytos and a servant about ten meters ahead of him. They were coming to his direction. His expression changed and his face became unreadable. The distance between the representative of Athena and him shortened. The Silver Saint stopped and waited. He bent his head.

"Good afternoon, Serge" said the Pope stopping in front of him.

"To see you fill me with joy, your highness, especially in a so rainy day" said respectfully Serge. He looked up to the Pope. The latter slightly raised his hand and dismissed the chief of the soldiers and the servant. The two men walked away without saying a word, but Ornytos stayed within earshot. "Something is wrong?"

"I was sure to see you there" said the Pope evading Serge's question. The Saint arched his eyebrows puzzled. "You spend too much time there. You run away more and more. It's not alike you."

"What do you mean?"

"I know who is Camus for you, but you must do what you have to do." The Pope stopped speaking and came closer to Serge. "You haven't settle the problem."

"But..."

"I know that Camus did not blaspheme openly anymore, nevertheless, he still did not believe in Athena, neither in her values. I've been too indulgent with him. I've waited for you to come back because I felt that it was your duty to settle this problem as being his master. But I was wrong and I did a mistake. I should have never left Camus in your care."

"I will settle this problem..."

"When? When will you do it? You keep on putting this task off until later. You run away. I know it's hard, but you must do it. Sorry, Serge, but I can let you continue this way. I can't give you a choice, now. I have to preserve the stability and the peace in the Sanctuary. Lot died while they did less than Camus. And don't betray me, Serge."

Serge bent his head. The Pope did not need to read through him to know what he was thinking about. To make Camus escape from the Sanctuary. But it was impossible, and he knew it. He could only heard the rain falling and he had the feeling that this rain was his heart crying.

The Pope turned and walked toward Ornytos. 'Even if the price is your suffering and pain, Serge, you must do it. You are a Saint and you must.' The Pope raised his head and looked up at the sky without caring about the drops while he walked. "I give you until tomorrow night Serge. Not a moment longer. Either Camus changes his attitude or you know what will happen."

"Very well, your highness."

"I regret that I have to take such measures, but we can't afford to be weak, especially now. I count on you." The Pope walked away and Serge clenched his fists. 'Athena, please, help me! Not him, please, not my Camus!' He looked into the direction where the child was and he sighed resigned. 'I'm so sorry Camus, so sorry.' Drops ran on his face and he did nothing for them to weep away.

* * *

The blow of the wind brought back Serge to reality. He raised his head and closed his book suddenly. No this could not go on. He had to react. It was Camus' last chance. He could not abandon him, now. Everybody seemed to expect something from him, everybody. It was right that Camus had not provoked or been into any brawl, any complaint against the child had been heard, but he had to know. He had to know if he should ask the Pope another master for Camus or if he had to kill him.

He felt a pang when he thought about this. They were the only choices possible for Camus. The child was in the Sanctuary and he could go out of it only when he would become a Saint or when he would die. Camus could not become a soldier too. He did not believe in Athena, and even if he succeeded in developing his cosmo, he would never be a Saint. This atheism Camus seemed to have made him suffer and suffer the boy.

He got up again and walked to the bed. He had to be clear in his mind about it and to let Camus choose. But he was practically sure of the answer, it was why he had put off this meeting with the one he considered as his son. Since his argue with the child, he had been really aware that he behaved as a father toward the child and not as a master. A big mistake for him. He wanted to teach everything to Camus, to give him everything so that he became the best. Indeed Camus had more and less fulfilled his hopes, but he was now aware that he had acted as a selfish father and that he had never taken Camus' feelings in consideration.

He put his cape on his shoulders and looked through the window again. The clouds were less numerous and some stars were shining through the holes of the clouds which went away. He turned his head to the fissured little statue in the alcove. 'Please, Athena, help me..' He did not felt any comfort, as it was usually the case. 'You've already judged him, haven't you?' Furious, he opened the door and walked out of the room.

He met Tsakalatos' look whom was sitting on his bed. He said nothing. He noted the child had rings under his eyes and that his skin was paler than usually. He knew that the Greek boy did not eat much because of Camus and even his warning could not go through the boy's stubbornness. His eyes hardened and he walked to the door.

"You're going to see him, aren't you?" The hope could be heard in the boy's voice.

"Yes. I must end this" said Serge in a cold voice. He turned the handle, opened the door and came out quickly. His rapidity did not prevent him to hear Tsakalatos begging him to not hurt Camus. He walked away quickly, his heart aching more than before. His senses were in state of alert, trying to detect the boy's light cosmo. He went to it without hesitation.

"Yes, I must end this."

The Saint's curt, dark and cold voice made Tsakalatos' heart pounded faster. He shuddered. The tone Serge had said this did not bode well.. "No!! Please! Don't harm Camus! Don't hurt him!" he shouted jumping down his bed and rushing behind the Saint. But a firm hand gripped his shoulder and stopped him, preventing him to follow the man. He turned and he saw Saul.

The soldier who was at the opposite of the room when Tsakalatos had shouted had rushed toward the child to stop him. Tsakalatos looked surprise by his intervention. Everybody thought that because of his disability he was slow and underestimated him. "Don't go" ordered the Greek tightening his grip around Tsakalatos' shoulder.

Tsakalatos grimaced in pain. "But he's going to hurt Camus! I must stop him!"

"Don't be ridiculous! Serge will never harm Camus, unless this latter drives him to do so."

"But.." stammered the child.

"They must be alone. They must settle this problem by their own." He saw the worried light in Tsakalatos' eyes. "Don't worry about them. Everything will be all right. Serge loves Camus too much to harm him. Serge has only eyes for Camus, even if he isn't aware of this fact. He is his reason of life and he is certainly the one who suffers the most right now."

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing. Go to bed, now."

"I want to know what is happening...."

"Go to bed now. Tomorrow you ought to wake up early."

Tsakalatos understood that it was impossible to discuss with Saul tonight. He would not succeed in making weaken him because Serge was concerned. The soldier was ready to die for the Saint, if this latter asked him. He felt the grip loosening a bit then Saul took away his hand. The child went to bed and laid down. But he did not want to sleep. He kept his eyes open. He stared at the door. His bed was facing the entrance of the house, and he did not have any difficulty in surveying the entrances and the exits of the inhabitants of the house. And lately he watched Camus' comings and goings. The table bothered his sight, but he did not care. The room was plunged into half-light and only a candle was lightening it.

Serge had the surprise to find the boy at his favorite place, as he had not moved all day long. He thought that he would gone somewhere in the Sanctuary. But he did not, he was there, sat on a piece of a column, turning his back to him and watching something in the darkness. The wind that blew was cool and humid, and Serge heard the faint but real flapping of the boy's wet clothes in the breeze.

The Grus Saint looked up to the sky and looked at the last crescent moon that had just come out of some clouds. It flooded the landscape with its faint light. He came closer to the child who had not moved once, and who did not react when the wind blew stronger. He seemed to be impervious to what could happen around him and to the cold. He stopped near him but he said nothing. He watched the ruins that were far ahead of him, expecting to see what the child was seeing.

"I was waiting for you" said suddenly Camus calmly.

Serge was caught off-guard. So the child was waiting for him. Maybe he was waiting for him each night. Who knew? "Tsakalatos? You asked Tsakalatos so that I come to see you. It is why you were waiting for me."

"Tsakalatos has nothing to do with this" he said. "No I know that you will come..."

"How could you be so sure?"

"An intuition" replied Camus who still had not turned to the Grus Saint. He continued to look at the landscape of the night lighting time to time by the moon that took malicious pleasure in hiding behind the clouds and in doing undulating fascinating and worrying shadow game.

Serge looked at the child. Camus was ready to talk with him. He had made the first step by speaking to him but he still did no know what the child was expecting from him. He turned his head and he saw Athena's statue at his right. "I see you have stopped being a capricious child" said Serge.

"I'm not capricious. I've just said my opinions, they are not appreciated."

"We'd better say that the place you have said them was not really appropriate, don't you think so?"

"Maybe, but I still continue having this feeling toward 'her', all the same."

Serge felt a pang. Camus did not change. Even if he was more sensible at first sight, his impiousness still existed. He could not do anything for the child and now he could have a glimpse of Camus' destiny. But he had to try until the end.

"I don't understand your resentment toward the goddess that have protected you." Camus said nothing. "I know that you're able to explain me it, so tell me why this sudden hatred of Athena."

"What is the point of doing this?" murmured Camus.

"I'd like to understand." Camus still remained silent. "I see, You don't trust me anymore, do you?"

"No. 'She' is responsible of what happens!" exclaimed Camus pointing the statue out and turning to the Saint.

The moon came out of clouds and Serge saw Camus' furious eyes shining. Those eyes. He had already seen them somewhere, and not so long time ago. Those woman's eyes.

* * *

Serge walked out of the park where he had met Camus more than one year ago. He had always liked to come in this park when each his mission ended. It had become a place of pilgrimage he liked to come to. Moreover, this place reminded him the last days of February when he had met Camus for the first time. He stopped and looked above his shoulders the foliage of the trees. He sighed deeply. It was time to leave. He would have liked to bring with him the little thief of heart, here. But it was impossible. 'Maybe one day...'

He roused himself from his thoughts and from his contemplation. He started walking through the streets, trying to get out of the urban jungle. He wanted to return to Greece as quickly as possible. He could be faster, it was not a problem for a Saint, but he was among normal people, so he should go unnoticed. So he acted as them and he obeyed the behavior.

Looking around him, Serge saw a silhouette he knew. He stopped and concentrated his senses on it. It was a woman and she had her back turned to the Saint. She had very light brown hair that fell beyond her shoulder blades. She seemed to carry something in her arms. He was certain to know her or to have seen her once by feeling an intense emotion with her around.

Determined to know who was this woman, he came closer. She turned around a corner of the street and in a split of second, Serge caught a glimpse of the woman's face. It gave him a shock. He knew why this woman was familiar in a way, now. She was Camus' mother. He only felt disgust for this woman who did not hesitate to abandon her own child. He narrowed his eyes. She looked as she was better dressed than the last time he saw her and she seemed to be self-important.

Serge had only read selfishness the last time. A feeling that was correct by what he saw right now. Her son, Camus, was only an obstacle for her social success. He came closer the woman who was at a traffic light, waiting. He noticed she was carrying a child in her arms. It looked like it had about six months old, and if the color of the clothes were still a distinguishing sign of children gender, it was a girl. Camus had a half-sister. Serge felt a pang.

"When will your new child suffer the same fate than your son had?" he asked in a loud and deep voice.

La femme started and turned her head in all direction to see who had talked to her, who had the courage to evoke the memory of her first child. In her indigo eyes a no suppressed furious light shone. Elle did not seem to see the person whom had talked to her and Serge gave a smile of satisfaction. She shook with rage.

The traffic light allowed the pedestrians to cross the street. " Can you remember the 'petit monstre' sometimes?" Serge passed her. "What does it matter? Now he is destined to the noblest destiny that could exist, and that you don't have any clue of. The one you called 'petit monstre' is in reality a real 'petit ange'. I doubt you will be forgiven this abandonment one day." Serge walked away quickly and disappeared in the crowd before the woman had the chance to react or to say something. He had never thought he would meet this woman some day. But at last he felt relieved. He did not feel any remorse to have brought Camus to the Sanctuary.

* * *

A sound made him come back to reality. He saw that the boy had jumped down the column and was face to him, watching him. His features were hard, something Serge did not like.

"All it's her fault!!" shouted Camus "And you still love her!"

"Athena saved my life. My life belongs to her."

Camus was unsettled for few seconds. "You... You have seen her?" he asked in a voice with a catch in it.

"I don't need to see her to love her" said Serge looking into distance. "I've never seen her but she's always near me and she helps me. It's faith, to believe in a divine entity, to trust in her. If she hasn't helped me, what would happen to me? What would happen to you?"

Camus' eyes hardened. "You never see her! How can you be sure he has saved you? Mankind is able to do things by himself and doesn't need the intervention of gods! How could there have been divine intervention since gods don't exist. She's a cruel goddess, she only a cruel entity!"

Serge stopped himself from slapping Camus. He folded his arms across his chest to prevent his hands from going beyond the point of no return at this moment. He had to let a chance to Camus. It was his last chance, and he could not go by this one. For Camus, for him, he had to know. He had to help him. He only frowned and turned his eyes to Athena's huge statue. "Why, Camus? Why do you hate her?"

"She takes everything from me! You love her. Tsakalatos loves her, Saga loves her, everybody loves her, there..."

Serge lowered his guard and looked down. His look fell on the boy. Camus' look hardened and his shoulders shook with rage. The Saint knocked his head mentally. He smiled at the same time because of his lack of perceptiveness and because of the simplicity of the reasons. Camus was jealous. Camus had just admitted indirectly that he liked people and he was expecting their love, an intractable love. He seemed to fear solitude now that he had sampled the friendship and shared his life with someone else.

Camus looked up to the Saint and saw the smile. He frowned. He had the feeling that Serge was making fun of him. He was about to say something when the Saint made a little gesture of his hand, enjoining him to be silent. Camus obeyed, looked down and watched the ghostly shadows the moon cast before him.

"I rebel therefore I am..." said finally Serge slowly and lost in his thought, as he was remembering something.

Camus looked up to the Grus Saint again. But the French man did not explain this sentence. He was still deep in his thoughts. "What do you mean?" asked Camus after a long moment of silence.

"Your namesake, the great writer wrote this sentence one day. You are its living example. To show your existence, you rebel to attract the Other's attention. Descartes, another French philosopher had said: 'I think therefore I am'. If we are able to think so we exist. Camus had developed this thought by saying that to be recognized more or less by the Other, to attract his attention, his feelings, the rebellion was the best way to succeed in."

"Why do you say me this?"

"Haven't you tried to attract my attention so that I look at you? Haven't you changed in this purpose? Even if you're not conscious of this, you have behaved with this aim in view. It was a call for help, for love, and unfortunately I did not understand it." Serge looked down at Camus. "You're jealous. You're jealous of Athena. You suffer. Your heart is hurt, bleeds and you feel as someone is pulling it out. Jealousy, this feeling so pernicious wounds you, burns you, and destroys you from inside. Jealousy is not a worthy feeling for you. It exists and going too far it can engender hatred, war, Death."

"I'm not jealous..." protested Camus disturbed.

"Unfortunately you are. I understand very well what you are feeling right now because I felt the same long time ago. In fact, jealousy is the inevitable companion of love. When you show jealousy, you express your feelings toward the person you love and the one you don't like, the one who takes everything from you. By showing this feeling the person you hate had the upper hand on you and not you on it as you think you have. The weapon is indifference, but it is difficult to have it. It's a formidable weapon. It's an absence of feeling, of emotion. It's hard to be indifferent, but indifference is a shield and a formidable weapon before your enemies at the same time for the one who masters it."

"You told us that we have to hide or get ride of our feeling in a fight..."

