The Yoke

© 2000 by Skögul

This page was last modified: 2000/02/04

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I can't remember many days without him. I wake up, and he's there, preparing breakfast. He looks at me, or at least I guess so. The mask hides his face and his eyes. I sort of feel it when he is studying me, but I am never sure.

He says I am too young to really feel it, to know when something happens on a mental basis. That's how he says it. He is so -- distant, like the stars he once showed me. He said: "These are your stars, remember them well. Their position. The intensity of their glow. Their beauty." I remember jumping on the last word, he never said anything like this, anything that was remotely close to feelings. After that day, he kept me too busy to look at the stars, and I almost forgot what they were like.

I guess Shion has a pretty hard time with me. I'm much of a menace, I guess, and I can't hide my grin when I think about the innumerable occasions on which I acted respectless and rude. I put frogs in his water he placed besides the training ground. I put his hair on fire while he slept. I tied the leather bonds of his shoes into a complicated knot and hid behind a rock to witness how my sensei had to teleport himself to the kitchen to get a knife to free himself. I tried everything you could think of to get a reaction out of this man that was different from the usual "Mu, come here!" and the beating afterwards. To no avail...

It is not that this behaviour isn't very fitting with my personality. I am a rascal, I feel my whole body shudder in anxiety, when I see Shion tap into another trap I have laid for him. Whenever Shion leaves me alone to go whereever else he is needed, I turn to animals. Some, I have to admit, I teased to death. I'm not sure if Shion knows about this. Whenever he comes back, I feel a tension in his whole being, and these are the moments when I duck in my room, feeling heavy and depressed.

Sometimes, however, he mutters a strange sentence. Whenever he has given me my beating, and my face remains a grinning grimace, only trying to look rueful, he says, as if to himself: "This is not going to tame him, but the test surely will."

I have spent nights wondering what he meant with this. Which test? And why should I be tamed? I succeeded in every new step he took me on my way to become a Saint. I was strong, he told me, one of the strongest. I felt good when he said that. He stated it rather low voiced, laconic. I, on the other hand, said it to myself triumphantly, imagining other Saints trying to challenge me, and I beat them all. No, they didn't challenge me, I challenged them, and when I had defeated them all, I was their leader, their champion!

When Shion leaves me alone at night, and I crawl under my sheets, feeling the loneliness of the Pamir mountains creep into the spire, trying to catch me by the arm, by the leg, anything that is outside my covers, when I feel the darkness reach for my heart, even for my soul, I imagine how great it would be to be worshipped by the others, be with the others, oh yes, not having to be so alone anymore...

The other thing Shion tried to teach me was healing, the healing of humans, animals and the healing of Cloths. I never succeeded. I thought that was the reason why I never succeeded in finally becoming a Saint and getting my Cloth. Shion, however, never seemed to worry about it. He only muttered to himself again, and I heard the word "test" once more. I was really curious then.

After a while of theoretical healing lessons Shion says he would have to leave for Sanctuary for a while. And off he goes. A last ray of light flickers in the air, and he is gone, teleported away.

I let myself fall to the ground, my hands searching subconsciously for some pebbles, small rocks. I gather a neat pile. Then I throw them at the place where Shion stood a minute ago. I throw them until I have no more rocks.

The next days I spend alone in the spire, and outside. I'm bored. I'm lonely. I train a little and finally simply sit down and brood.

As if on cue, rays of light appear in the air in front of me, and Shion stands there, and his hand is stretched out towards me. "You! The time for your test has come!" I don't even have time to rise, as I am teleported into nowhere right from the spot where I was sitting.

Nowhere is a pretty boring place, lest there is someone with you. I notice Shion appears in the blackness that sourrounds us. He floats towards me... I try to float to, but unlike him, I have no control over where I am hovering to. I simply hang there and see him approaching. With every inch he comes closer, I feel my heart beat faster, my throat narrows, and my skin shows goosebumps. When he is only a heartbeat away, I feel pure horror. My limbs hang in the air and I'd fall if I didn't float.

