Unbroken

Part Three: Shaka

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2000/07/14


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"In your eyes of grey,
not light nor dark can reach through;
such pale winter moons!"

- Haiku for Ganymede, by Scorpio Blood-

Shaka:

The Kyoko called me, it had been a long time since I had been summoned up to see him. It had been a long time since I had been bothered by human things. But, this man was the representation of our Goddess, almost as high as I was, and it was thanks to him - us much as I disliked owing anything to anybody at all - that I had attained this blessed purity.

Such as would be expected of the man closest to God.

It had been almost two years now since my small affair with Milo, and I had seen very little of him in that time. I wasn't sure whether he was avoiding me, or I was too uninterested to find him out, but the fact was that I had seldom laid my eyes on him for quite a while.

Not that I minded really, I just wondered sometimes what had become of the Scorpio Saint.

The last clear memory I had of Milo was of that time, in his room. Of him staring at me, hoping I could tell him something I did not know. Of his tears and his eyes that pleaded for me to see... but there was nothing for me there. There hadn't been much in the first place.

And from that day on I had lived in a blessed numbness, and absence of feelings and fears that was a soothing balm to the inner turmoil I had lived in up to then. Now my inner self matched the one I displayed.

I was pure.

I knelt before the Kyoko and bowed my head, a low obeisance I had not trouble performing: this man was worthy of my respect.

"Virgo Shaka, it is good that you have come." His voice was calm and unaffected, the voice of the emissary of a Goddess.

"I am faithful, lord." I acknowledged him and looked up, my eyes closed nonetheless. "But why have I been summoned, if I may ask?"

I heard a soft metallic laugh coming from in front of me, but it took me a while to realise it was him who laughed, so cruelly. "It seems like we have - once again - found a traitor in our midst."

"Lord?" I inquired, surprised but this sudden revelation. I opened my eyes to gaze at the tall figure sitting on the throne, and saw his shoulders shake with silent laughter.

"Blood binds us strongly, do you not think? A traitor's blood runs through the veins of his family, and thus they too, in time, become traitors." I felt a twinge of something; not quite surprise, but close enough.

"Traitor blood-binds? You mean... Aiolia? Leo Aiolia?" The Kyoko nodded and one again he laughed.

"Indeed, the faithful lion turns on against us now." I shook my head and sighed .

"Why was I called here now, then?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at the Kyoko. He leaned back into his throne and crossed his legs.

"I wanted to have you forewarned, when he comes you will fight him, so be ready any time now. That is all, be gone, Virgo Shaka" I stared at him blankly.

If there was anybody who deserved the title of the most devoted, that had to be Aiolia, yet now the Kyoko proclaimed him to be a traitor. It sounded strange... but then, Aiolos had been just as faithful until the day he suddenly - and for no reason - turned on Athena and tried to kill her mortal body. Why shouldn't Aiolia be the same?

And who was I to question the Kyoko, who certainly received word from Athena in such affairs!

I smiled vaguely as I left the temple and walked down the stairs calmly.

Let the lion come... let him taste my heavenly justice.

* * *

Camus:

I reached the doorstep of the Aries Temple and spread my cosmo to announce my arrival. I had expected no answer from this temple, that was normally unoccupied; but a warm aura touched mine and acknowledged my presence. I blinked and stepped up closer until the massive doorway overshadowed me.

"Aquarius Camus... Welcome." A gentle friendly voice greeted me, and through the shadows I saw a figure walk up to meet me.

"Mu? Aries Mu?" I asked, surprised at finding him here, in his temple. We had seen very little of the Aries saint in these past years, as he lived isolated near the Tibet, training his pupil.

I felt something twist inside me as I thought of my pupils... and quickly dispelled the thought.

The tall Jamilon nodded and smiled, lilac eyes shining patiently; still, behind all that peace there was a strength in his gaze and a steadiness in his stance that spoke of his true nature. An Aries, and a powerful one. " It has been quite a while."

"Indeed." I agreed, and then fell silent. Mu leaned his weight on one leg and smiled softly.

"Pass through, Milo is in his temple." I frowned slightly, and then smiled. Of course, Mu was a psychic, it was easy for him to determine my thoughts if I had my guard down.

So I hastily gathered up my inner defences.

"Thank you." I replied, feeling the appeasing warmth of his cosmo drowning his temple, brining life to the old, forgotten stone. He let out a short cheerful laugh as he felt my inner barrier slide into place and shook his head.

"And while you are at it, would you please tell him to be careful with who he messes with? It Aiolia comes back now and finds him as he is, blood will out." I blinked, a bit taken aback.

Whatever was Milo up to now? I shook my head and bid Mu farewell, hastening my pace to the Scorpio Temple.

The sun shone with an intensity that made me extremely uncomfortable; used as I was to Siberia's pale sunshine and ever-cold light. Yet here there were no white plains here, no endless fields of snow... nor any laughter.

Here the sky was neon blue and the sun hot and uncomfortable.

I decided against walking up the steps the whole way: the day was far too hot for that. So I took one of the secret passages, and let out an annoyed gasp as the sweltering air closed in around me, almost choking me.

I was quite glad when I came out, a few metres below the entrance to the Scorpio temple, the sun just as strong but the air slightly more breathable.

I didn't even want to imagine what a tropical country felt like, if this so called "moderate heat" could make me feel this bad. Or perhaps it was because I felt sick inside of myself too.

And I wished I could go back, not only to Siberia, but to my past...

It was just a feeling though, and I did not know why I felt it. Perhaps it was that after all these years I had grown used to my pupils, and now that training was over I felt strangely empty... and alone.