"To be indifferent to have everything by your side just for the time of the fight. To be indifferent, but still to have faith in your cause and in Athena. It's no good your saying you hate Athena, Camus, you have feelings to her even if they are negative."

"No..."

"You do. The jealousy and the hatred you seem to have for her are only feelings you want to show and people think they are. But what do you hide in your heart in reality? Are you afraid to go deep in your soul to discover the truth? The boundaries between love and hatred are tenuous. You can easily go from love to hatred without noticing this. Hatred is another kind of love and recognition of the Other."

Camus said nothing and tried to think about what he was just told by the Saint. He understood nothing. As soon as Athena was concerned, his mind refused to work and the words had difficulty to reach it. But a little voice inside him told him that Serge was right. Knowing the Saint did not know everything, he was the person he knew the most and whom had lot of knowledge.

Serge said nothing else. He knew the child needed time to think, unfortunately, he would not have enough to do so. Nevertheless, he remained silence and kept still as a statue was, waiting. A very long moment passed. "Camus, when you came here, you knew what would happen to you, I've never lied to you, I've never hidden it from you."

"I know" breathed Camus. The breeze blew stronger and Camus shivered in spite of him.

Serge saw the boy's gesture and took off his cape. He put it on Camus' shoulders without saying a word and paced once at his right. Camus had not reacted. He seemed to be lost in his thoughts or in his memories, at a moment where everything was simple for him.

* * *

Camus was looking around him amazed by everything he could see. It was now one month that he was with Serge and he felt as he had only known him since he was alive. The first nights it was difficult to the young boy to forget the woman he called 'maman' but the silver Saint had always been near him trying to comfort him. Now, Camus was looking at the big city he was walking through with Serge. The saint was more serious and he had hardly said a word this day, only to tell him that this town was Athens.

Bothered by the unusual silence and tension, the child's eyes raised often to the steel-gray haired man. He noticed that the saint was glancing down at him very often. Camus could not stand this tension anymore and he stopped dead in his tracks, making the man stop too.

Serge turned to the boy a light of surprise in his amber eyes. He studied the child whom was stubbornly trying to catch the other's look. The man sighed and without paying attention to the passer-by, he knelt on one knee in front of the boy. "What is the matter Camus?"

"Why are you distant?" he asked blushing and lowering his head.

"Why do you think I am distant?"

"I don't know. Just a feeling..."

"Camus I am not distant. I was just preoccupied by you?" The child arched his eyebrows in wonder. "Camus, do you really want to come with me in the Sanctuary?"

"I have made my decision" the child replied without hesitation.

"Camus, think about this once more. Once you will come into the Sanctuary you could not go out unless you succeed in becoming a saint or if you die. Sanctuary could be a prison..."

"Here or there..." the deep blue haired child said a moment after.

"You are pessimist..." The child did not reply. "Camus. Do you understand what I am telling you?"

"Why do you hesitate? You say I have this power in my body. It is my destiny. Why must I think about this again?"

Serge closed his eyes and he let out a breath of resignation. One month ago he was glad to take the child to the sanctuary, thinking that it was the best solution, but now, he was not so sure. More he was approaching the sanctuary more he was thinking he was doing a mistake. He appreciated the child more than he had first thought and he did not want to condemned him to a life of fights. He had tried to make Camus change his mind, but the child was stubborn. He stood up and he took the child's hand. "As you want Camus."

* * *

Camus sighed in his mind. Serge tried to dissuade him from coming in the Sanctuary several times, but each time he refused because he did not want to be separated from Serge, he did not want to be alone once more. Serge was very important for him and it was a way to express his gratitude and his love for the Saint. 'Jealousy... He is right again. I can't stand he devotes his life to Athena.' Camus closed his eyes. "How can you love her?" he murmured. "You say she is kind and she protects humanity, but she sends lot of people to death for sure..."

"Indeed each life is precious, Camus, but sacrifices are needed sometimes. I'm sure that she suffers. It must upset her to see that so much people die for her, in her name."

"How can you be so sure?"

"I've faith in her, and I want to believe in her values."

"Even if they are wrong?"

"And your ideas and values are the Truth?" Camus did not reply. Serge waited few minutes. "Camus, you can never be sure of anything in this world, nothing."

"You haven't answered my question. How can you love her?"

"I love her, that's all. It's difficult to explain why we love this person and not this one. And there are so much different loves. We love in a different way people for whom we have such feelings." Camus arched his eyebrows, puzzled. "You like Tsakalatos, don't you?" Camus nodded. "You like Saga, too..." Camus nodded again. "Do you like them in the same way?"

Camus frowned and thought about this few seconds. "No. What I feel is different for each of them" he admitted.

"And yet you like them very much, don't you? Now, let's add another person. You appreciate Mu, don't you?"

"Yes, but it's different from Tsakalatos. It's different from Saga, too. It's another feeling."

"Each love, each friendship is unique because the person you love or like is unique over all points of view. I don't feel the same love for Athena, the Pope or Saul... I love each of them in a different way which makes them feel unique. Man's heart is big and huge, and the strength he has in is much more over what you can even imagined."

"But if we must keep our feelings for ourselves..."

"Learn to control them, try to be indifferent face your enemy, be the strongest, Camus." Serge sighed and Camus looked up at the Saint. "But I must admit I've made a big mistake as far as you are concerned."

"A mistake?"

"You were so adult and mature that I forgot you were only a four years old child. You are a boy different from the others and who knows nothing about life, feelings, behavior, moral. I let myself be taken in and I forgot to teach you the notions of the Good and the Evil, the Right and the Wrong. Oh of course you know few principles, but you know them because we teach you them, but what do you know of Good and Evil, Right and Wrong? The boundaries between them are as tenuous as the boundaries between love and hatred. What you did was wrong."

"Why?"

"If people act as they want and live the way they want, world would only be chaos and anarchy. The Other would not have the right to exist and only the stronger would have the right to live. What would happen to the weak, Camus? World can't be like this and Gods and Humans create and institute the codes of moral for the well-being of everyone, so that each human has the right to live. They are restrictive sometimes, but it's better like this."

Camus answered noting. He bent his head. What does the Saint want from him? He did not succeed in understanding why the Saint told him this, and many things were confused from then on. He was ready to do something at the dawn, but now? Serge had come and seen him, but it was different from what he had thought.

"Camus" called Serge, staring at Vega intensively. "I will ask you to be straight with me." The boy raised his heard toward the Saint and waited. "Do you really hate Athena, Camus?"

"I don't like her" replied without hesitation Camus.

Serge sighed. His soul screamed and he felt a pang in his heart. He slowly closed his eyes. "Really?" he whispered.

"I still don't believe in her, Serge."

'Camus, please, stop being so stubborn! Do you even suspect what would happen to you if you continue to be so stubborn? My Camus...' Serge took a deep breath. "Camus. I ask you to reconsider your attitude to Athena. Camus, I will ask you this question once more tomorrow evening. I let you time to think until tomorrow evening."

"Why?" asked Camus. "Why tomorrow evening?"

"You will know in time. Until tomorrow evening." Serge looked down at the child. "Let's come home, now, it's late."

"No, I want to be alone..."

The Saint said nothing and watched the boy. "All right then, do as you wish." With that the Saint walked away.

"Serge" called Camus. The Saint stopped. He took of Serge's cape from his shoulders and held it to him. "Take it back."

Serge turned toward the child wondering about what he was talking about. "It's cool..."

"I don't need it."

Serge hesitated a long moment and then took the piece of clothes which trailed on the ground. He met Camus' look but the moon that just hid at this exact time prevented him from seeing what they held deep in them. He stood up and walked away, leaving the child alone.

Camus looked at the Grus Saint's leaving. He really did not understand this strange conversation. He climbed the piece of marble and sat on. He did not understand. Serge behaved strangely tonight and the last sentence of the Saint was not reassuring. 'Until tomorrow night. Why did he mean by this sentence?' He glanced at the statue and he frowned. 'You again!! Always you!!'

'Showing this feeling the person you hate had the upper hand on you and not you on it as you think you have.' Serge's sentence rang in his mind. He clenched his fists understanding now the meaning of this sentence. Athena was the strongest; he was the weakest. "I must learn to be indifferent..." he said loudly. He bent his head, "But..." Slowly the time passed and the night ended. Camus did not move and stayed at the same place looking at the sunrise. 'I must make a decision..'

* * *

Camus sighed and looked at the blue sky. The sun was high and its rays burned his skin. He looked down and he only saw darkness before him for few seconds. The intense light blinded him a moment then he could see again. He had put his plan off till later, but he regretted this. He should have done it. Serge had come, but he did not help. On the contrary he confused him. He was totally lost. The ultimatum the Saint presented him with would end without him being able to find a solution. So why did he continue to think about this? He still did not trust Athena, and he did not want to. Athena represented everything but kindness and love. All his hopes were foiled. Athena was like his mother. She was a female who only liked making suffer the others. He had suffered once. He suffered, and Serge was not able to help him and protect him. Tsakalatos too. No one. He was alone. He had thought he was existing, but he did not. He never existed and would never, as he had thought deep inside him. Who did need him? How could he have been so stupid?

He jumped down from the column he was sat on, and he turned his head to Athena. 'All right then. You think you win, but you won't have my heart.' He turned to the North and walked toward it. 'Sorry, but I think you will understand this Serge. I would like to be the one you wanted me to be, but it is impossible. I only have one solution left.' He turned to his right and then he walked ahead of him. 'I'm sorry Tsakalatos to not have been able to save you. I hope you will succeed in becoming a Saint. You too Saga.' His eyes hardened and he walked determined toward the Forbidden Valley.

He walked up the path. He did not remember that the way was so long. He stopped and he looked around him, trying to avoid Athena's statues' view. 'Well better end this quickly.' He resumed his way. He stopped again when he saw the rock which shape was a suffering human head. 'Well, I will know if the legend is true.' He narrowed his eyes when he felt a presence he did not know at the entrance of the Valley. But it was familiar at the same time. He saw shadow and he screwed up his eyes to identify the unknown. But a voice behind him made him turn.

"Where are you going?"

Camus saw a soldier holding his spear. The man was looking at him and then at the rock. Camus said nothing and waited. He did not remember that there were soldiers here. He came several times here, and he never saw one around. The legend of the place was dark enough to keep the inhabitants of the Sanctuary away, except the stupid and curious ones.

"You are expected" said the soldier coming by Camus' side.

"Expected?" asked Camus more puzzled than surprised. "Who is expecting me?"

"I only obey orders and I know nothing about this subject. You are expected, that is all what I know, and you must come with me."

"And if I refuse?" replied Camus narrowing his eyes and defying the soldier.

"I'll use force" said the soldier without hesitation.

Camus turned slightly his head to his left but he did not see the silhouette anymore. His attention was on the soldier again. "All right, then" he said. The soldier turned and walked away from the Forbidden Valley. Camus followed him, not without glancing over his shoulder, puzzled. 'This strange cosmo...' He stopped again. At his right Saga was staring at him. He could read worry in the teenager's blue-green eyes. Their look met. But the soldier urged the child to follow him. Camus frowned, not understanding the worry he had just seen in Saga's eyes. He looked over his shoulder and he saw him rushing to the Forbidden Valley. He saw the previous shadow and he narrowed his eyes. But Saga's silhouette hid his view and he did not know who was this person he took the glimpse of for the first time. He followed the soldier keeping this strange happening in a corner of his mind.

* * *

The Pope slowly walked up and down the huge room and looked through the huge window that led to the balcony. The sun was shining brightly and it was hot. He let out a sigh and he turned his head to the door. He was worried. Even in the distance he could feel Serge's distressed cosmo. He was not sure that Serge had talked to Camus but his actual mood could be about what was planed for Camus this evening. He was worried that the Grus Saint would do something wrong. 'How past events can repeat themselves sometimes...'

But what worried him more was that he had this strange feeling that grew more and more since time passed, since he had been forced to take this decision. He had this feeling to do something wrong, that he would regret one day. A soft and unintelligible voice urged him to reconsider his decision. But how could he? How could he change his mind? If he did this, the peace in the Sanctuary would be broken and it would clear the way to anarchy inside the Sanctuary. He had waited too much, and it was time to end it. Some trainees were agitated, feeling his indecision. 'And yet he has capacity...'

He walked to the throne and he sighed. 'I should see by myself. Sorry Serge, but I must.' The Pope extended his cosmo around the palace looking for Ornytos. He knew he was around, he was always around waiting for his orders. He sensed him and he extended more cosmo toward the chief of the soldiers. ~ Ornytos. Come here ~ he ordered while he sat on his throne. He put his arms on the arm-rests of the throne and waited.

Less than two minutes after, Ornytos opened the huge door and came inside while a guard closed the door behind him. He saw the Pope sitting on the throne that was not a good sign. He lowered his head. "You asked for me, your Highness?"

"I did." The Pope looked at Ornytos few seconds. "Go and set Camus for me."

"Camus?" voiced Ornytos opening slightly wider his eyes.

"Yes, Serge's current pupil" replied the Pope knowing perfectly well that Ornytos knew who Camus was.

"As you wish, your Highness" he said bowing.

"Oh, and be discreet about this. Make sure that Serge won't know about this." Ornytos frowned but nodded. "Give this mission to the only one you're are sure of. Serge mustn't know a word about this."

"All right." He bowed and he walked out frowning. It was not good. 'Why did the Pope want to see Camus without Serge and others knowing?' He frowned. He came into the secret way and walked down quickly. He remembered the conversation between the Pope and Serge had the day before. They were talking about Camus' future. It was a bad future for the child since it was death that was in store for him. Making change Camus' mind was not easy and leaving this task to Serge was not the best thing the Pope had done. Serge was too soft with the child. Ornytos could not help thinking that Serge's attitude was responsible for Camus' rebellion and this crisis.

'But why does the Pope want to see Camus? Alone...' He came out of the secret way and looked for the soldiers he needed to find the child. 'Maybe, the Pope doesn't trust Serge's way of settling this problem. So Camus will...' He cut off his thoughts when he saw few soldiers talking and laughing. He stopped near them and frowned.

The soldier who was facing Ornytos opened wide eyes and bent his head. "Sorry, sir" he said. The four others turned and saw their chief giving them a hard look. They bowed.

"Do you have nothing else to do?" asked in a cold voice Ornytos, who hardened his eyes, accentuating the difference of his eyes' colors. They shivered.

"We are free" replied one of them.

"So, you've something to do from now on."

"Yes Sir."

"Find Camus as quickly as possible."

"Camus?" asked a soldier.

"The Grus Saint's pupil. He is four years old and he has short blue-green hair and indigo eyes. He must be somewhere in the Sanctuary. Find him and get him for me as soon as possible. Find him but without Serge, Saul, Tsakalatos, Mu, Aiolia and Saga knowing this. If you need help, you'll ask few of your companions. But never ask this to Saul, understand! Try to be discreet."