It is such a simple, undramatic gesture when he puts off his mask. I see his gentle face, so much like mine, the marks on his forehead. His eyes watch me lovingly, like a father his son. I see sorrow in those eyes, and many many years. His hair floats around him as we just hover there, he seems to hold me with his gaze, wrap me into the embrace of his eyes, never has he let me come so close, and I realize, that this is goodbye, not just from him, but from myself. His fingertips touch my forehead, the two marks, and all goes black.

Then I fall, and once I reach the ground I don't feel my impact on the ground, but an impact of something on me. My head rises in pain, in sheer agony, as an incredible weight pushes me to my knees, makes me lie flat on the ground, my face pressed to a smooth black surface I can't distinguish from the blackness that surrounds me. My body gets seathed in sharp pain, and then it reaches my soul.

And nothing is the same as it has been. Like tissue my soul soaks up what I have received from Shion. I see 200 years behind a mask. I see war, death, wounded. I see hope and misery. I see other lifes before Shion, all the Aries Saints all their battles and wars, all their grief and sorrow, and their small happiness and joy. Centuries of lifetime crush into my mind, an merge with my being. I feel my healing ability develop as it is touched by those of the former Aries Saints. I feel my compassion enhanced by pictures of dead and wounded in the many wars that have taken place in the name of Athena and the gods. I feel sobered up by the loneliness of an over 200 year old trapped behind his mask and the knowledge that he has to break his pupil to make him become a Saint, that his has to do this to him.

Then the pressure stops, as all of it is inside me, and my heaviness, the pain of the overload wring a wrenched cry from my lips. I lift my head and see Shion. His face is wet with tears, and his eyes never leave me. He suffers more than I do, seeing me like this, his pupil, his beloved pupil, as I finally manage to understand, and living it again himself, living his own intitiation, his own test once again, once more. I want to reach out to him, touch him, comfort him. I can take it, I want to say, it's not that bad.

Then a glow from above makes me look up. A golden object lowers itself on me. I see that it's a Cloth. My Cloth. I am lifted from the ground into an upright position and it puts itself on me faster than I had imagined. For a second I feel as proud as imagining my defeating the other Saints when I was alone at night.

I turn to Shion, almost grinning, the weight of the experience of the other Aries Saints feeling lighter, nothing can take my high spirit of me, but Shion looks to the ground. I see his shoulders shake, he's crying heavily. I know instantly that it's not envy. I feel his love, his pride. Another golden light makes me look up again. I see an object in the shape of two horns, held together by a very small head of a ram. I check my Cloth and realize that the horns of the Aries Cloth were nowhere to be found. I lift my head to stare on the object again, like a rabbit at a snake, while it lowers itself on me.

The horror I feel now is even bigger than the one I felt when Shion had touched me what seems centuries ago. This thing seems to embody everything I feared -- emprisonment, duty, modesty, demureness, humbleness, subordination. It comes closer, the glow touching me like fire. A yoke.

Then it presses itself on my shoulders, and duty encloses me like a coffin. And I break.

I open my eyes and look into Shion's. When I sit up I realize that we are back in Pamir, in front of the spire. I look down on my body and see the cloth. Shion's tears fall on it and mingle with mine. Then we both stop crying. I notice that the grief I feel for the loss of my personality is like a scratch on an icy surface, my inside remains untoched, though strangely hollow. I look at Shion, and know that I have the same look in my eyes: detached, respectful, perfect. Duty forged me new. I'm a Saint of Athena, ready to live and die for my goddess if required. I will always reason over my actions, and never permit myself to let myself go...

"That was my test? I ask, my voice feeble. He nods.

"You either manage to take the lifes of all Aries Saints that have come before you and the heavy weight of duty, or you die."

My head flows around and I see Shion who looks at me as if to say good bye forever. I feel my heart well up and my own, buried personality touch the icy surface.

"Sensei, don't go!" He just gives me that enigmatic look I'll never forget and smiles.

"I hoped so much it wouldn't break all of you..." he smiles even broader. "Don't let anybody fool you." His eyes search my face. Then as if content to find what he was looking for, he puts on his mask and leaves.

The End

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