I walked into the temple and sent out a small wave of cosmo to warn Milo of my arrival, but no answer came. I waited, and still nothing.

It surprised me a bit, so I moved in and looked for him, and finally came to the staircase that led to his quarters, under the ground.

"Milo?" I called out, hoping he would answer me. I heard a muffled sound and a laugh, obviously not Milo's.

"I'm here. Come down, Camus." I hesitated, knowing that there was somebody else in his room. But at last I made up my mind, I had come to see him after all.

I reached the bottom and opened the door slowly, feeling the warmth of candlelight filter through the small opening. I swallowed, and stepped in.

His room looked much different since I had seen it last. The comfortable, homely looking furniture had been replaced by darker coloured couches of a shiny material, and the entire room was crowded with stout red candles that burned lowly, casting irregular shadows on the two figures that lay on the bed in a tangle of black silk sheets.

"I'm glad you came! It has been quite a while..." Milo got up and walked up to me, wearing a pair of loose white trousers he had obviously slipped on as I descended the stairs. His hair was tousled, his eyes were bright and... cold. And there was the telltale flush on his cheeks, and a sheen of perspiration on his chest, that warned me of what he had been up to only minutes before. Probably even as I strode into his temple.

I frowned, suddenly and irrationally deeply concerned for him...

For he seemed to have gone back to his previous self; his darker more lustful side that wanted only to forget.

"Don't worry in the least bit... Kat and I are quite finished here." It was only then that my eyes fell on the other person, that lay on the bed still, languorously stretching and half purring.

"Kat...?" The candlelight stroked the voluptuous curves of a female body, highlighting a rich blonde mane that spread like sun-flames all around her face. And there, where a woman's features should have been, the candles illuminated a smooth silver mask, decorated with stripes on it's cheeks, like those of a tiger. The woman rose and held a long black sheet around her nude body, her movements slow and deliberately sensual. "Katrina!? Milo what on earth are you doing!?"

Milo laughed, a rich delighted laugh, full of malice. "I have been having some sex, what else?"

Beside him, Katrina snickered, sounding like a hissing cat. "I should be going..."

"Indeed!" I exclaimed, fixing my eyes on Milo's, waiting for him to explain himself.

"For now... but you can come back whenever you wish, Kittikat, I'm always ready for you." Milo bit his lip suggestively as he watched her disappear into the bathroom. I could not believe he was being like this, in front of me!

I stared at him as he sat on his bed and shrugged on a light blouse, saying nothing to me, not even acknowledging my presence. A few minutes later Katrina came out wearing a tight silver dress, her hair wet and brushed into submission. She mock bowed at Milo and then more seriously at me, and walked up the stairs and out of the temple.

I waited until I knew she was out of earshot, which with Katrina was often hard to achieve. "Milo, explain yourself to me, for this is very serious."

"What? That I slept with a female saint? Oh please!" He gave me a joking look and flopped down on his bed.

"If Aiolia finds out you were sleeping with his pupil he will go through the roof." I informed him coldly.

"Katrina" He stressed her name, eyeing me mockingly. "Is a confirmed saint now, the Lynx Silver saint, remember?" He inquired, feigning an innocent look.

"Saint or no she is still only Fourteen! And Aiolia's favourite pupil, you should be careful!." I didn't want him to get into trouble, and Milo DID have a tendency to bit off more than he could chew.

"The little fiend has been sleeping around with men all over the Sanctuary since she was twelve, curse her early-developed body." Milo stretched then, and lay back on his bed quite calmly. "She is no longer Aiolia's problem, from the minute she became a saint her teacher was no longer needed."

I felt something cold grip my heart as I heard this, and I regretted coming here. I regretted having thought I could talk to Milo about what I felt; and how much I hurt, about what had befallen me after I returned to Siberia, almost two years ago. And here was the Scorpio saint, a monster I knew nothing of.

Or at least that was what it felt like.

"You are always a teacher, even after they leave you... they will need you again." I spoke more of myself than of Aiolia, and Milo noticed it. He rose up on his elbows.

"Something wrong with you brats?" He asked without much enthusiasm. My head jerked up to meet his gaze, and I was stunned by the pain and turmoil in his eyes, mixed with a sort of cruelty that had never been there before: a desire to lash out at anything or anybody.

Where was Milo?

The Milo I knew and cared for so much?

Still I gave it one last try, to tell Milo of what I felt, trying to open up to him so he could open up to me too.

"They will die." I could not keep the pained note out of my voice, and Milo took notice of this too. But he only shrugged and smiled ironically.

"We all do." And laughed then, almost as of the idea delighted him. "Forget them, you fulfilled your duty, why worry about them now?"

I shook my head, my throat suddenly tight. "Isaac is dead."

"Who the hell is Isaac?" He demanded, getting up to serve himself a drink... still at smuggling alcohol into Sanctuary, it seemed.

"My oldest pupil." I replied as Milo poured something indefinable into his glass, and didn't even bother to offer me some. Not that I would have said yes... but the lack of deference hurt me.

Milo blinked and the shrugged. "See, told you. I bet the you the other one dies within the next five months!"

I stared at him, unable to believe he had just said that. Unable to truly accept that this grinning demon was the Milo I had grown up with. What on earth had happened to him? But I was too hurt by his

incomprehension to worry, too lonely now that I had seen him.

And that cold place in my heart longed to go back to the past...

Where I could still remember laughter...

Snowy plains and clear peals of laughter like sleigh-bells...