The soldiers nodded and they rushed away searching for the boy. Ornytos looked up to the palace where the Pope was. 'Camus' fate is already made...' He walked toward the entrance of the secret way, waiting for one of the soldiers coming and setting Camus for him.

* * *

Saga was wandering through the Sanctuary looking for Camus. He would have found him easily, but he was unable to sense his cosmo today. He had to find him quickly. He did not have plenty of time. Suddenly he heard voices above him. He knew one of them. Saga stopped when he heard Ornytos ordered few of his soldiers to find Camus quickly without Serge and Saul's knowing, as for Camus' relations. Saga frowned. It was not good, really not. He flattened himself against the steep rock face of the little cliff and remained silent. He did not want Ornytos to know that he had heard. He wanted to learn more about this, but the soldiers rushed away, doing their job. What had he expected? That Ornytos would explain to his soldiers the reasons of this? How silly he was! How a superior would say something about his mission to the ones obeying his orders? A soldier had to obey that was all.

He heard Ornytos walking away and he sighed. 'It's getting worse, now' he thought sadly. 'Why haven't they trusted me at first...' He clenched his fists and closed his eyes.

* * *

Saga ran under the rain looking for a shield. He got caught in the rain that fell suddenly. He wanted to find Camus. He had not seen him more than one week now, and he wanted to know if his attitude had changed or not. He was looking for him when the rain started. He had heard nothing about him in the Sanctuary. But he knew that Serge had come back the day after he had spoken to Camus. Youri was very angry when Saga told him he had something more important to do than to win his Cloth. He was even more when he heard that the responsible of his decision was Camus. And the day after this incident he said Saga in a cold voice that he should not see Camus again. The teenager had asked why and his master told him that as Serge was here the boy should not preoccupy him anymore.

Saga shook his head and he saw remains of a temple that still had partially its roof. He sighed contentedly and he rushed to it. He ran his fingers through his wet hair and looked at the dark gray clouds flew on the ground. He thought again. More than one week Youri told him this. But he was preoccupied. The way Youri told him that Serge was here and that he should not be preoccupied by the boy anymore. This worried him more. He was worried. Something was wrong and he felt this in the Sanctuary. Everybody was nervous and seemed to expect something bad or good. He managed to slip out of the Forbidden Valley and since he was looking for Camus. He sighed looking at the droops falling heavily at his feet in a dumb sound. 'He must be with Tsakalatos and Serge at this time of day...' thought Saga.

The blue haired teenager suddenly turned. He felt a presence behind him. 'Not a presence, few' he corrected. He extended his cosmo and he had the surprise to feel children' s light cosmo, further more in the ruined temple. They were three. He knew two of them and the last was totally unknown to him. He walked to them feeling drops falling on him. But he did not pay attention to them. He was surprised to feel them here.

Behind a column, he saw three children. Two were sat on a stone, while the last was pacing up and down in front of the both whom remained silent. Saga recognized Aiolia. The one with lavender hair was Mu, the one who had accompanied Tsakalatos when they came and saw him. He did not know the blond haired one, but he noticed he seemed to have the same age than them. Saga came closer from behind them.

"He's a demon!! He is a demon!!"

"Calm down, Aiolia" said Mu quietly.

"Calm down? He destroys everything and everyone around him!"

"Come on Aiolia... You know him better than Shaka and I do."

"No I don't really know him." Aiolia turned to them angrily. "I don't even recognize Tsakalatos! He beat me as never this morning at the training." He ran his fingers on his left bruised cheek. "He even shouted at Serge, this morning."

"Aiolia. You should understand, he is worried."

"Worried?" nearly shouted Aiolia. "No he followed Camus' behavior!"

"That Camus will be punished, it is a good thing, but that he pushes the others is unforgivable."

"Shaka. Camus is not himself. Tsakalatos is very worried about Camus. They share a very strong bound. If something would happen to Camus, well I prefer not imagine what will happen next."

"What's the matter with Camus?" asked Saga who had come closer.

Aiolia raised his head while Shaka and Mu looked over their shoulders. "Saga!" shouted Aiolia. Mu just looked at the teenager.

"So, what is the matter with Serge's 'petit protégé' and Rodario's tearaway?" asked Saga again.

"Well we don't know" replied Mu. Saga arched his eyebrows in wonder. "We haven't seen Camus since Tsakalatos and I came and saw you this day."

"What do you say?"

"He is still in the Sanctuary, but no one had seen him but Tsakalatos, Serge and the one who lived with them" said Aiolia. "I know that Camus wandered somewhere in the Sanctuary. I only know that he comes very late at night when everybody is sleeping."

"Tsakalatos told you this?" asked Mu.

Aiolia nodded. "He told me this the first day we trained together under Serge's look."

"Grus Saint is training you?" asked Saga more than surprised.

Aiolia nodded. "He does. "He asked my brother if I could train with Tsakalatos time to time. Since I train with Tsakalatos twice a day."

"And Camus?"

Aiolia shrugged. "I don't know. I've haven't seen him once since I'm training with Tsakalatos. Never Serge does allude to Camus. It's as he had never existed."

Saga frowned. Something had seriously happened so that Serge's reacted like this. He knew how Camus was important to Serge. "And Tsakalatos?" he asked.

"I barely recognized him. He stayed near Serge's house waiting. Hardly does he say two words a day. He is angry..."

"And totally lost" finished Mu. Aiolia gave him a black look. "Come on Aiolia. Tsakalatos is lost and you know this as I do."

"But.."

"Anyway, what the Grus Saint planed for Camus, doesn't concern us. And Camus deserves it right. He should have never blasphemed. He's got what he deserves. Gods mustn't be blasphemed with impunity."

"Shaka!" shouted Mu

"Have blasphemed?" asked Saga. "Camus?" He turned his head to Mu and he narrowed his deep blue-green eyes that hardened. "Have you not forgotten to tell me something when Tsakalatos and you came the last time?"

"I... I think I have" revealed in a breath Mu. "But we only wanted to help Camus."

"The fight between Tsakalatos and Camus was because of the blasphemies of Serge's 'petit protégé', wasn't it?"

"It was. Tsakalatos heard Shaka saying what Camus had said. He said him that Athena did not exist and that she was cruel. He also said that Buddha did not exist, that humans did not need Gods..." He stopped and Saga glanced at the blond haired boy. He noticed that his eyes were closed since the beginning of the discussion. The boy only nodded. "Tsakalatos was horrified and very worried, but he did not want to believe in what he have just heard. So he came to Camus to find the answers. It was worst and when Tsakalatos tried to warn him, Camus beat him."

"Why haven't you told me this at first?" asked angrily Saga. "Why haven't you trusted me? I would have acted another way with Camus. I would have convinced him that he was doing something wrong."

"We only wanted to help Camus" voiced Mu. "We were afraid you would not help us if you know the truth."

"I would have helped him whatever he would have done."

"Why?" asked Shaka puzzled. "Why would you have helped him?"

"Because Camus deserves my friendship and my respect. Because I promised Serge to look after him. Because Camus is important."

"Why?" asked Shaka again.

"I doubt you will understand. You seem to judge him before knowing him. You seem to judge everybody, as you were perfect. No one is perfect."

Shaka frowned. "Camus insulted me. Why would I try to understand him? It's useless and a waste of time."

Saga decided it was better to not reply him. He turned to Mu. "What punishment had Camus?" Mu shrugged. He turned to Aiolia. He shrugged too. 'Strange....' He frowned and then sighed. He looked at the children. "None of you know where Camus could be?"

Mu shook his head. "No one saw him, but the closest to him, Saga." Saga turned to Aiolos' brother. "Aiolia, you said me that you were training twice a day with Tsakalatos, did not you?" Aiolia only nodded. "So tell Tsakalatos that I will go and see Camus. I will help him, however long it takes." Without waiting for Aiolia's answer he turned his back to them and he walked away. It was not good. What worried him the most was that Serge acted as Camus did not exist. He did not know well the Grus Saint, but he knew that he cared about Camus. If he did not why would he had come and asked him to look after him? What was strange was that Camus did not seem to be punished yet. He was sure that the Pope knew this. He had spies everywhere, so he had to know what had happened.

* * *

Saga roused himself from his memories. He opened his eyes. It was getting worst now. The Pope knew this or was about to know this. He could have a little respite if Ornytos had learnt about this first. He would ask Camus some explanations before informing the Pope. 'But if it were too late?' Saga shivered. 'If it were too late, so Camus will die. People who blasphemed against Athena die at the same minute. But Camus had a respite, but now?' He had to find Camus. He had to keep his promise to Tsakalatos. 'But where is he?' Saga did not know. He was surprised to not feel the child's cosmo. 'Did he consciously hide from everybody?' He came into the light and looked up at the sky. 'And what will I do when I find him? Ornytos is looking for him. Maybe the Pope too? What can I do?' He looked around him.

* * *

"Why this Valley is forbidden?" Camus had asked once, long time ago.

He did not answer because he could not.

* * *

'The forbidden Valley!' As an answer to his thought, he felt Camus' light cosmo going toward it. "It can't be!" the teenager who rushed toward his training place said under his breath. He did not know if he was happy or worried. Camus' cosmo was determined and it felt like the child was not looking for him, but for his death. It was only a feeling, but it grew more while he ran to him. The fact that Serge seemed to have abandoned him was enough to make him decide to die. Camus was very attached to Serge, and as he did not have his support and affection anymore, this meant death for him. Camus felt he was already dead in his heart.

* * *

"Tell me Camus, something bothers me..."

"What is it?"

"Why do you live if you think you don't exist?"

"Because I found what I was looking for."

"And what is it?" Camus only gave him a little smile and looked up to the sky. Saga had sighed shaking his head. "It was a stupid question."

* * *

Saga roused himself from this memory when he bumped into someone. He barely apologized. 'It was a stupid question. Serge. Camus was living for Serge, because Grus Saint was everything to him.'

He jumped down a little cliff and ran to the Forbidden Valley. Camus was too close to it, too close to do something stupid. But if he stopped it, would he be safe? Ornytos was looking for him. Camus was in a dead end. Wherever he went, death was waiting for him.

Suddenly he felt a too familiar cosmo. 'No!' he concentrated on his cosmo ~ Don't touch him! Go away!! ~ He felt hesitation in the cosmo and then a question. ~ Why? ~ Saga frowned. ~ Later! ~ He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw a soldier coming near Camus. 'Too late...' he thought bitterly. He saw Camus answering the soldier then looking back over his shoulder puzzled. Saga looked at the entrance of the Valley and felt that the cosmo was still there, certainly waiting for him. He turned his attention to the child. The French boy looked at him and their eyes met. Saga read puzzlement in them. 'Camus....' The boy followed the soldier and Saga watched Camus turning round a column.

~ Are you going to explain me what is happening? ~

Saga raised his head and turned to the Valley. He saw a familiar silhouette and he narrowed his eyes. He jumped down the cliff and he walked to it. He could not do anything for Camus right now. "What are you doing here?" he asked aggressive.

* * *

Camus followed the soldier, wondering what was happening. The soldier had been mysterious. What this sentence meant 'You are expected'. By Who? Certainly not Serge. The Grus Saint would have come all by himself. Moreover it was not the evening. Who could have asked a soldier to take him and get him to him in the Sanctuary? He did not know and only Ornytos and the Pope were the only solution. Why one of them would want to see him? For what purpose? Was there a connection with Serge's strange sentence last night?

He continued following the soldier and soon he saw Ornytos at the entrance of the secret way he had climbed up once. The soldier stopped and bent his head before walking away. Camus looked up to the chief of the soldiers trying to read what expected for him. But he could read nothing. The man was looking at him then he turned and walked into the secret passage, without saying a word. Camus frowned and did not follow him. He now knew that the Pope was waiting for him. Ornytos stopped and turned to the child. He frowned. "What are you waiting for?" he asked. "You are expected."

"Why?" the boy asked joining the man.

"I don't know. Hurry up."

Camus said nothing and walked up behind the chief of the soldier. The Pope was waiting for him but why? He stopped dead in his tracks when one of Serge's sentences rang in his ears. 'I will ask the Pope to find you another master quickly'. He raised his head and he saw Ornytos turning round a corner of the way. 'So, I will have another master' thought sadly Camus walking up again. 'I should have done what I've planed this morning. I should have.' Camus stopped thinking. It was not very helpful to think about what could happen or not. He could not run from it, and this certitude made him angrier.

They walked up without saying a word a long moment. This did not surprise Camus. Ornytos was not very talkative. He was talkative the first day he saw him when he arrived at the Sanctuary. He had explained him what he had to do and what was planed for him. But he already knew this by Serge. The second time they were alone, when they went to Rodario village, the chief of the soldier practically said nothing and Camus did not mind. So why would he be surprised by his silence? He was even grateful of this one.

They came out of he secret way and the sun at its zenith burnt their eyes and skin. Camus blinked and protected his eyes. Through his fingers, he saw Ornytos continuing his way and he followed him. He stepped up the white stairs lightened by the burning sun of Greece.

They stopped in front of the huge door and Ornytos nodded to the guard at his left. The soldier nodded at the unspoken question. The guard hurried toward the door and opened it quickly. He bent his head paced once at his right and came out of the way to Ornytos who walked in without hesitation.

Camus stayed few seconds at the entrance and then followed the man. He heard the door closing behind him into a dull sound which echoed in the huge room. He came behind the chief of the soldiers who had bent in front of the Pope. He looked around him, trying to know what would come next and if there was someone else.

"Camus is there, your Highness."

"All right, Ornytos. You may go."

"But, your Highness. Camus can..."

"Ornytos. What a child could do against me?"

"But..." Ornytos bent deeper. "Nothing, your highness. I'm sorry."

"So. I want to be alone with him."

"As you wish your Highness." Ornytos took his humble leave to the Pope and walked back to the door.

"Oh one more thing Ornytos."

"Yes your Highness?"

"I don't want to be disturbed, as long as Camus is there."

"All right your Highness."

"Even if it's important, have you understood?" The chief of the soldiers nodded. "Oh, and if Serge wants to see me, refuse him the entrance of the Palace."

Ornytos raised his head, astonishment utterly written on his face. "Serge?" he asked not being sure to have heard well.

"You have perfectly heard. I don't want to see him while I'm busy with his pupil. You can go now."

"Yes, my Lord." The chief of the soldiers bowed in front of the Pope and walked to the door. He opened it and he closed it, not without giving a last look at Camus.

Camus looked at the Pope who was sitting on his throne. He did not move. He was waiting for the representative of Athena to tell him what he wanted from him. But the Pope did not move or say anything. He just stayed there, staring at the child. Camus fidgeted a bit but did nothing more. He disliked being scrutinizing this way. How could he read what the other was thinking of when this person had a mask that hid his features. But he would not do anything. He would wait, wait for the Pope to make the first gesture.

The Pope did not move or say anything. He just stared at the child. It was a long time he had not seen him so close. Few months had passed since they have come to Rodario together and he had changed, a lot. He was stronger. His cosmo was more developed than the last time. 'Serge did a good job...' thought the Pope proudly. 'But it is maybe a waste...' He continued staring at the child who was trying hard to not move. A little smile, hidden by the mask, played on his lips. 'Still stubborn.' He noticed that if Camus had changed, his former personality was still there but hushed up by the new one. 'The problem is that Camus is lost. It was maybe a mistake to let him live close to the tearaway...'

Camus withstood the Pope's look and frowned. He hated this. What were they waiting for? He kept his head raised up to see Athena's representative sitting on his golden throne too long that his neck hurt him.

"Are you afraid?" asked the Pope suddenly.

Camus blinked, taken aback. "Afraid? Afraid of what?"

"Afraid of me..."

Camus shrugged. "I'm not afraid of you. Serge said you are nice and kind."

"He could have lied, you know."

Camus looked away and walked two paces toward the window. "He says me that he never lies" replied the child. "Why am I here?" he asked looking toward the Pope.

"You look like if you were in a hurry."

"You're too important to be preoccupied by someone like me" replied the child frowning. "Will I have another master?"

The Pope stood up. "Another master?" he asked surprised.

"Serge said me that he would ask you to find me another master."

"Never did he ask me a such silly thing, Camus." The boy frowned. 'So what does this mean?' The representative of Athena stepped down the few stairs. "Oh, I see. If you're here, it's for another reason." He saw the puzzled look of the child. "You perfectly know this reason, Camus. You're too clever for you to not know it."

The child bent his head and tried to find the reason the Pope was talking about. Now he knew. It was about Athena and his behavior toward her. The Pope should have known what he had said. He raised his head. He did not hear anything. The Pope had stopped pacing, and no sound was reaching his hear. The silence was oppressive. Camus walked to the balcony hoping to hear noise. He stopped near the red curtains. He did not go further. Only silence greeted him. Suddenly, he heard a shout. Ornytos was barking orders to a soldier.

The French boy looked through the huge window. The landscape was breathtaking. He saw mountains and the peaks of some cliffs. The sky was pure and the sun was shining mercilessly, lighting up the crests and the rock faces of the cliffs and mountains. He caught sight of a huge clock on which symbols were drawn. He did not know what they represented but he knew that this clock was very important deep inside him. He looked down and he saw stairs, then a temple partially hidden by some rock faces. Then he saw some roofs here and there.

"It's a beautiful place, isn't it. I like coming here and looking at the landscape" said the Pope from behind.

"It's quiet" said the boy noticing there was silence in this place. The sounds of suffering or shouts did not reach this place.

"It is because it's near Athena's Temple." Camus clenched his fists when he heard the name of the Goddess. The Pope noticed he gesture but said nothing. "It's the most sacred place. It is quiet, but it doesn't mean that I know nothing from what is happening below." The Pope extending his cosmo to the child and was half surprised when the boy tried to withdraw.

Camus felt something surrounding him. He did not move but he hardened. A powerful and kind cosmo enveloped him all of sudden, searching his own, just to communicate. Camus said nothing and did not turn toward the Pope.

"Silence" said the representative of Athena near him. Camus continued looking at the landscape. "Silence is Death..." Camus still did not move and let the silence invade him. "But sometimes we need silence to find ourselves."

A shout broke the heavy silence that followed Pope's sentence. He looked up at the man. "Why would I be afraid of silence?" asked Camus turning suddenly to the Pope. "Why would I since I'm already dead?"

"Dead?" repeated the Pope surprised and looking down. 'Serge had the courage to tell him he would die?'

"Since I don't exist, I'm not living, and so I am dead. So silence doesn't bother me, does it?"

"You're living. You suffer."

"I don't exist! I've never existed! I'm a child no one wanted or wants!" Camus closed suddenly his mouth. He had said this. He had just told his past in few words. His life only came down to this few words. His eyes threw lights of anger to the Pope who stayed still.

The Pope understood immediately. 'Camus would have not been able to survive by his own.' Serge's sentence rang in his mind. 'That's explain a lot...' thought the Pope. 'Camus would have rather die than continue living.' He stared at the child. "Have you looked around you? Are you able to see people and their feelings? Some like you, and more than you think."

"Why would they? They don't know me. They don't know my past. Why would they love me?"

"Love is as irrational as friendship. Camus, if you try to find each answer to each of your question, never you will find any of them."

Camus turned his head to the landscape. "Why am I here?" he asked again.

The Pope turned his head to the landscape too. "Did Serge talk to you?"

"He did. But I don't really know what he wants from me. He told me to think about what he said me until tonight..." Camus was surprised to say this to the Pope. He frowned. The man attracted the confidence and he was better than Serge. He bit his lips.

"I see..." The Pope felt Camus' look but he did not turn to him. 'You still hope Serge, you still... As I do...' Some crows cawed. "He so less trusts in you...." said quietly the Pope. "I feel you are enough clever to make your decision, even if you know the truth." The Pope stopped speaking and turned to the child.

"What truth?"

"It was decided that you will die tonight, Camus." Camus did not react. He just stared at the Pope. "You don't look as you are afraid of death, or what would happen to you..."

"I've told you. I'm already dead."

'Why does he thinks like this?' The Pope closed his eyes behind his mask. "You will die, Camus" repeated the Pope.

"What is the matter? I don't like her. So what are you waiting for?"

The Pope shook mentally his head. The child was very clever. "Why?"

"Serge asked me this question too. I don't like her, that's all. You said me that love is irrational. I think hatred is too, as all feelings."

"You certainly have a reason, don't you?"

"How a Goddess who claims she likes humanity is ready to send to death people who believe in her? She doesn't have heart and Gods don't exist. It's my point of view."

"Is it the truth, Camus?" The boy opened wider his eyes then narrowed them. "Do you not fool yourself?"

"How dare you say me this?! I hate her."

"I don't think you hate her. You hate yourself. But humans are so strange, they don't admit they hate themselves so they took their hatred out to someone else. In your case Athena. Why Camus, why?"

"Why would I hate myself?"

"You are afraid, Camus..."

"I'm not."

The Pope shook his head and his long gray hair swung. "I think we have a visit" he said simply while he extended more cosmo to the child.

Camus felt the pope's cosmo invaded him and he felt the kindness, the strength keeping him prisoner. He wanted to move away from it, but he was not able to move. The only will of the representative of Athena made him stay quiet. Only puzzlement crossed his eyes and features.

A shout raised Camus from his thoughts. 'Serge?' he thought surprised opening wide eyes.

"But what does this mean Ornytos?" asked the Grus Saint to the chief of the soldiers. They were before the door, but the heat of this hour and the silence that prevailed here brought noises into the throne place. "I need to see the Pope."

"About what, Grus Saint?" asked quietly Ornytos.

"It's important."

"That it's important or not, his Highness has something more important to do than to listen to you, right now."

"I remind you Ornytos that I can go in and out whenever I want. Go out of my way."

"Are you ready to disobey Pope's orders?"

"Don't be stupid, Ornytos. I need to see the Pope and I will see him, that you want it or not."

"That HE wants it or not. He told me he did not want to be disturbed. He doesn't want to be disturbed by anyone and you are on the list, Grus Saint."

"But what is happening here?"

"The Pope is busy. Come back later, Serge. But I don't think your affair is more important than the one the Pope is preoccupied by."

There was a long silence and then they heard Ornytos speaking. "It's useless to read my mind, Grus Saint." They heard nothing else and the Pope sensed then saw Serge walking away, angry and puzzled. "Always impetuous" sighed Athena's representative. Camus hiding by the curtain looked up. "But no one need to be clever to know why he was here." He looked down and saw Camus' puzzled look. A little smile played on his lips. "Well, it seems I'm wrong." He turned and he walked into the huge room. "You asked me some questions, Camus. I'm going to answer some of them." Camus turned to the Pope surprised. He blinked. "Come with me, Camus."

Camus did not move. He looked over his shoulder and saw nothing. He just stared at the landscape.

"Camus" called the Pope. "Are you afraid of me?"

"Why would I?"

"Because you know you will die soon. You will die tonight, not now. I won't harm you...."

"I'm not afraid of death. Everyone must die one day."

"But lot of humans and even Saints are afraid when Death comes..."

"I'm not afraid" repeated Camus.

"I know. You are different from other children... But maybe, because as you don't have any aim in your life, you are not afraid..." He just shrugged. "Come with me, Camus..."

The boy nodded and he came closer to the Pope. The latter turned and walked to a wall hanging. He lifted it and he paced on his side. Camus passed him then stopped. The piece of clothes fell gracefully and soft rustling behind the Pope. Camus looked around him and saw a long corridor lightening by paraffin little bowls hung on the walls. There were no windows, no doors. The Pope passed him and walked ahead. The child followed him quietly. Then they crossed another corridor. The Pope turned to his right and there the rays of the sun coming through the windows lit the long way.

Without hesitation the Pope walked toward a door and opened it. He did not wait for the boy to come in. Camus followed him and stopped surprised. The room was huge and dark. But a huge chandelier hung from the ceiling lit the room. It smelt musty, and the smell of dust pervaded inside the room. The child looked around him. On each wall, there were books. They covered the walls up to the ceiling. The child spun around slowly, surprised. There were so much books, parchments that he did not know where his eyes could focus on. He saw the Pope walking through the room then along the wall reading the titles.

Camus turned his head to his right and tried to decipher the titles written in Ancient Greek language. He ran his fingers on the edges of the books. Some were worn away with time and he stopped in front of them, trying to make the titles out.

"Camus?" called the Pope. The child turned to him. "You are like Serge..."

"How that?" asked the French boy.

"He reacted like you when he came here the first time" said the Pope stopping in front of a shelf. He read the titles.

"He came there?"

"He did, often. He still does. This place is more his than mine." The Pope chuckled. "I have the feeling to be brought back in the past" he said nostalgic.

"You often talk about Serge. Who is he?"

"He is Serge" simply replied the Pope taking an old book.

"No. It's not what I mean. You seem to like him. He can come there whenever he wants and I feel he is a privileged person."

"Serge did not tell you?" The child shook his head. "If he did not, so I would respect his wish."

"But, I know he likes and respects you very much. But I'm sure there is more..."

"Serge is very special for me, Camus." He turned to the child. "Can you hold this for a moment, Camus?" he asked.

The child nodded and came closer to the representative of Athena. He took the old book the Pope held him and pressed it against his chest. The smell of dust invaded his nose, but he did not care.

"Serge believes in Athena..." said softly Camus.

"Athena saved him...."

He looked up to the Pope who was walking along the shelves again. "How that?"

"He was about to die when I found him. Athena told me where he was."

'So Serge did not lie when he said me that she had saved him...' He frowned. "How did she know?" He waited but deep inside him he knew the Pope would not answer him. But he was able to have a glimpse of the important bound among the Silver Saint and the representative of Athena.

"Oh, here it was..." the man said for himself. He raised his right hand and pointed his index to a book which was on the highest shelf. The book came out of the shelf and remained in the air few seconds before it came slowly in the Pope's raised hand.

Camus opened wide eyes. "H...How?"

The Pope turned to the child. "Psychokinesis. You are surprised..."

"How a human can do this?"

"Why would he not be able to do this?"

"But...."

"Few humans have some powers that much of their kind do not have. It's a gift they have. Their cosmo is more developed."

"As Serge." The Pope looked down to the child. "He can read in people's mind," explained the child.

"Thus, you know Serge's secret. Serge does have this power among others. But he doesn't like them."

"Why?"

"I'm not the one who have to give you the answer to this question. Humans can be very harsh among them. And if you are different from most of them, they are harsher. They called those paranormal powers. Sometimes humans' are narrowed-minded" commented the Pope for himself. "But these powers are natural, they are in all human living on Earth, but they are numbed because the cosmo is not awaken." The Pope walked along the books and stopped again. "Some have specific powers and can be very powerful. Others have different and numerous powers..."

"So Saints have different powers?"

"Some of them have, the most powerful..."

"Silver and Gold Saints, no?"

"Exactly. It is why it's difficult to find a Saint, because the future Saints must have the same powers than their master." He took a book and then turned to Camus. "Come with me." He walked out of the room and waited for Camus. He closed the room and he showed the way to the child. They walked through corridors lit by the sun shining through the windows and then the Pope stopped in front of a door. He turned slightly to the child. "There we can speak without being disturbed." He pushed the door and he walked in. He did not wait for the child and continued his way

The child paced once and stopped at the entrance of the room. The place was in half-light. It was dark and only a ray of sun was getting through the drawn curtains. Camus looked around him, trying to adapt his sight to the half-light of the room.

"Come in and close the door. It would not be polite to disturb her."

"Her?" asked Camus coming in. He closed the door and the half-light darkened. He blinked and screwed his eyes. He looked at the ray of the sun.

"Come here" said the Pope. The child turned to him and came to his direction cautiously. "Use your other senses, Camus." Camus bumped into a seat and held back a little cry. "You will soon get use of the half-light. Put the book on the table would you?"

The child nodded and put the book on the low table who was near the seat. Then he came near the window. "Can I open the curtains?" he asked grabbing one of the tails.

"Don't" said the Pope.

Camus turned to the voice. He caught sight of the Pope in the opposite corner. He narrowed his eyes. He had just heard something like a rustling. But it was stronger than the sound of a piece of cloth and it was more like a flapping. Then he felt the Pope walking in the center of the room. In spite of the darkness, he saw the Pope taking off his helmet and putting it at his left. He ran his fingers in his long hair and he sat on something that seemed a couch. Once more he felt the powerful cosmo of the representative of Athena. It was different of Serge but in a way the same. The same warmth and something more he could not pinpoint. But it was much more powerful than the Grus Saint even if he felt that the Pope was controlling and hiding a part of his cosmo.

"I think that you should wash your hands and face, Camus. There is a bowl full of water and a towel at your right, in the corner."

Camus wanted to ask why but he decided he did not have the right. With caution he walked to the place the Pope told him and he found the bowl. He washed his face, his hands and arms in silence. There was no sound in the room and the ones that were coming from reached his ears time to time but the thick curtains muffled them. Only the piece of towel plunging into the water and the sound of the drops falling in the bowl could be hear, bringing a semblance of coolness in this silence and in this stuffy room.

Suddenly, a knock on the door broke the silence and the door was opened. Some light came into the room and attacked Camus' eyesight. He linked and he saw a servant bringing a tray on which there were food and drinks. Without a word, the servant put the tray on the low table. He bowed in front of the Pope and then came out of the room quickly, closing the door behind him.

"You must be hungry, mustn't you?" the Pope bent on the low table and poured some milk in a glass. "You haven't eaten since this morning. It is hot today." The man raised a little and looked at Camus. The child had not moved and he was staring at him. "Camus?"