All gone now.

* * *

Shaka:

The Aquarius saint was back...

I felt his cold aura flow into the barrier our cosmo's formed, like a river of ice over the warmth of our combined powers. Yet there was an unsettling feeling in his aura... one that I could not probe fully, for he kept himself carefully shielded from any such invasion.

His arrival changed nothing really... except perhaps he would tame Milo a bit.

True, I had seen little of him, but rumours spoke of Scorpio to be quite changed... or should I say, more himself?

He seemed to have returned to what he was before our little... exchange.

Quite unsurprising, but still it made me wonder what could have happened that pushed him in that direction again?

And then there was Mu's sudden reappearance.

He had left Sanctuary long before he became a full fledged saint, never giving any reasons why. He just never came back... he used to train between Sanctuary and some spot near the Tibet - I did not quite recall the name - where he and Shion lived. But one day he simply never returned, and Shion himself never went back to see him. Some time later we received news that said Mu was the Aries saint now, but until today no one had seen him...

And strangely enough, the Kyoko seemed to have no plan of visiting him.

Odd.

I sighed and walked up to my bed where I lay down and curled up slightly.

Anyway... all I had to do was wait for Aiolia to show up and kill him...

Strangely, the idea didn't bother me in the least bit. Why should it? I was paving my passage into my next life, helping the world. Although the Kyoko was regarded as evil I knew otherwise, he was at the service of Athena. And if Aiolia had all of a sudden turned on her, and sided himself with an impostor, the he deserved to die.

It would even be an honour for his life to end at the hands of the man closest to God... for that I was indeed.

Nothing human could touch me, I was quite invincible.

* * *

Camus:

I walked slowly up to my temple, taking each step at a time and concentrating on them fully, so I didn't have to think about anything else. As I reached the top I felt rather than heard a presence following me. I stopped and glared up at the cliff's edge that stood beside the expanse of stairs. Something moved among the rocks at the top, leaping from one ledge to another with feline grace.

It came to a stop just a few metres above me, glaring at me with huge amber eyes. The creature was crouched, bent upon itself, ready to pounce. It was a dark gold colour, with uneven spots on it's back and small powerful limbs. It emitted a small growling sound and shifted its weight.

A lynx.

"Katrina... what is the meaning of this?" I asked, my voice cold and even, as I glared up at the offending creature.

The feline huffed and leaped into the air, spinning as it reached the ground and landed on all fours like any common cat. Then it seemed to unravel itself from the animal position and stood up on it's hind legs, until it faced me completely. Even with high heels Katrina only reached up to my chest, she was petite compared to all the other female saints. But had twice their personality.

"I need to talk to you." She had a rich sweet voice, with the receding hints of an American accent.

I let my gaze sweep over her, admiring how she looked now that she was indeed a saint.

Her cloth imitated a lynx's hide perfectly, only it had a more golden sheen, but the play of shades made it look like actual fur and not smooth metal. The head piece was shaped like the face of a lynx, and it covered her head and the upper half of her face. Beneath that, the dull silver gleam of her mask could be seen. It wasn't a particularly flashy cloth, since stealth was what it was intended for; it was mostly smooth curves that clung to the body of its wearer.

"Whatever of?" I replied, feeling tired and ill and most definitively in no mood to deal with this child's explosive humour.

"You won't tell my teacher I was with Milo, will you?" There was not a trace of contriteness in her voice, but it was obvious that she worried over Aiolia's opinion of her. But still, there was something odd in her voice, almost like...

"He probably knows anyway." If indeed she had been sleeping around for years now Aiolia was bound to know, he just let her be. Katrina perked up slightly, her shoulders stiffening and her body assuming an almost hopeful posture.

What was up with this girl?

"You are right... but still..." I cut her off with a dismissing gesture.

"I won't tell. It's not like Aiolia and I talk that much either." She nodded vaguely and tossed her head to throw her long golden mane behind her shoulders. But my last statement had seemed to make her somewhat unhappy. Her shoulders sagged and she sighed.

Did she want me to tell Aiolia?

"You don't think it's worth bothering him?" She spoke lowly, a furious edge to her sweet voice that chilled me. I frowned and ran a hand through my hair - a gesture I had picked up from Milo, no doubt.

"Forgive me if I am mistaken, but why do I get the impression that you WANT him to find out about your sleeping around?" She jerked back, like I had burned her, shifting her weight from one foot to another like a jittery cat.

"He knows... but not about Milo." She clenched her small fists in an almost helpless gesture. "I would like to know what happens if he finds out about Milo too." Then she looked up at me, the glowing amber eyes of her mask lighting up softly.

"Then tell him yourself, child." I replied coldly, sensing something quite unexpected here.

"Right..." She seemed to accept this. And indeed, I had no intention of acting as a gossip, accusing this girl of doing something that was ultimately her decision. The problem was, Milo was quite a different story when one compared him to the other men in Sanctuary, and he was the same age as Aiolia... it was natural to assume the Leo saint would be angry of he found out what his little girl was doing... or who she was doing it with. But she had said he knew she slept around... and she evidently wanted him to find out about her latest conquest - if it could be called that - which was odd. Unless she did all of this to get on his nerves... or to make him jealous.

The child was infatuated with her teacher?

I smiled sadly at the thought, and wondered if it was mutual... I was quite sure such relationships were forbidden.

And Aiolia had the Aquila saint, Marin.

So if Katrina could not have him she could obviously annoy him by giving herself to everybody else.

Which meant she had probably confessed to Aiolia and was rejected... what a mess.

Aah sensei... sometimes I realise you were so right!

I raised an eyebrow at her, and she seemed to shake herself out of some deep thought. Then she crouched on her hands and jumped up the cliff face, once again looking like nothing more than a big cat.

I sighed and made my way up to my temple, concentrating on the stairs.

Nothing had changed, the high dome up above looked just as cold and lonely as before, and the stone was the same, smooth and silent and devoid of any soul. Nothing here could be found, that could tell of all the past Aquarius saints, their lives were erased as soon as they were succeeded.

I though briefly of Isaac then, who would have been my successor, and who was now dead.

Lost in the freezing tides, gone.

It had hurt, as much as the child bored me, for he had been my responsibility. But he was dead now, so there was not much else to do. I realised that I had viewed Isaac as a sort of duty to fulfil, and I with his death I had failed.

I was well aware that I had treated Isaac very much in the same way Ganymede had taught me. Sometimes it infuriated me, that my teacher's words had been so accurate, that he could have known that I would train my own pupil like that too. But that was just the way it had to be, the only way. And my memories of Ganymede only served to convince me more of this; I refused to live a life like the one he led, and I refused to let a pupil of mine fall into such a trap.

Still... there was Hyoga...

I shook my head and closed my eyes, leaning against the cool stone of the archway at the entrance to the temple. I had no true successor now... with Isaac dead. In more than one way Isaac had been the perfect candidate. Maybe that was why I disliked him, because he was too much like me; too cold and detached and dutiful, but that was the way it was supposed to be...

And that was why I could have made Hyoga my successor... but I didn't.

It hurt...

I had so wanted to talk to Milo... to let it all out and feel that gentle bond of friendship we had always shared, and forget everything else. I had my duty, and friendship, all else was unimportant. It had to be...

But the Milo I cared for, was lost. Or perhaps not.

I had to try it again; I had to try to find out why he was acting like this now.

I walked into my quarters and flopped down onto my bed with a heavy sigh.

Yes, I had to try it. There was something odd about him now, for the more I thought about it the more I realised that he had not gone back to the way he was before... it was different now, and much worse.

Much much worse.

* * *

Milo:

So, he was back...

I sighed and ran a hand through my hair, wincing as it caught in a few knots. I stretched my arm and picked up my comb from my bedside table, sitting up to brush my hair. It was a stupidly distracting thing to be doing, but I could think of nothing else for now. I had run into Kat earlier today, and neither of us saw the harm in having a little fun. Besides, there was no problem; it was evident that she wanted to do it to spite Aiolia, and I only wanted some distraction.

Two years ago, it had been usual for me to have three or four lovers a week, and I enjoyed them, safe and appeased in a world of nothing but sensations. Making love then had been almost a necessity, I could see that now. As long as I took out all my energy on playing around I had not time to worry about feeling other things.

More accurately, I didn't have to worry about feeling at all.

But that had changed. I had hated my way of being, so when another possibility was given to me I took it. I changed and opened myself up, trying to go back to what I had been before, trying to regain the parts of my soul that had been lost so long ago... when I was with Saga.

And I had. In more than one way I had returned to my prior self, but with the strength and knowledge of my present too. But had that been for? Recovering the ability to feel, to love, to hate...

All of that had done me no good in the end. What was the use of such banal emotions to an assassin? When my duty lay in killing without remorse, just like I had been forced to kill so many now?

How many people had I brought final judgement to?

Ten?

Twenty?

Maybe more than a hundred, and yet their faces could not be farther off from my mind. Only two faces plagued me still... those of the only two people I had killed while I felt.

The first, my forgotten teacher, Scorpio Blood, whom no one remembered and no one mourned. There were so many things about him I never understood... but some where clearer to me now. I had found out a few vague details about his affair with a runaway female trainee, and that he seemed to be in love with her at that time. What a foolish thing; yet, had I not indulged in the same self-destructive behaviour, myself?

And I had survived it too, like Blood. And indeed, we had both become quite similar...

Whom I could never figure out was his lover, Aquarius Ganymede, who was like closed book. Nothing could ever be read in his grey eyes, and no emotion ever showed in his face. But he came at least once every three months and made love to my teacher. Why? I could never find it out. Nor did I ever discover what it was that Gabriel learned with him, that changed him into the man known as Camus.

So many things that would probably never be explained, and all that remained was the emptiness in Blood's eyes as he lay dead. All the depth gone from them, all the mystery, all the fire, all the power... His eyes had been deep like the sea, and turbulent despite the pale hue. But that day, as he lay on the cold stone, his own life seeping into the ground, his eyes had been empty and shallow.

I doubted his lover would have recognised him then; I barely could.

And who remembered you now, my master?

But it was not so long after that I lost my emotions, so from all my killings during my youth it was only Blood's face that haunted me. Now, however, it was different.

After my little... incident - I decided smiling - with Shaka, I had allowed my feelings to return, and it was like this that I was sent to kill Cepheus Albior. And how I had doubted!

The whole episode had been one long torture. And for what!? We would fight for Athena, and we would die for Athena. From the moment we became saints our life belonged to her, and we had no right to question a Goddess. What was the point of hating or loving my enemy if the choices were not mine? If my life in itself did not belong to me, but to a Goddess who could order me to die tomorrow and I would have to obey?

So I had more or less gone back to my colder self. Not truly, but I had in my way of behaving. I still felt, and I hated Shion now more than ever, just as those two faces were my waking nightmare, just as I still could not think of Saga without wanting to die.