The child bent his head when his heard his stomach grumbling. He was more than relieved that darkness was hiding his blush. He came to the seat he had hit before and he sat on it. He glanced at the Pope who had leant against the back of the couch and was looking at the ray of the sun. He took a pear and he bit into it, still staring at the representative of Athena. The fade light made him noticed that the Pope had not taken off his mask. He did not have his helmet, and his long gray hair was falling freely in his back, while a lock was resting on the couch. The child continued eating his fruit without tearing his look du Pope.

"Something is wrong?" asked the Pope, without turning to the boy.

"You did not eat?"

"I already ate."

"Do you never take off your mask?"

"Sometimes I do."

"Why do you wear one? You're not a woman."

The Pope turned to the child surprised and then laughed. "Because I must wear one. A Pope must wear a mask, it's like this."

"I still wonder why..." murmured the boy taking the glass of milk. He made a face when he tasted the sour milk of ewe mixing with the one of goat. But he drank the liquid discovering that he was thirsty. He took a piece of bread and a piece of cheese. "You haven't answer to my question" said the boy.

"Which one? You have asked lot of questions."

"Why am I here?"

"You will know this later. We have time before us, until tonight, if necessary."

"Until my death."

"It is up to you to decide if you will die or not. In a way you have your own destiny in your hands."

"Destiny... Do you believe in destiny?"

"I do. Stars show us the way to follow. They influence our life..."

"You speak like Mu...."

"Camus, what thing do you believe in?"

Camus looked down on the piece of bread and stared at it thinking. "I don't know" he revealed. "Maybe I believe in nothing..."

The Pope said nothing. 'A white page. An enigma...' thought the Pope.

The boy bit into the slice in silence. He ate silently. He still did not know why the Pope had asked for him and more the conversation was going on, less he knew. He had first thought that he would have another master, then he learnt that he would die by tonight. The Pope told him that he would answer his question, but none of them had been answered. He glanced up and saw the representative of Athena staring at him. He put the piece of bread on the tray and turned his look to the man.

"Do you not want anymore?" Camus shook his head. "If you are, help yourself whenever you want." The Pope bent over the table and grabbed the old book Camus had brought. He put it on his lap and took the two others. He put them aside, near his helmet. He opened the one that was on his lap and looked through it quickly. He stopped and the turned back few pages. The man raised his head and looked at Camus. "It's time to satisfy your curiosity. Come near me."

Camus hesitated. He bit his lips and did not move. He was suddenly not sure to know why the Pope called him. He heard the strange sound again. He looked around him looking for it.

"Don't be afraid. No one will harm you here."

"What is it?"

"Come near me, Camus" said the Pope without answering his question. "I do have time, but you don't have it." The Pope raised his hand and invited Camus to come closer. The boy stood up and came slowly to the man. He stopped near him and looked down. The darkness was less deeper there than where he was few seconds before. "Sit beside me" said softly the Pope.

The child looked up trying to read through the mask hidden by the shadows. He read nothing but he sensed a little change in the cosmo of the Pope. It was kinder. 'Serge trusts in him, why would I not?' He climbed on the couch and he sat near the Pope avoiding in touching him. Pictures of the children hanging the Pope came into his mind and his heart beat faster. He had not their courage, but did the children know who was in reality the Pope? Did he know who is the Pope? Did someone know? He was the closest to Gods and he was much more powerful than everyone there. Did they like the Pope because they feared him or because he protected them? So much questions without answers.

"Camus?" called the Pope. The child jumped and looked up. "Down to earth. What you are wondering about right now is not important." Camus frowned. "You asked me some questions and you have some questions you want to ask me."

"Which ones?"

"About Athena, for example. About the Saints, the meaning of this..." With his hand, the representative of Athena dusted the page. Camus followed the movement with his eyes. "Serge told you a bit about Saints' mission and about Athena's being, did not he?"

"He did but.." he stopped.

"But?" asked the Pope.

"I did not understand all."

"It's quite natural as some Saints don't understand too, sometimes."

"So why are they Saints, if they don't understand?"

"Because they have faith, Camus." The Pope tapped a picture in the book with his index finger, drawing the child's attention. The boy looked down and he saw a drawing of Athena even in the shadow. He stiffened. "Long, long times ago, there was the big bang. That is the beginning of the Universe. Then the Gods appeared. Three of them, Zeus, Hades and Poseidon decided to divide the world in three. Zeus became the God of the Sky and the Earth, Poseidon the one of the Oceans and Seas, and Hades the one of the Underworld. Then bit by bit, others Gods appeared. Zeus gave his daughter the Earth, one day.

"His daughter?"

"His daughter, Athena. He gave her it because when the Gods created Humans, she gave them the 'Soul'. But as the time passed, some Gods could not put up with Humans being anymore and they wanted to destroy them. It is what we call the Holy Wars. The Gods fight each other as do the Humans."

"Why the Humans have to fight too?" asked Camus.

"Because they had to protect their Gods. Some honored Athena, others Poseidon, others Apollo or Ares. The Gods like their faithful because they make them alive in a way. The first one who declared war on humans and therefore on Athena was Poseidon. He had seven warriors with extraordinary powers and he gave them armors. They attacked Earth. The men sent by Athena died." The Pope said nothing and turned his masked face to the child who was listening carefully.

"Why? Were they less powerful than Poseidon's warriors?"

"In a way they were, because Athena is averse to use weapons. They could not do anything, against the generals of Poseidon. So, the Goddess sent teenagers and young men to the battle. But before she gave them armor called cloth. Athena imagine them and drew them by looking at the constellation in the sky." The Pope feeling a change of mood in the child's cosmo looked down. He saw his puzzled look.

"Athena is not only the Goddess of the War. She is not really the Goddess of the War. She is the Wisdom, the strategist. She drew the Cloth. Cloth live and they can die, they are not only protections. Poseidon's warriors were defeated and his Sanctuary destroyed. Athena 's Sanctuary has been built at this moment."

The Pope sighed and he turned a page. He read few paragraphs and turned another one. He closed the book and took one of the others at his left side. He looked through it and gave it to Camus. The child looked up and then read what the Pope was pointing. It was what the Pope had just told him, plus few more details about Poseidon and his generals. "And?" asked the child.

"And some Gods and Goddesses decided to attack Athena and her domain. Some did again. You must know that Gods or Goddesses' soul are immortal. They have to reincarnate into human body about 250 years. And the wars resume again."

"There is no end?"

"Some Gods decide to stop fighting for a while, but others are really stubborn. Gods are like humans. They feel the same, but they have knowledge. The most stubborn of them is Poseidon. Then Ares decided to attack Athena once more. Athena defeated his warriors but the God went into the underworld."

"You say that the Underworld is governed by Hades..."

"It is. Ares went to have the God's help. Hades had been wounded in this war. This event is responsible of the next Holy War, in a way."

"How that?"

"Hades was furious and he sent his 108 specters to destroy Humanity. But Athena's Saints were here to stop his ambition. It was the last Holy Wars and it was 223 years ago."

"The last Holy War? Serge told me that 79 Saints fought."

"He is right. 79 Saints fought, only two survived. Athena had never been able to have so much Saints around her. And never such Holy War was so bloody, too."

"The Saints must protect Athena and the Earth."

"I know this" said Camus turning the pages of the book.

"Camus, I don't think you can understand the seriousness of the current situation."

Camus looked at the Pope and narrowed his eyes. He did not like the Pope's so quiet tone. And he had told him that he would answer him to his questions and he did not. It was right that he did not know the whole story and that the representative of Athena did not tell him all, but he was more confused.

"Athena will be reincarnated soon."

"Soon?" asked Camus. "How can you be sure of this?"

"There are lot of signs. During Athena's absence there are not lot of Saints. They are here only to protect the world during her absence, but also to teach the new ones how to become Saint. Since few years there are more and more Saints. And the most important is that children, as you, have already a light cosmo and are destined to be powerful Saints. It is rare to sense a cosmo so developed among children about your age. And the time when Athena will be reincarnated is soon there. You will understand later."

"Later?"

"Why are you so impatient Camus?" asked the Pope.

Camus bent his head. "Because I haven't lot of time left before me."

"You are right, but I want to finish telling you some things." He sighed. "It's really a waste, Camus. And the worst is that you don't know why you hate Athena, if you really hate her. If you were born about 20 years before, I would choose to not kill you." Camus looked up surprised. "Yes I would not have decided to kill you."

"I don't understand..."

"If you were born about 20 years ago, I would accept this fact. You're only a four years old child and you know nothing. But you have cosmo. By developing it you would become a Saint but as it is a peace era, so it would not be so important."

"You mean that it is not possible now."

"Precisely. I must be firm, now. Athena will soon be reincarnated. She needs her Saints, warriors that believe in her and ready to sacrifice their life for her and for their cause. As you know, 79 Saints fought during the last war, and only two survived. How many Saints Athena would have for this War? Maybe only few. Maybe a lot. But what is sure is that being his representative I must be to take no chances. I will not allow weak Saint or someone who doesn't believe in her. During a fight you can become the weak point that our enemy will use against your peers...You are not ready because you hate her, so you must die."

"It is not only because of this" said Camus a long moment after. He heard again the strange sound. He turned his head trying to pinpoint its source.

"You are right. I must protect the peace in the Sanctuary, so I must kill everyone who poses a threat to it. You. By claiming your impiousness you don't let me any choice."

Once more a flapping could be heard and it was closer. The Pope raised his head, so did Camus. He saw a shadow swooping down on the Pope and he heard the flapping again. Camus blinked when the Pope raised his arm and a bird lit on it. It stayed still after having flapped its wings several times. It folded them. The big eyes of the bird lit on the child and it titled its head asking for strokes and who was this strange thing. The Pope slowly started stroking the bird. Camus screwed his eyes and recognized an owl. Hypnotized, he watched the representative of Athena stroking the plumage.

"Pallas..."

"Pallas? Is it its name?" asked Camus looking at the owl.

The Pope nodded and continued stroking the plumage of the bird. This one titled its head and closed its eyes contently. "She likes being stroked. She is old and she wants some attention."

"You were speaking about her when I came here, weren't you?"

"She lives here..." The owl took one of the Pope's fingers in her beak. Without diverting his attention from the bird, the Pope changed the subject. "More I think, more I believe you are misogynous."

"Misogynous?"

"You don't like women. I don't know all your past Camus, but from the little I know, you don't have nice memories of your mother, do you?" Camus did not reply. "Mothers for children are like a Goddess. It is as the children live for them the first years of their life. They instinctively know that they owe them life. Mothers are their world. But you did not have it. Maybe you have felt the same, but your mother never answered your need of love and protection. So, you became withrawn..."

"You can read thoughts as Serge, can't you?"

"So, I take your reaction as I'm right. You have certainly never been in a woman's presence except in your mother's one. You have been among men most of the time, especially here." The Pope looked at the child who was staring at the owl. "So for you, women are heartless and cold as your mother. Athena is a female and when she is reincarnated, she is a woman. So you think she is heartless and cold as your mother. You see Athena as your mother, someone not worth being loved and respected."

"She's cruel! She sends people to death."

"Those people who are sent to death are aware of this and they accept it because they love and believe in Athena. But do you really hate you mother, Camus? Isn't yourself that you hate, Camus? You hate yourself because you weren't able to make your mother love you. You haven't been able to make yourself loved by the one who should give it without thinking. So you decided that you should not live, that you should not exist. Why must we live if we don't exist in the other's regard? Haven't you changed because you need attention and because Serge left you? He left you because I asked him. You don't trust him anymore because you know that he can read thoughts. You think that he doesn't have any feelings for you, that his feelings to you are only liars. You felt betrayed. You trust no one here because you don't want to be betrayed once more and because you decided that you have enough suffered. But what about the others? Do you only know yourself Camus? Are you able to choose love and hatred, life and death? What have you lived so that you only wish for death? Have you really suffer? Are you sure you have suffered more than anyone else? Why are you afraid? You are not alone, Camus. Did not people show you how much they appreciate you, they love you? What are you expecting, Camus? What?"

Camus put his hands on his ear. "Stop!! Stop that!!" he shouted. "Stop, please. I wish everything stop... I..."

"You want to die..." said the Pope after a long silence. He stopped stroking the bird and took one of the child's hands from his ears. "You run away without giving yourself a chance. It's a pity, Camus. Life is so precious. If you believe in nothing, why do you want to die then? You have nothing to regret or hope for. Death is the last solution people choose. They fear death because they believe in something and still want to fulfil their desire. You have no desire. You think you have nothing. So why do you want to die? I don't think you want to die, but to live. Only to live" The Pope bent over Camus and the red orbs of his mask met the indigo eyes of the child. "The truth is that you believe in something. You just don't want to admit it or you haven't found it yet."

The owl let out a little hoot drawing the Pope's attention. But neither he turned to her nor he stroked her. He continued staring at the child without letting go his hand, waiting. Camus did not tear his look from the Pope's masked face. His other hand slowly slid of his ear and fell on his thigh. He had a lump in his throat and he felt tears willing in his eyes, but he fought them. The pressure on his hand tightened slightly and then loosened. The silence was heavy. Neither the Pope nor Camus broke it. Pallas fluttered her wings and shook her head.

Camus blinked and turned to the bird that was preening her feathers, seemingly displeased that she did not have any attention.

The Pope resumed his strokes. The child bit his lips. Everything was confused now. The representative of Athena had driven him into a corner and he was more than lost. What he had planed was now away, swept away by the Pope's words. He was running from himself because he did not believe in him, in the others' feelings toward him. He ran away because he could not cling to anything, because he had no reference. Serge was right. He had to learn. He knew lot of things, but he did not know life, how to live. He was ignorant.

"I think Pallas wants me to be introduce you" said the man breaking Camus' thoughts.

Camus raised his head and turned it to the owl. The latter was staring at him avec attention.

The Pope moved a little then took the bird. "Pallas, this is Camus." he approached the bird to the child and put it on his shoulder.

Camus turned his head and his nose touched the plumage of the bird. It tickled his nose and the owl dropped on Camus' upper arm. She preened her feathers waiting. Then slowly he approached his hand to Pallas. His fingertips touched the feathers. It was soft and cold at the same time, but warmth came out of the bird. Pallas turned her head to the child waiting. Camus nodded and started to stroke the owl. Slowly at first then with more confidence. A faint smile appeared on the French boy's lips when the bird put her head into Camus' hand. 'So birds are like this' he thought remembering the time when he was looking at the pigeons through the window of his mother's flat in France. He had always wondered how it would be to stroke them. He had the answer and he enjoyed it a lot.

The Pope looked at the scene. His mask was hiding his smile. Camus' cosmo changed from defiance into pleasure one. "You look like as you like her, Camus." Camus only nodded. "It seems she too appreciates you." The Pope chuckled.

The child turned his head to the Pope without stopping stroking the feathers of the night bird. "What is so funny?"

"You."