But if I was to live like this, why not have fun? Why not make love to whomever I pleased, and why not take advantage of what little freedom I had left? Back then sex had been an anchor, now it was merely a distraction from my life.

But I had not expected to see Camus again so soon.

It had only been four months since my mission in Andromeda Isle, and even thought I had resumed my role as Sanctuary's assassin, I was not ready to face my friend's questioning gaze.

In more than one sense I had given up, I saw no point to my existence except to go on killing over and over again until it was I who fell... and I yearned for that day.

But Camus... he was different. To him honour and duty ran stronger in his veins, and they were enough to hold him together. Or were they? Today he had come not to scold me, nor to report to the Kyoko. He had come because he needed to see me, he needed to tell me something. And I had laughed at him and pushed him away. I knew I had hurt him, deeply, but I could not bring myself to be any other way.

He was the perfect saint, he had found a way to live in peace with himself. It was too humiliating to have him come to me when he needed to talk. I had no advice to give save for him wait until he died, for then there would be no more pain. But Camus' wouldn't take such council, so there was no point in talking to him.

Or was I just deluding myself?

I had felt so ashamed of myself as I talked to him, and his eyes had been so dark with pain and worry... He had come because he truly needed me, like I had needed him so many times before. And it embarrassed me to see what I had become, and that I could not help him any more than I could help myself.

And because of my own smouldering shame I had hurt him.

I closed my eyes and lay back on my bed, the sheets were cold and damp, it made me shudder with involuntary disgust.

But what more could I do? Even if I went to him what could I possibly say? He was so obviously troubled himself, what was the point of adding myself to his list of worries and pains?

Or was I just afraid of admitting I had become a disgrace?

* * *

Shaka:

I sat cross-legged on the soft grass that covered the vast garden of the Twin Sala, and allowed myself a few hours of leisurely enjoyment, drinking a cup of tea and watching the wind turn the green expanse into an undulating sea, as the illusion of waves played upon the long grasses. Soon the flowers would bloom, and then it would be truly a beautiful sight... yet I tended to prefer this calm garden as it was now. The blue sky above, and the green sea below; nothing else.

It was a soothing balm to the turmoil we had to go through everyday in Sanctuary, but it was enough for me.

I extended my cosmo to see if Aiolia was anywhere near arriving, but he was still faraway, and thus none of my concern for now.

I let myself fall into a light trance and began to meditate.

* * *

Camus:

It was that dream again... I could never quite get rid of it. It had haunted my nights when I was a child, and even though it grew fainter and less vivid as time went by it could still hunt me down sometimes. When I was alone, when I felt despair ... that dream was always at the turn of the corner. The dream in itself was the proof of my decisions... and one of the reasons why I simply could not fall in love.

I shook my head to dispel the memory, but it hung in my mind like a grim reminder of what I had represented. I didn't even remember the name of the city it took place in... all I knew was the at some point the dream had been real, that it had happened... even thought it was just a ghost of my childhood by now.

It had once been true.

The images were dark always, and the feeling one of intense fear and sadness. And always there was only a faint light, like that of a small candle... a light that could be called romantic, except it was a mockery. There was always laughter, and then cries, and the pungent scent of red wine and cheap perfume.

Always teasing me, at the very border between sleep and wakefulness. Yet I had not seen the dream for a long time... until two years ago.

When Isaac died... when I saw that I could not change Hyoga's weakness... then the dream came back, laughing in my face with the shadows of my past, until my younger disciple's love for his mother became my waking nightmare and torture; until I wished I could kill so I didn't have to see him go into a fight...

So I could indeed forget the sweet laughter that had, for almost four years, banished the dream from my mind.

Perhaps that was why I had come here, to look for Milo. Because I needed to talk to someone, to tell him of my dream, which I had kept to myself until now... to tell him of Isaac and Hyoga... because for the first time in my life I did not think I could go on.

And now... Milo was faraway.

That creature had not been my Milo... not the Milo I left behind two years ago, nor the Milo I had befriended after love broke him for good. This was cold monster with a cold soul... or so he would have me believe.

I closed my eyes and leaned my head on my pillow, feeling the cold starched sheets, immaculate still; and let my thoughts go free as I tried to relax and sleep in the appeasing coolness of my temple, until reality faded and a dark mist descended upon my sleep.

And the dream returned as it had done constantly, for the past two years.

* * *

Milo:

It was almost dusk. The sunlight was fading fast and the horizon had begun to show the pale red and purple hues of sundown, as the remaining light struck the clouds at odd angles making them look like a golden dusting on the darkening sky.

I had waited for Camus to come back down, and try to speak to me again, but he did not. I had slipped into more decent clothes and had cleaned my room up a little to make it presentable, and then I had waited for him to come back down. Whenever we were at odds he generally showed up a while later, after giving me time to cool down, and set things right in a calm fashion. It was out of custom that I had assumed he would show up and give me a chance to explain... but the point was that he didn't, and I felt worse than ever.

I tapped my foot on the floor, hearing it echo all over the temple as I paced from one side to another, stopping only to glance occasionally out the massive doorway.

But he didn't come.

I stopped and crossed my arms, unsure of what to do now. Go up and act as mediator myself this time? He had seemed to take my offence to heart, so perhaps the fact that he had not come was a clear signal that he wanted nothing more with me after the things I said...

I shook my head and growled. I was just tying myself into knots! Maybe he just wanted to see if I was interested enough in our friendship that I would decided to fix things for once.

Or maybe he was just tired from the trip and he fell asleep.

I leaned against a pillar and sighed. He really managed to confuse me completely, even if he didn't mean to...

But, whatever happened to me should not affect the fact that he had always been there for me, so I at least owed him that. I could go up there and listen to him, and perhaps give him some small advice.

No reason to pull him down along with me, nor to shame myself any further in his eyes by dishonouring our bond. I pushed away from the pillar and walked out of my temple to the nearest passage, that would take me fastest to his temple.

I arrived at his temple about half an hour later... he was in there, I could feel him. But he gave no answer when I extended my cosmo to let him know it was me. I stood at the entrance, wondering whether I should go in and face him, or take the hint and let him be.

"Camus?" I called, trying to make him out in the fast fading light. But not a single shadow moved. I waited a bit longer, and then finally stepped in. I didn't know why, but I simply couldn't let things be as they were. He was more important to me than I liked to admit, and despite my lack of interest in my own life, I could not help feeling compelled to help him.

Ahh... even after Saga threw me away, he was always there. You were, since then, the only one who could make me feel anything. It was you that helped me remain even vaguely human... I cannot cast you off.

I can hate my life, my Goddess, my very reason to live...

But I cannot hate you, my friend. I cannot.

I walked through the temple briskly, and pinpointed his location easily. He was in his room, that was a spacious rounded hollow in the rock that stood beside his temple, where they both touched. I knocked on the door softly, but he didn't answer.

"Camus... It's me, Milo." I waited for him to tell me to go away, or to come in, but now sound came from behind the closed door. "...Camus?"

Was something wrong with him?

Was he ill?

He had never ignored protocol like this, not even with his enemies, being too much of a diplomat himself. So what was wrong? He HAD to be ill!

"Camus!?" I called again, my hand pressing against the door, to see if it was locked. It was not. "I'm coming in..." I warned, and as he still did not react I pushed the old wooden door open and went into his room.

He was lying on his bed, slightly curled up, his eyes closed tightly. I moved closer to him, letting my aura touch his, so he would know I was not an enemy. He shuddered in his sleep, and turned over a bit. I came to a halt beside his bed, and lit the candle that stood on his bedside table.

He was trembling slightly, not from the cold. His forehead glistened with sweat as he tossed his head restlessly, caught in some kind of nightmare, it seemed. I just stared at him, as he moaned softly and mumbled something unintelligible. He looked so...

Fragile.

In all our years as friends I had never seen him like this... so lost.

He breathed in and shook his head softly, I sat on the bed beside him and leaned closer to wake him up. I had never seen him like this, but I already knew one thing... I hated it. Whatever it was that put him into this state I was not going to let it go on.

I put a hand on his upper arm, to wake him. He pulled away as if I had burned him.

"No..." It was barely above a whisper.

"Camus, wake up, you are having a nightmare." I spoke up, but I did not touch him this time.

He simply shuddered and curled up slightly. "Mother..."

This time I was very surprised.

Mother?

Gabriel's mother?

He had never spoken of her, or about anything much concerning his past. I had assumed he - like most of us saints - had never even met his parents. Was he dreaming of his childhood?

His life before he came here?

"Camus..." I touched his cheek then, and his eyes jerked open. For a few seconds they moved around the room, completely out of focus, but then he spotted me and he pulled himself upright instantly. I simply stared at him, hearing his irregular breathing in the candlelit room.

"Milo... what are you doing here...?" He sounded confused, and slightly angered, which was not normal in him.

"You were having a nightmare." I replied, and shrugged. He pressed a hand to his face and closed his eyes momentarily, when he opened them again I saw how dark they seemed.

"Did I say anything, in my sleep?" He mumbled, as he moved off the bed and walked to the door, which I had left open, and closed it.

"No." It was a lie and he sensed it, for he looked at me sharply, his eyes narrowing. "Nothing that made sense." I finished, and this at least seemed to make him relax. Something told me it was better not to bring up that subject right now.

"Why did you come here?" I winced at his cold tone of voice, and felt my lips curve into an involuntary smile.

"I... came to talk." He raised one eyebrow at me, critically. "And to explain... sort of apologise."

This did take him off guard, for his face lost all semblance of anger and he blinked, clearly not expecting such an answer. I had to laugh, seeing him so out of balance, which helped clear the tension in the air. When I looked at him again it was the Camus I knew so well.

Whatever had gone on a few minutes ago was over for now, and I knew better than to bring it up again.

* * *

Camus:

It had been the dream again... only this time Milo had woken me up in the middle. But it didn't matter, I already knew how it ended anyway, yet... the feeling lingered.

A sad dull ache in my chest as I recalled that place and time. Vague images that had lived in my dreams during all my years as trainee, and that only excessive work and stress had managed to erase.

It was strange, that the dream should return now, and so often...

Milo shifted where he sat, his eyes searching mine, trying to feign indifference, but too upset to manage it. I sat down on the other side of my bed, so I could watch him, and leaned against the wall.

"What was it that you wanted to talk about?" He inquired at last, his voice worried but cold.

"Nothing I can discuss with you now, I realised." The comment stung him, for he straightened his shoulders in involuntary anger and looked at me more closely.

"How so? I thought we were honest with each other." He crossed his arms and gazed at me in a defying fashion. I could only stare. It was not unusual for Milo to react like that, but the cold cynicism in his voice, and the razor sharp edge of fury were not normal. It was Milo... no doubt. But a much colder and emptier Milo than the one I knew. His common attitude and behaviour had not changed, but the feelings behind them had. It was not the coldness he had been enshrouded in before; a strange hate and desperation gave a dark tone to his every word. He seemed lost and trapped, and resentful of everything and everyone.