"Me?"

"You claim you don't like Athena and you are stroking Pallas."

"I don't understand."

"Pallas is another name of Athena or a ritual epithet associate with the Goddess' name." Camus stopped stroking the owl and raised his head to the Pope. He narrowed his eyes, waiting for an explanation. "Athena Pallas, or blue-green eyed Athena, flashing eyed Athena or Athena Parthenos, all those epithets plus others describe the Goddess you claim you hate."

"Why have you given her this name?"

"Why not, Camus? Well, here her story. One day, long time ago, I found her at the feet of the Athena's statue, the one near here. One of her wings was wounded. I took her and treated her. She returned to where she came from. But every night she came and visited me, until she decided to stay. Since then, she's here."

"Why did she stay?" The owl, took one of Camus' fingers in her beak and pinched it. Camus looked at her and he resumed his strokes few seconds after.

"Maybe she needed love and attention..."

'Like me' thought Camus understanding what the Pope alluded to.

"Camus, do you know why there are so many owls in the Sanctuary?"

"Because they can have all the food they want."

"Owl is one of Athena's symbol." Camus flinched and the rhythmic stroking stopped. The Pope stared at Camus. It's Athena's bird. Athena has lot of attribute but owl is her sacred animal. Do you know why?"

"No I don't.."

"Owl is a nocturnal bird and it is in touch with the Moon, the contrary to the eagle that is in touch with the Sun. The eagle can get the rays of sun unblinkingly, the owl gets the Moon's ones its eyes wide opened. The Moon is the symbol of rational knowledge while the Sun is the intuitive understanding's one. Athena is the Goddess of the Intelligence in a War, so the rational knowledge. Ares, the God of the War and the Carnage would relate more to the intuitive war. The Moon symbolizes the gift of perceptiveness and the owl symbolizes the thinking which dominates the darkness. Knowledge is never revealed for all to see, Camus. To comprehend it and to understand it, people must look for it, go forward and get lost. Knowledge can only be acquired this way, like most of the treasures, it is in darkness or beyond it."

"You associate Athena to this owl?"

"Yes and no. She can be a living substitute, but I remind you that Athena will be reincarnated in few years." The Pope stroked once the owl. Then he took her. "Sorry Pallas, but Camus does not have enough time for you." He put the bird on the back of the couch. The howl hooted, protesting.

Camus looked up to the Pope who stood up. The man took his helmet and he walked to the door. Camus looked at the bird. Pallas stared at him few seconds and then shook her head ruffling her feathers. Then she preened herself. This animal was fascinating. He looked down and stared at the page the Pope showed him.

"Camus..." called the Pope.

The child looked up and saw that the Pope had opened the door and was waiting for him. He noticed that he had not put his helmet on. The boy slid down. He took one book but the Pope stopped him. "I will put them back on the shelves later. Come with me." Camus put the book back on the table and came near the Pope. "Where are we going?"

"I want you to meet someone..."

"Who?" asked Camus passing the Pope.

"You'll see..." Camus looked behind him but he did not see the owl. He was disappointed but he walked out of the room. The Pope closed the door and showed the way to the child by going in front of him.

The boy followed the man without saying anything. He was curious but totally lost. He still did not know what the Pope was expecting from him. 'Why did he tell me the story while I will die in few hours?'

'It is up to you to die or not.'

'What does he mean by this sentence. If I change my mind I will have a chance to escape from death? But why will I? I will continue suffering, and I don't want to. I don't trust in Athena. I don't trust in anybody. The Pope is right. I run away but he can't understand what I am feeling. Why does he waste his time with me?' Camus raised his head and saw the Pope's back in front of him. His long gray hair was swaying at the same rhythm than his paces. 'Why? He still didn't answer me...'

They continued walking through the halls and corridors, then the Pope stopped. He lifted some wall-hangings and let the child pass him. Camus found himself in the throne's room a bit darkened by the absence of the ray of sun. It was now the middle of the afternoon and the sun was no longer shining directly through the balcony. Without saying a word, the Pope passed him. He walked and stepped up the few stairs leading to the throne.

Camus stayed at the same place, wondering what would happen next. He was going to meet someone but he did not know who. He looked around him but he saw no one. He only felt the Pope's presence, a comforting and reassuring one. He turned his look to the balcony and saw few birds flying before disappearing from his sight.

"Follow me" said the Pope putting his golden helmet on his throne. He turned to Camus and he walked pasts the throne. He came toward draperies and then he turned to the child who was standing still at the feet of the steps. "Are you afraid?" The child shook his head and stepped up to the Pope who waited for him. Camus joined him and passed the Pope who had lifted a tail of the draperies.

He was in a corridor in which paraffin lamps hanging at the walls were burning. They lit the long hall, but the ceiling could not be lit. Camus had the feeling that the corridor was high. He followed the Pope which paces rang out. Then they climbed stairs. Suddenly, the flames of the oil lamps moved a little. Camus felt a light breeze. He could not remember that the wind was blowing outside. He had stayed so long with the Pope in the room where Pallas was that he did not know if the wind had gotten up. The long Pope's tunic swayed around his legs. Then light coming from the exit lit the corridor.

Camus stopped and blinked. The light attacked his eyes and he closed them. The wind lifted his hair. He slowly opened them and saw the tall silhouette of the Pope being on the way of the rays of sun. The man had turned and Camus could not help comparing him to one of those painted saints he had seen on a fresco with Serge in a church once. It was as if the rays of the sun were surrounding him and his body glowed with divine light. Moreover, the cosmo the child felt led him believe this.

The Pope did not move and waited. He let the boy's eyes get used of the light. Then without a word, he turned and resumed his way toward his previous aim.

Camus followed him and when he came out of the corridor, the wind was stronger. He appreciated it. He was only aware how hot it was in the Palace. Still following the Pope he looked around him. About thirty paces away, there was a little bridge over a precipice. This natural fault was not very large and a Saint could effortlessly cross it in a jump. But Camus had the feeling that this bridge had another meaning and he felt as it was very and sacred. A force was surrounding this place and the wind was stronger.

The Pope crossed the precipice without any hesitation. The wind made sway the Pope's long gray hair and flutter around his legs and arms his long white tied with a red scarf. He stopped when he had crossed it and turned to the child who was waiting, looking into the gap.

Camus only saw darkness and the wind was roaring, moaning, screaming which made him involuntary shudder. His eyes traveled until he saw the bridge. It was not one. There was no guardrail to prevent from falling because of the strength of the wind that wanted to cross it. Should he cross it or no? What if he could not resist the strength of the wind? Camus' eyes hardened. 'The problem will be sort out! Did I not decide to die earlier?'

He paced once on the bridge. Then he took another pace. The wind blew stronger and Camus stopped when he felt as he was going to lose his precarious balance. He looked up to the Pope who was patiently waiting for him. The French boy looked down at his feet then glanced at his right. 'Why do I hesitate? Whatever is waiting for me, I should accept it, until tonight. If not before.' He took a deep breath and then walked to the Pope. The wind was pushing him but he managed to stay on the little bridge. He arrived near the representative of Athena who only nodded.

The Pope turned and followed the paved path and then stepped up the white stairs that led to a plateau. Camus did not hesitate to follow the Pope. The wind was strong and he did not want to stay near this precipice. He was right behind the man and he could not see what was in front of him. But he looked around him. The wind was not blowing anymore and the sun shone restlessly. It was then that the child noticed that there was no breeze. He blinked and he looked around him. He only saw mountains. No tree, no vegetation, nothing. It was a majestic and grandiose landscape but at the same time wild and disturbing.

He drew his attention back to the Pope who was still stepping up. He did the same. After a moment, there were no stairs left and the Pope walked ahead of him before stopping all of sudden. Camus did the same not wanting to bump into the most powerful man. The latter bent his head quickly to something. The child looked around him but he saw nothing. They were on a little plateau developing by humans. The ground was covered with slabs and few columns surrounded the plateau's limits. Camus arched his eyebrows in wonder. He could not see anything because of the pope before him. He looked up and then he saw Athena's huge statue.

The child balled his fist and he backed off once, not tearing his eyes from the statue. But he could not go further. He blinked and he lowered his look. He saw the Pope staring at him. His indigo eyes threw lights of anger.

"If you trust in no Gods, why are you so upset? It's only a statue..."

"Why am I here?"

"To meet someone. Follow me." The representative of Athena walked ahead of him. Camus frowned and hesitated in following him. But his curiosity was stronger than his resentment toward Athena and did what he was told. Then the man stopped. He turned again to the boy and without warning he went to his right. Camus who had stopped wanted to follow him, but the man stopped and something caught the child's sight.

A gold statue about twice human size was there. It was glowing in the shadow, lighting by few rays of sun that succeeded in passing through the entrance of the temple. Athena was there, wearing the long chiton, the aegis and helmet. In her right hand there was a little winged statue holding a laurel wreath. Niké. With her left hand, Athena was keeping the shield balanced against her leg. The glowing on the statue changed every time, making the statue alive.

Camus clenched his fists. He wanted to look away, but the peaceful and kind expression of Athena's golden face made him stay still. He swallowed hard and he took two paces backward. He turned to the Pope but he was not where he had last seen him. He shivered. Everything became confused in his mind. He did not want to see the Goddess anymore. The Pope told him they were going to meet someone but there was nobody. 'Where is the Pope?' he wondered when he noticed he did not see him. He tried to look around him. But the statue seemed to hypnotize him and he could not tear his look from it.

Something soft touched him. He jumped. It was not a real contact. It was something else, a sensation. As a cosmo, but so different from the ones he knew. The cosmo spread to him and he paced backward. The feeling was too soft, unsetting and disturbing. It moved his heart and soul deep inside him. He swallowed hard. No. He did not want to feel it. He wanted to turn and run away, but he noticed he could not do anything else than stayed still as a prey hypnotized in front of a snake.

The child wanted to scream but his lips only parted and no sound came out. Lot of emotions invaded his body, swamping him with their strength. The only thing he knew was that he was falling backward.

The Pope, who was behind him, caught the boy before he hit the floor and held him in his arms. 'It was maybe too much for him' he thought looking at the distressed face of Camus. He glanced at the statue still feeling the cosmo coming from it.

The man heard a faint sound and he looked down to the boy. His eyelids fluttered and he opened his glassy unsettled indigo eyes. He blinked. Then recognition crossed his eyes.

"Do you feel better?" asked the Pope.

"What have happened?" he murmured weakly.

"You lost consciousness...." replied the Pope putting the child on the ground.

Camus frowned and shivered. He remembered. And he had noticed that the strange cosmo was weaker when he was in the Pope's arms. The latter's cosmo had overcome him, protecting him. But now the strange one was strong again and the boy tensed up in order to protect himself from the attack.

But even if the cosmo was powerful, it did not hit him. It surrounded him and came closer as it understood the boy was not ready. Then slowly it enveloped him.

Camus' eyes widened when he felt emotions rushing into his body, heart and soul. It was kind, protective full of compassion, love, sadness and powerful. It was very powerful. Serge's one was powerful, the Pope's one much more, than this one was beyond anything he knew. It was not human. 'So the Goddess' cosmo? No it can't be. She doesn't exist! She doesn't live!'

The child opened his mouth but no sound came out of it. He had the feeling to be held by kind and unreal arms and pressed against a body as unreal as the arms that held him. It was too much. His eyes filled with tears. They rolled on his cheeks shamelessly. He was only aware he was crying when he felt a teardrop falling on his right hand. He blinked and wanted to stop crying, but he could not. He just could not help it. He could not stop crying. He felt well in those unreal arms.

A hand lit on his shoulder and the sensation vanished slowly. The boy came back to reality slowly. Camus did not look up. He knew it was the Pope. He did not know if he should be grateful or angry against him to have broken this feeling. The Pope said nothing at first. Camus wept his tears away, confused and empty.

"It's a bit too much for you, Camus..."

Camus did not move and looked at the golden statue. He did not feel resentment anymore. He felt something else and he did not know what it was. "Whose cosmo does it belong to?"

"You know the answer, Camus" said the Pope tightening his hold around the boy's shoulder. "Even having a little cosmo you are able to sense the others' cosmo. You are in the Sanctuary long enough so that you're able to make the difference..."

"Why?"

"Later, Camus, later." He made turn the child to him and then he pushed him kindly to the stairs. "We will be better in my place."

Camus looked over his shoulders but the Pope's body hid the statue. He looked up to the man who only nodded. The child walked to the stairs and then stepped down. He still did not understand and since this meeting, he was more lost. This day was special. Most of what he was sure of had been blown away as dust in wind. This time he did not hesitate in crossing the bridge lashed by the wind. He only stopped when he was near the throne.

The Pope passed him and took his helmet. But he did not put it on his head. He looked down to the child who was lost in his thoughts. The child sensed the Pope's look and looked up. The man saw the distress look in the child's indigo eyes. Perhaps he had gone too far, but he wanted the child to know all before making his definitive decision.

"Why?" asked the boy.

"I told you in Pallas' room that Athena will soon be reincarnated, did not I?" Camus nodded. "Well I've just given you the explanation." Camus arched his eyebrows inquiringly. "When Athena is here, her cosmo spreads in the whole Sanctuary. Everybody feels it. But when she dies, then her cosmo vanishes slowly. People are able to sense it near the temple, hear her statue. There is only few cosmo left near the golden statue. It will vanish more as time will pass, until the day Athena will be reincarnated."

"You are saying that because we only felt her cosmo close her statue she will reborn?"

The Pope nodded. "The day when only her Golden statue will have cosmo, Athena will be reincarnated. So you understand why I am so categorical when I tell you she will soon reborn. There are lot of signs heralding this future event."

"Does everybody come near the statue?"

"No only few come..."

"So why they believe in Athena while they can't feel her cosmo?"

"It's faith. They just believe in her. They don't need proof of her existence." The Pope put his helmet on his head and then sat on his throne. "It is time for us to end this discussion, Camus."

Camus paced once to the throne. "Why?" he asked.

"You have lot of things to think about, and you don't have lot of time left before you."

Camus shook his head. "It was not what I mean. Why? Why me? Why did you say all this to me?"

"I'm sure you know the answer."

"Why?" repeated the child waiting.

The Pope raised his hand and put it on the boy's cheek. Camus felt warmth spreading in his body. "Why do you want to know everything, Camus?" The child did not answer and put his hand on the Pope's one, his eyes pleading. "Because you must know. Because I trust you. Because..." The Pope stopped speaking.

"Because?" asked Camus.

"Nothing Camus." He spread his cosmo around the palace. He removed his hand from the child's cheek. "It's your last chance, Camus. I can't do anymore for you."

Camus heard the door opening but he did not turn to it. He was staring at the Pope's profile. He wanted to know the reasons, but he was aware that he would never know them. He heard a sound but he did not turn.

"You ask for me, your Highness?"