Even me, though I could not begin to understand why, yet.

"I thought so too..." I replied warily. "Yet you are more dishonest now than ever." We had always been very open about our criticism to each other, so I chose not to change our custom, hoping he would lash back and let me see what was behind all this.

But he did not.

"Nonsense! I am the same Milo I have always been. Yet you are not the Camus I know... you seem to be weaker, not in the cosmo sense, but in your resolution." I jerked as his words hit me. "And you seem so lost... I could almost go back to calling you Gabriel. Camus at least knew the answers to his questions."

He wanted to sting me, it was obvious. He was hurting me to keep me off his own problems, I knew it because he had been like that with me very often... but never as cruel as this. I knew he did it our of self-protection, but still it hurt more than I was willing to admit.

I had come here because for the first time ever I needed him to be there for me... yet once again it was I who ended up mending his inner turmoil.

And I was so tired!

Too tired to go on and on with this forever...

* * *

Milo:

It did hurt him... deeply.

He looked at me from narrowed midnight eyes, his mouth set in a firm line, anger giving him a savage air despite his calm demeanour. Why was I being like this?

He obviously wanted to help me... and he needed me to help him too.

Yet I was closing him off, pushing him in the opposite direction...

Was it because I could not bear to hope in anything again? Because I was too tired of life in itself to inflict my problems upon him? What was the point of solving them?

I lost my heart almost eight years ago... and then I lost my faith about a year and a half before this encounter. What was left to me? What could I possibly have that was worth carrying on for?

"Gabriel is dead... he would have never made it anyway." Camus shook his head and closed his eyes.

"So... you yourself stopped being something in order to survive... yet you criticise me for doing it? Isn't that a bit twisted of you?" I smiled involuntarily, as I let my ironic facade slide into place fully.

"You are not surviving... all you are doing right now is killing yourself." He countered, his eyes burning in a way I had never seen before. The candle light played upon his face, throwing wild shades on his angered features.

"I have never felt better." I informed him, stressing each word carefully. And Camus did something he had never done before... he smiled... ironically.

"You are dead inside." He said it lowly, with a cool and controlled voice. And then he smiled again, but this time his eyes shone with a haunting light, so sad he seemed it shook me to the very core of my being.

I had no answer to him.

Nothing to say.

He looked at me, waiting for my inevitable comeback, but I didn't retaliate. He had won. I don't know for how long we stayed like that, staring at each other in the flickering light, seeing the traces of pain in each other's eyes. But it must have been at least ten minutes later that Camus got up from the bed and shook his head, as if he felt defeated.

"You gave up." He murmured, and sighed, closing his eyes. "You gave up on everything."

"It's not hard to do so... when you realise you have no reason to do the things you have been doing all your life... it's very lonely. And empty." He turned to me as I spoke, giving me an almost accusatory look.

"You never had a reason that was yours in the first place!" He snapped back. I jerked and stood up suddenly.

"What!?" I demanded, too angered to even bother to keep from flaring my cosmo.

"Look at your life! How can you claim to give up because you have no reasons! Whatever reasons you ever had, they were given to you! And now that you see how vain and empty they were you give up!" His eyes had never looked so alive, so utterly... human. "If the motives you were given are not worth the effort, then find some of your own! Your reasons! Your motives to be what you are!"

"That is sacrilege."I tried to sound cold, but he had shaken me badly, and I could not.

"Sacrilege? Maybe, but it is a fact. Just like the so called "Man closest to God" fights for personal reasons."

I stared at him, and laughed out loud. "Shaka? What is the point in bringing him into this conversation? He of all people is the most devoted to Athena!"

"Is he now...?" Camus intoned quietly. "Why don't you think it over? He is just like you are now Milo, fighting for reasons he was given! He fights in order to attain his own version of "purity", which is marked by the lack of feelings he shows. Just like you! And do you know why? Well, to feel at ease with himself would be a possibility... but the truth is that he is completely ignorant in what he claims to know so well."

"You are out of your mind." I stated, feeling completely out of balance.

"Am I? That day you two had sex, Milo, what happened in the end?" He stared at me, waiting for an answer that did not come. "Nothing? He used you to attain knowledge on something he ignored. But Shaka is as ignorant now as he ever was, because he does not see the emotions behind human actions. You do, and by being what you are now you are denying what you are in truth!" I shook my head and glared at him.

"What I am in truth? And what is Shaka then? A fake?" I exclaimed, feeling too angered by this seemingly pointless turn in the conversation.

"No, he just takes the wrong approach. Let us say that Kyoko gave him a false truth, and Shaka believed it to be absolute. But this is the very thing that makes him so weak! He lives to attain perfection by understanding humanity, yet he runs away from that that makes us human: our emotions. And in the meanwhile, the Kyoko can take advantage of his thankfulness to use him as he sees fit, in the name of Athena."

"And you? What about you then? Acting so cold and now claiming you know of emotions?" I mocked him without humour. Camus frowned deeper and crossed his arms.

"I don't, and that is the only way I am allowed to be. Whether Shaka does or does not have personal reasons makes no real difference, as long as he is honest in his devotion, which in this case is centred more on himself and the Kyoko than on our Goddess. And as for you... you NEED a personal reason, that is the only way you can be." He sighed and looked at me in pained honesty. It made me even angrier.

"How can you say all these things! You are not me! And you are certainly not Shaka!" But Camus had always been dangerously observant... hadn't he? "Saying that I am nothing but a pawn... saying that Shaka is one too...! How can you say that! Reasons that were given to us! How can you say that in my face! If I give up now it is because there is NO reason anymore!"