"Camus and I have finished." Camus blinked. He still had questions. "Walk Camus back down." The child did not move. "Camus, it's over. Go and think carefully about what have been told you." The discussion was over.

Camus slightly bent his head and then walked toward Ornytos who was waiting for him. The both came out of the room, leaving the Pope alone. Camus looked up to the chief of the soldiers but said nothing. He let himself guide in the secret way, then the man turned to him. "You're free..." said Ornytos. Camus only nodded and walked away.

"Camus" called the man. The child turned to the man waiting. He did not say anything for a moment. "Be careful. The Forbidden Valley is dangerous..." Ornytos turned away and left a stunned Camus.

Camus looked at the man until he disappeared from his sight and walked to his favorite place. Anyway, he had no other place to go to. He had had enough surprises since yesterday evening, and he did not want to be more confused that he was by meeting other people.

'Yesterday evening... I was sure of what I had decided, but then... Serge had destroyed my will. Today I found again my will and it is the Pope... Anyway, all will end by tonight. At least...'

He sat on a column without caring about the sun shining relentlessly. The day was on its end even if the sun would settle down in few hours. Few hours of life left. Few hours he would spend in thinking and trying to find what the both men were expecting from him. He reminded everything he was told yesterday and today.

A long moment passed and he sighed. It seemed that the men knew him better than he did. Their experience of the world that he did not have? But why Tsakalatos seemed to have the same? 'Intuition?' He shook his head. It was not the moment to think about the Greek boy. He had to think about what he have been told in less than one day. He had learnt more about himself than since he was there. 'Serge said that I'm jealous. The Pope thinks I'm misogynous, that I run away from me.' He let out a deep breath.

Lot of sentences rang in his mind endlessly while he thought, confirming the sentences that he was told. 'How can I believe in something. I don't exist, I've never existed, I never meant to. My mother never loved me while she should because it is natural. She was indifferent and she never said me something kind. If her friend never came time to time, I think I will have never known what was life...'

'You are here, you're alive, so you exist. You have a name now, and you exist.'

'You're living. You suffer' this sentence made him shiver. He had not noticed this at this moment, but now the sentence took on it's full meaning. 'Because, I'm able to suffer, because I feel something so I'm alive. Even my hatred to Athena means that I exist. To be indifferent... Is it a way to feel nothing? No one can't be always indifferent. There is still an emotion inside the heart, or a memory... '

'To be a Saint you must suffer.'

'To suffer in order to be a Saint, to suffer to exist in the Other's look. To suffer all our life... No I don't want! I refuse this existence and yet... And yet I like it because... because the ones who trust me are around. They trust me. I only exist because Serge gave me a name. It's like he gave me birth.'

Camus turned his head toward Athena's statue. He did not feel what he was feeling before when he was looking at her. He remembered the strange cosmo that enveloped him in front of the Goddess temple. It was so different of what he had first thought. It was not cruel. Only compassion, infinite love, power were in her cosmo. He shivered again and closed his eyes. He bit his lips when he noticed that he was looking for this feeling and emotion since a long time. Serge gave him a part of it, Tsakalatos another part as for Saga and Mu. But Athena's cosmo was complete and gave all her love to Human being without counting, without expecting love in return. Her love was selfless contrary to most of the Gods.

He returned his look to the statue. He stared at it a long moment. "All right, then. I will try because you saved Serge. I will try to understand your reasons to love Humanity while all the Gods only desire to destroy it... I will try to be a Saint... To protect humanity as Serge does. To protect his and Tsakalatos' one." He continued staring at the statue then he looked up at the sky. One by one the stars lit in the sky which turned into lapis lazuli color. "I will try and the day you decide I'm not worth of it, the day you decide I have to die, I will not run away. I will accept it. If I betray you or my vow, so kill me." He sighed. Serge would come there soon. 'But just a trying would be enough?' He did not know. He looked ahead of him without seeing the landscape, lost in his thoughts once more.

A long moment after, he heard a faint noise behind him but he did not turned. He could felt the tension. He heard the cape flapping. Here was his judgment and strange enough, he was not afraid even if he knew he would perhaps die. He saw the shadow overcoming him and looking at it, he could see the Saint's gesture. He was still for the moment but he was fascinated by the way the man's hair swayed in the breeze. It was as the Saint, untamed and powerful, but respecting the laws even if he had a special status in the Sanctuary.

The Grus Saint spoke and his voice was neutral but firm. Camus did not shiver. He was sure it would be the master and not Serge. And if he had guessed right by thinking, it would be this man who would kill him if the answer would not the one he expected. He did not move. He did not speak. He just waited.

* * *

The Grus Saint looked at the sun setting down through the window. He felt a pang. He had to go and get Camus' definitive answer, even if he had an idea of it. Camus was stubborn and the child was very clear the day before. Serge heard a chair swapping the ground. Tsakalatos had just finished his meal. Without looking over his shoulder, he was aware that the Greek child was going to the door. "Where are you going?" asked Serge firmly.

"Try to find Camus. You don't want to help him!"

"Go to bed! Camus doesn't need you!"

"No!"

"Go to your bed! It's not your problem, it's his."

"Why are you so firm with him?"

"It's the last time I tell you. Go to bed." The Saint turned and his eyes were hard. Tsakalatos swallowed with difficulty and then went to his bed. It was better to not make Serge angrier than necessary. Serge kept his eyes on the child a long moment.

The last birds sang their last song of the day and then all went silent. The Saint sat at the table, waiting. He should go. He knew this. But he did not have the heart.

'You run away...'

'I run away, but I don't want to kill him. I don't want, Athena. And yet it's my fault. I did lot of mistakes and now I pay for them.'

An owl hooted rousing the Saint out of his thoughts. He looked through the window and saw that the night was there. He could not postpone this. He had to go. He could not disobey. And if the worst happened so it would be by his hand that the child would die and not by others' one. Camus was his. He had taught him, loved him, did everything for this child, so even if he had to kill his own heart, he would kill him.

He stood up heavily and he glanced a last time to Tsakalatos. 'Well, at least, Tsakalatos would not suffer of this too much. He had the time to get used to Camus' absence...' The Saint quickly went out of the house. He knew he should see Camus quickly or his will would vanish.

It was the first time he felt so bad. It was the first time he did not want to obey a Pope's order. His heart was divided in two parts. One was for Camus, the other for the Pope and for the first time they were fighting. But he could not disobey. He owed the Pope his life, but Camus had stolen his heart. 'Athena... What are you expecting from me? What mistake did I do so that you test my loyalty and me?'

He stopped when he caught sight of the boy who was sitting on the same column than the day before. He looked at him a moment. He was still staring at the same place. It was not good his concentrating on the place the boy was looking at, he could see nothing. He really wondered what could attract his attention so much. 'He lives in his own world, a world I would never access' he thought sadly. He swallowed with difficulty. 'I thought he would like me, that I was important for him, but I was wrong. He was alone when I met him and he prefers solitude. I wanted him to love him, I thought I saw him loving me in his eyes, but I only wanted to see what I wanted to.'

He cut off his thoughts and came closer behind the child. Only one pace separated them. Serge looked down at the child. The latter did not turn. He continued staring at the landscape. He closed his eyes and opened them, his look hardening. The wind blew and his cape swirled around his body, flapping, making ominous noise. "I come" only said Serge.

Neither Camus answered nor he moved. He was just staring ahead of him, looking at the shadow that covered him.

"Have you thought about what I told you, yesterday?" Still no answer. "What is your decision, then?" Still no movement. They stayed a moment silent. More the seconds passed, more Serge was sure of knowing the answer.

"I still don't trust in her" replied the child in a firm voice.

Serge closed his eyes. 'No, Camus...' His heart ached as never before and he bit his tongue. 'All right then.... Forgive me Camus. I only brought you pain and I must end it now.' He opened his amber eyes and he lifted slowly his right arms, his hand down, ready to fell and dig his nails into Camus' neck. But he did not move. He just stared at the child who was there, waiting. He knew that the boy was aware of what would happen. Camus could see his hand raised in a menacing way, because of the shadow, but he did not plead for anything. He said nothing, accepting everything from him even death. The Saint wondered if it was a good thing or not, he was should be glad to not see the child's eyes.

Finally he took a deep breath and without warning his hand came down to Camus' neck.

"I still don't trust in her, but..."

Serge's instinct made his hand stop. It lit on the boy's head and then the Saint make out the few words he had just heard.

'But...'

He waited. He did not ask. He just waited.

"But I want to try", said Camus. "I want to learn how to respect her. She must be someone better than I think so that you, Tsakalatos and Saga love her. But I don't know how I can. Maybe, it's not enough..."

Serge replied nothing and ran his fingers in the boy's bangs. His hand stopped and his fingers came around the child's neck. He tightened just a little is grip. Camus had asked him if it was enough. It was for him, but for the Pope? Camus knew nothing about feelings. This lack of knowledge had been his greatest mistake, and the child's greatest weakness. He had the right to have another chance. He extended his cosmo to the boy and he was surprised to not be rejected. Camus accepted that the Saint sounded his mind out. He concentrated on the child's cosmo. It was unsettled but curiosity and the will to understand predominated. He went further. He was more than surprised. The child was not afraid. He just wanted to know, to understand. No lies, no fear, only this will to understand the world around him so that he could find himself.

"I made a vow..." said Camus all of sudden.

"A vow? What vow?"

"I don't have the right to tell you. It's between Athena and I", replied Camus turning his head to the statue without paying attention to the grip around his neck.

Serge replied nothing. He just noticed the peaceful features of the child when he looked at the statue. 'He changed', he thought remembering the way he was staring at the statue the day before. The Grus Saint's hand loosened his grip and he stroked the neck slowly. "So, I don't have my word in this..."

"Is it enough?" asked Camus turning to the Saint and looking up at his face.

"I think it's enough." There was a long silence. "I don't know if it is for the Pope."

"Are you going to teach me?" The child jumped down from the column, facing the Saint.

"I can't teach you to believe in Athena." Serge saw disappointment into the indigo eyes. He crouched in front of the child. "You must find your faith by yourself, but I will help you to find your way of believing in her. I only can do that. The next is up to you, Camus."

"Are you still angry?"

"The way you behaved surprised me a lot. It was not the best you were able to do." He put his hand on the child's cheek. "I'm not angry anymore..."

"I'm sorry", said Camus bending his head.

The Saint drew the boy closer then pressed him against his chest. "I will teach you. I will ask the Pope to give you another chance. I won't leave you this time. But you must be aware that your answer will not be enough for the Pope."

The child nodded. "I want to understand why you love her. I want to understand why a Goddess who mustn't care about Humanity, does and fights against her peers to save humans. I want to understand why she does this while only few people have faith in her. She could only save those ones..."

"I can't reply to your questions, Camus. Maybe, if you succeed in being a Saint, you will have the opportunity to ask her your questions." Camus freed himself from Serge's embrace and looked up puzzled. "When Athena will be among us again, you will have the opportunity to ask her this."

They stared at each other a long moment. Then Serge stood up. "It's time to go back home, Camus. You must be hungry and tomorrow you should train hard again. Camus nodded. The child walked past the Saint but suddenly he was stopped by a strong grip. Camus looked up over his shoulder puzzled. "Wait a minute" said the Saint. He rifled through his tunic and took something out. He crouched in front of the child once more and he held his fist to Camus' face level. Then his fingers loosened their grip around the object that fell. But it did not continue its fall. It suddenly stopped by a strip, then swayed in the air. Camus looked at it, his eyes following the object swaying in front of him. He noticed that it was a pendant and the stone that was at the end of the strip was a teardrop. But what caught his look was the color of the jewelry. Indigo, as his eyes.

"It is lapis lazuli" said Serge. Camus blinked and then looked into Serge's eyes waiting for an explanation. "I bought it as a souvenir during my last mission. But I did not have the chance to give you it. Some events made that I couldn't." Without waiting for the child reply or question, he placed the necklace around Camus' neck and fastened it. The child looked down then up. "Why?"

"There is no reason. I just wanted to give you something..."

"Th... Thank you" murmured Camus taking the pendant into his hand.

Serge ruffled the child's hair. "Can we go back home?" Camus nodded.

In silence the both walked to the house. Camus looked up at the Saint. He still had a stern expression but he knew why. His look returned to the path. "You don't need to be so worry, Serge" he said. The Saint looked down at the child taken aback by the sentence. "Come what may. If I have to die, so I will. You're not responsible of this situation."

"You have the skill to always surprise me..." A long silence settled. Only the sound of their paces broke the peaceful night. "And yet..."

Camus did not ask what the Saint meant by this last sentence. Maybe it was the conclusion of his thoughts. He saw the house where light was coming out of a window. He felt well and he suddenly thought that coming back home was something very calming and reassuring. It was not like he had been away of the house for a long time, but since he had made his decision of disobeying Serge, he did not feel well when he was at home. And it was worst when Serge was back. But tonight he felt in peace because Serge and he had decided to start on new basis without rejecting the old ones. It was the way he was feeling this night. Like a falling star one of Serge's sentence rang in his ears.

'I think it's enough. I don't know if it is for the Pope.' But it disappeared when Serge's hand brushed him.

Serge is right. It was good to come back home. He felt a pang. What about Tsakaklatos? He had been hard with him. He should make apologizes.

"Tsakalatos should be asleep by the time. At least, I hope." Camus just nodded. "Tomorrow will be soon enough."

"But harder...." concluded Camus.

"If you think so..." The Saint opened the door and let pass Camus. The latter stopped at the entrance and looked around him, as it was the first time he saw the house. Serge did not push him. He could understand Camus in a way. Then finally he came in and quietly, the Saint closed the door. Camus stayed near the door, not knowing what to do. Serge passed him and walked to the hearth where the meal was. He took off his cape and threw it on a chair. He looked at Tsakalatos. He was laying on the bed but he was sure he was not asleep. He could see the light shining through the lids and eyelashes. He did nave the confirmation of this fact when he frowned. The Greek child closed his eyes tightly.

The Saint took a plate and put some food in. "You must be hungry. Sit down and eat."

Camus turned his look to the Saint. He did not say him that he had eaten this afternoon with the Pope. The representative of Athena seemed to not want Serge to know that he was with him. The child had felt this perfectly well and he would not tell anything about this to the Silver Saint. He obeyed. He went to his place and sat. He glanced at Tsakalatos. The Greek child had his eyes closed, so he thought he was asleep. He sighed but he did not know if it was because of relief or disappointment. Slowly he took his fork and took some meat. He looked up and he saw the Saint sitting in front of him, a book in his hand.

"You should eat and then go to bed before it. Tomorrow will be a hard day." Camus nodded and took a swallow of his meal. "Tsakalatos improves a lot. You will maybe have some difficulty in beating him."

"It is only my fault" replied Camus glancing at Tsakalatos.

"Camus," began the Saint, "this time you've got to get it right" he said in French. "One mistake and it would be death. I would not been able to help you."

"Only if the Pope accepts that I have a second chance" replied in French language the child.

"You're right..." said the Saint. "If..."

Camus ate in silence, glancing time to time to the man who was reading in front of him. "You said I will train harder..."

"Right" replied the Saint without looking up from his book. "From tomorrow, you and Tsakalatos will train all morning long, study a part of the afternoon, and in the end of afternoon you will train again." Camus did not reply. "Have you finished?" The child only nodded. "So now go to bed. You should be awake at dawn."

Camus slid down the chair and walked to his bed. He glanced at Tsakalatos who had turned to the wall and then he started to take his clothes off slowly. He heard Serge putting the plate into the sink and then coming back to his place. "You don't go to bed?"

"I must wait for Saul" replied the Saint, sitting on the chair.

"Good night Serge."

"Good night, Camus" wished back the Saint.

Camus sighed and slipped into his bed. The cool sheets greeted him. He sank in them and he closed his hand around the pendant the Saint gave him. Laying on the bed and turned toward the Saint, he looked at the man reading the book. He did not tear his eyes from him. He was reassured that Serge had forgiven him, but the uncertain future that waited for him spoiled this moment. 'I really want to be like Serge...'

"You'd better sleep, Camus" said the Saint without looking at the child.

"I can't..."

"You're tired. Stop thinking... You had the all day for this."

"Does each question have its answer?"

"Yes and no. If you ask the right one. But a question can have lot of answers."

"Hmmmmmmm." Camus sighed and continued staring at the Saint. 'What relation do the Pope and he have? And why have I spent most of the afternoon with him?' He shivered when he remembered the sensation of the statue's cosmo. 'Did Serge feel it once?' Slowly his eyelids became heavy. Few minutes after, he was soundly asleep.

Serge raised his head and looked at the child. 'Welcome back, my child...' He sighed and closed the book. He turned to Tsakalatos and shook slightly his head. The child had waited for Camus' coming back, pretending to be asleep, but he had really fallen asleep, certainly because of relief.

'Those two boys... What would happen the day they would really be separated?'

He raised his head when he heard an owl hooting close to the house. The Grus Saint narrowed his eyes and extended his cosmo, sensing, looking for the thing or the one who had disturbed the bird. He sensed the pope's cosmo faraway. It was coming toward his house. Serge stood up and took his cape.

The Saint came out of the house and put his cape on his shoulders. He gave a last look on Camus then on Tsakalatos. He closed the door and walked away so that the boys did not hear him speaking with the Pope. He walked up a path and then he stopped waiting. He knew the chief of the Sanctuary would be here soon. He looked around him and then at the sky. The stars were shining brightly this night, but it was maybe a transposition of his current mood. Camus was all right and he felt better even if he was not sure that his 'protégé' was still safe. But he could not help thinking that the stars were shining brighter than yesterday. At the East, coming from behind the high crests, the last and thin crescent moon raised slowly, making fade the stars, the closest to it.

He sighed and he saw a shape swooping toward him quickly. He raised slowly his right arms and waited as the silhouette of a bird approached quickly before it flapped its wings, his talons before it, in order to slow down. Then it lit on the upper arm of the Saint who approached it toward his face.

"Pallas..." he said with a smile. "I haven't seen you since a long time..." The owl hooted and the man stroked her. "I still think the Pope should have given you another name." The bird hooted again. "So, did he send you to inform me he is coming or do you come all by yourself?"

The owl turned her face to the man and hooted once more before taking flight. She flew few seconds above the Saint's head and then flew away. Serge looked at her and drew his attention to the path. The Pope's cosmo was closer now, but rock faces of a cliff was still hiding him from his sight. He heard paces coming to his direction. He hardened. 'I will keep my promise, Camus.'

Serge saw shadows first and then the Pope and Ornytos who were walking down toward him. He did not move. Slightly, the Pope enjoined Ornytos to stop while he continued his way to the Grus Saint. Ornytos walked away and stop when he was off ear shots. He knew this gesture. The Pope wanted to be alone with the Silver Saint. Serge waited and knelt in front of the Pope when he stopped before him. "Your highness..."

"Stand up, Serge." The Grus Saint did what he was told. The Pope just stared at him. "What about Camus?"

The Saint looked swiftly toward the house. "He's sleeping, your Highness..."

"Have you accomplished your mission?"

"I think I have."

"You think?" asked the Pope. "I don't want this kind of answer, Silver Grus Saint Serge."

"I'm sorry, your Highness. I did not mean to upset you."

"So..."

"I decided to give Camus a second chance."

"You decided. Since when do you take decision for me?"

"Your Highness! Camus is only a child! He knows nothing! He knows what he did was wrong. He promised he won't do that again."

"And you trust him?"

"I do. Camus changed. He told me he wants to understand why his friends and I love Athena. He wants to understand why a Goddess is ready to fight against her peers to protect humans. He wants to understand and to find himself."

"Are you sure? Camus is a clever child, I have to admit this, but he could have guessed he would die. He could be afraid of dying..."

"He doesn't fear death" said firmly Serge. "For once Camus let me sound his soul out. No he doesn't fear it. What I told you is what I read in his mind. He wasn't afraid when I was about to kill him. Moreover..." Serge bent his head.

"Moreover?"

"He made a vow to Athena...."

"A vow? What vow?"

"I don't know. He did not want to tell me about it." Serge came closer to the Pope. "Camus deserves to have another chance. I'm ready to give him it. But he is aware that his promise of trying may not be enough for you."

"Is he ready to die?"

Serge closed his eyes, fighting against the pain in his heart. "He is..." he said in a breath. 'Better than I am...'

The Pope said nothing. He could read sadness in the Saint's cosmo. 'So he decided to change...' He glanced up aware that the silver Saint was still looking at him. "All right, then. Camus will have a second chance." Serge bowed in front of the Pope. "But, it's his last chance. Only one problem, only one wrong thing he could make will condemn him to death at the same minute. Have you understood well, Silver Saint?"

"I have your Highness."

"I trust you Serge. If you said you could have read Camus' soul, so I trust what you say me. All right then..." The chief of the Sanctuary turned and walked away leaving Serge lone.

"Shion..." whispered the Saint.

The Pope stopped and turned slowly to Serge. "I haven't heard my name since a long time..." whispered back the Pope. "You haven't said it since a long time, child..."

Serge looked at the masked face. "I owe you everything, and now..."

"You don't need to thank me Serge. I did what I had to. No one can act against his destiny." The Pope bent his head. "Oh, I nearly forgot. Ornytos told me you wanted to see me this afternoon..."

Serge only smiled and shook his head in denial.

"What is was about?"

"Nothing important like Ornytos told me."

"Was it?"

"It's over now. I've just overreacted" confessed the Saint looking down at his feet.

"Oh. I have a little idea about it. A strange blue green haired and indigo eyed boy who was totally lost and condemned to death."

Serge blushed. The Pope's cosmo become hard. "Serge. Stop thinking about him this way! You will suffer. He will suffer. You are his current teacher. Act like a master and not the way you do. Camus does have only one chance left. Don't waste it from him, if you love him that much."

"What you expect from me is..."

"You are at fault! You have fallen under his control. You don't have any detachment when he is concerned. Maybe should I think to take him away from you."

Serge shivered. "No! Order and I will obey. But what about Camus? He is ready to change..."

"No one can change is destiny, Serge. Make sure he will be ready for a dark future, that's all." The cosmo hardened few seconds and then returned into his kindness. "Sorry Serge. It's the way it should be. Every Saint must suffer. Camus must suffer too. And what he had experienced is nothing in regard of what would happen to him."

"Why?"

"I can't reveal you what I don't know yet" sighed the Pope. "I can't lie to you. It's only a feeling, an answer the stars gave me" He looked up at the sky. "And I can't order you to stop loving this innocent child."

"WHY?" shouted Serge. "Why Camus?"

"Athena chooses him..."

"Because he is not able to feel anything, to have no emotions? You want to make him what you decide he should be." The Pope did not move. "But what about Camus' feeling? What about him?

"Camus never knows his mother's love or someone's love. He doesn't know how to react. He needs someone to teach him. He will be taught, but as a Saint should be, Serge and not the way you want him to be."

"Camus would never be he..."

"Camus asks, I will have it."

"No it can't be..."

"If you don't he will suffer more. And..."

"And?"

"We are all shaped and molded. You are too. I shaped you when you were a child."

Serge bit his lips. "All right..." He turned his back to the Pope. "If I refuse someone else will have this task and everything should be started again. Camus will never be the Grus Saint. He doesn't have the gift. Why must I train? What about his future master? Who is he?"

"Athena still doesn't know who will be his master. Only make sure that Camus will be prepared to a dark future. Don't disappoint me this time, Serge. If you do you will not be the only one who will die..."

"I understand it well, your Highness" said Serge walking away from the Pope. He was angry, as never he had been against the Pope. He lived near him for a long time, and he discovered a stranger in front of him. While he was walking away, he sensed the Pope going to his Palace.

'Athena chooses him...'

'What is Camus' destiny?' he thought bitterly. 'Why should he suffer more than anybody else?' He took a deep sigh. He stopped at the edge of a cliff and he looked below. He saw nothing in the darkness and he did not want to see what was around him. He had the feeling to lose control on everything. 'Camus... Forgive me...'

He stayed a long moment at the same place looking below then at the starry sky searching for an answer. But he found no one. He suddenly heard a noise behind him. Someone was coming from behind. He felt cosmo spreading toward him and he knew who was behind him. 'What does he want?' he thought sighing silently.

There was a long silence. Serge did not turn but asked the question. "Why are you here, Saga?"

* * *

Saga saw the still silhouette staring at the stars. He frowned and he walked to it expanding his cosmo to let him know that he was coming. The shadow turned and waited. The teenager stopped few paces of it and looked up and down the Grus Saint.

"Why are you here, Saga?" asked Serge. But there was no hint of surprise in it. He stared at the blue haired teenager's face that was hard. "Should you not be at your training camp?" There was no answer. "Gemini Youri won't be glad to hear that you're here."

"He will not know..."

"Do you really think this, Saga. You underestimate a Gold Saint."

"Where is Camus?" asked all of sudden Saga.

"Camus?"

"Where is he? I heard that you weren't looking after him. Where is he?"

"Why do you want to know?"

"I made few promises. Why did you abandon him?"

"You think I abandoned him?"

"You abandoned him when he needed you the most!" growled Saga. "He is in danger and it's certainly too late." Serge arched his right eyebrow inquiringly. "He blasphemed. The Pope certainly knows this. You know what would happen to Camus..."

"Why are you here?" asked Serge seriously.

"As you don't seem to help him, I want to take him with me."

"In the Forbidden Valley? Why?"

"Because you betray him!"

"I betrayed no one and certainly not Camus" replied Serge in a deep voice unfolding his arms. "Camus was stupid enough to claim his impiouness, Saga. He is in the Sanctuary and the rules are the same for everybody. You will be a Saint soon, you know what is waiting for the ones to have such behavior."

"He is only a four years old child!!"

"Why? Why do you do this for Camus?"

"I've already answered you."

"Camus is safe" said Serge a long moment after. "You'd better concentrate on your training."

"Safe?"

"He's at home, sleeping. He promised he would not do that again."

"But, what about the Pope?"

"The Pope knows this and takes Camus' youth into account. He has another chance."

Saga sighed, relief crossing his features. His eyes shone. "Why have you acted like this? He was ready to die at the end of the morning..."

Serge hid his surprise. "Camus is clever enough to make out what we are expecting from him. Let him choose his own way. Don't you have the same relation with him, Saga?"

"You know?"

"Lots of adult act like you and I do in Camus' presence. Camus, despite of his obedience, is untamed, much more than Tsakalatos. He didn't know this. And I only discovered this when I came back."

"If nothing changed, would you let him die?"

Serge did not reply. He was ready to kill his child, but would he have really done this? He did not know. A long moment passed. "You should go back to the Forbidden Valley, Saga. Gemini Youri will be really angry."

"You haven't answered to my question."

"There is no need to. You'd better return in the Forbidden Valley, or you won't have your cloth. Don't waste your chance, Saga, and this because of a spoiled child."

"Camus is not a spoiled child" replied Saga coming closer to the Silver Saint. He looked at the amber eyes. "Will I be able to see him?"

"If he wants I don't have the right to forbid him this. But he will train hard from tomorrow on."

Saga only nodded and then walked away without another word. Serge watched him vanish in the darkness. He looked up at the sky. "You steal each heart that cross your way, Camus. You are very dangerous. Dangerous but interesting."

He walked back to the house. He opened the door and walked in. The first thing he did was to look at Camus' bed. The child was quietly and deeply sleeping. His glance came on Tsakalatos who was sleeping too. Then he walked to his 'protégé's bed. Slowly he stroked the blue green manes. "It's the last time, Camus. But before the dawn comes, I want you to know that you are special for me. I'm sorry, but it's the way it should be." After a last stroke he stood up and he went to the table. He sat but he did not tear his eyes from the sleeping silhouette.

He did not know how long he was watching Camus. he suddenly felt a presence near him. He raised his head and he saw Saul staring at him. The teenager had come in without his noticing. He frowned when he saw the dark look of the young man. "I did not hear you" he said in a whisper.

Saul did not reply and continued staring at the Saint.

Serge stood up and walked to the hearth. "Sit down. You should be hungry" he said taking a plate. He started to pour some soup in it.

"Stop acting like this, Serge" said the soldier.

Serge stopped pouring the meal into the plate. He glanced at Saul. Then he resumed his task.

"You will suffer. He will make you suffer. Camus should not be loved as you do."

"Why?" asked tersely the Saint putting the plate on the table.

"Camus brings pain around him. Never joy, only pain."

"You think he should not exist?" asked Serge without looking at Soul.

"You will suffer because of him and I don't want to see this. You're not yourself. You are someone different I can't recognize."

"I already suffer" noticed Serge. "You're not the one who can say me what I have to do."

"The Pope should have killed him."

"You don't like him because I don't have the same love I have for him as I have for you."

"Yes. I don't like him."

"I know and he knows. But that you like him or not, I won't choose, Saul."

"I know. I'm surprised you give me this answer. I've thought you would choose Camus..."

"I don't have this choice anymore, Saul. Camus is only a pupil I should train."

"Are you sure? It's too late, Serge. Far much too late."

"It is, Saul..." He sighed and turned to the young man. "But what is wrong in loving someone, Saul?" He shook his head in denial and went to his room. "I learnt to love, but Camus will never have this chance..." He closed the door of his room and leant against it. He glanced up to Athena's alcove. 'I think Camus was right. You're cruel, sometimes.' He sighed and went heavily to his bed hoping the night to not end quickly.

End of Chapter 4 -- To Be Continued


Seii says:

This chapter is dedicated to Stayka and Toffee. Few scenes would not have been written without their help and encouragement. Thanks a lot both of you ^___^ .*Big swan hugs*


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