"You are giving up because there never was one in the first place! And you are too afraid to find one for yourself!" He countered, his eyes widening in anger.

"That is nothing but a big lie!" I cried back at him, my voice raw and savage.

"That is the truth. The Milo I knew would have never given up... Milo would have fought to the very end and he would have followed his own heart until it was over!" His words reached into me, and found places in my soul I had ignored up to now.

"I am still that Milo." I told him, clenching my fists in sheer anger. Yet now it was myself I was angry at... not the world around me.

"The act like it! This is not you Milo! Whatever it was that you lost... whatever it was that you need to be what you were, get it back! Get it back! Whatever it is... and if you don't know what it is... you can find it... as long as you are true to yourself..." He stopped abruptly, and looked at me. Surprised at his own loss of character. It was as if we had exchanged places, and it was he who went into a rage, and I who stood calmly watching.

The whole scene was too funny all of a sudden, and I broke out laughing. He narrowed his eyes, but then relaxed as he detected the sadly cheerful tone of my laughter.

"Yes... you are right." I conceded smiling. "I have to be myself always... but more than that..." I shook my head and sighed heavily.

"You need to find a true reason to fight, or to be a saint." He concluded.

"To live." I corrected him, and sat down again. "I am, after all, a survivor, aren't I?"

* * *

Camus:

A survivor?

Yes... that was the best way to describe him. That was the Milo I knew.

The real Milo.

"Yes..." I whispered, and sat down opposite to him on the bed. He ran a hand through his hair and sighed tiredly. I breathed in and spoke. "What has gone on around here, since I left?"

Milo looked at me briefly, and then diverted his gaze looking most decidedly ashamed. I frowned and cocked my head to one side, eyeing him worriedly. "A lot... actually. Starting with the appearance of the false Athena and her rebel saints..." I stiffened involuntarily, the subject taking my mind to places I did not want to examine right now. I didn't want to remember him... I didn't want to think of the future, and what I would have to do. Not now.

"Ah... yes, I have heard about them..." I knew Milo had seen my reaction, but he said nothing.

"Well, Aiolia was sent to kill them... about four months ago, He should be back anytime now..." Milo trailed off into silence as he saw me grow paler and paler as he spoke. "Camus... You know something about these rebels?"

I shook my head and tried to calm myself. "Nothing useful. Please go on."

"Well, my guess is that he didn't go and kill them directly, or he would have been back earlier. He probably took some time observing them..." He stopped speaking as he saw me give him a strange look.

"Why send him? You are Sanctuary's assassin." Why had the Kyoko sent Aiolia?

"To see if he is a traitor at heart or not." his eyes grew darker then. "You can never tell..."

"What do you mean?" I inquired, seeing his affected features. He looked up and sighed sadly.

"I was sent to kill Cepheus Albior not long after Aiolia left... it was done stealthily and very few people know it happened... I 'm not sure if any of his pupils survived..." I had to refrain from biting my lip.

No... I didn't want to think about that now... not now.

Not ever.

"Go on." I whispered softly, ignoring his worried look.

"Well, I killed him... with Aphrodite's untimely intervention... it was the most dishonourable killing I have ever performed..." Milo shook his head as if trying to dispel the memory. "But it is done. Strangely... I'm still not quite sure he was indeed a traitor after all...but I guess we'll never know."

"No, we probably won't." I agreed, thinking of Albior. So, the Cepheus saint was dead?

"And Aiolia probably finished his pupil off, plus the false Goddess and the other rebels." No... I would have felt it.

He was alive...

For now.

"Was killing Albior what made you take that turn for the worst?" Milo winced at my question... sometimes he did not like admitting that I did know him too well.

"Yes... I can't explain it... but Albior was so noble and true... yet he was a traitor. And for all his years as a saint, devoted to Athena, he didn't even get a decent death. He was killed in a blunder and tricked horribly, with no honour..." Milo bit his lip in anger. "He, like all of us, gave his life to his Goddess, yet he was killed without honour and now no one will remember him. What do we live for Camus, if not to die? We give Athena our lives, yet could she care any less?"

"Milo..." So that was it... "You, more than anybody else need a reason to fight. There has never been a Scorpio saint without an ulterior motive, your kind need to have something else to give their lives a meaning." He blinked at me, confused.

"How can you say that? You are the one that is always saying that a saint should never fight for personal motives!" I lifted my hand to silence him. Dreading where this conversation might take us.

"Aquarius and Scorpio are very different. You NEED a reason that is more than duty, I must NOT have one, not under any circumstance." Milo turned violently to face me and frowned deeply.

"Camus... answer me honestly... when you say you can't fall in love..." I looked away and closed my eyes, not wanting to talk about that. I heard Milo's sharp intake of breath, but nothing else was said.

How could I answer that question?

He didn't know the truth about Blood and Ganymede. Only I knew my teacher's real motives, and it was from him that I learned the ultimate truth about us ice saints. Thus I knew what I was allowed to have, and what I could not yearn for. That was why this feeling was wrong...

I should forget the laughter, erase it from the memory of white plains... But it was there, like bells. Laughter and smiles like the sunshine, that had managed to erase the dream for so very long...

And now it was time for them to die...

* * *

Shaka:

I walked around Sanctuary, not knowing why, I had felt like exploring a bit. It was close to nightfall and almost all trainees and lower guards had gone to their respective huts by now, leaving the barren battlefields devoid of life, and utterly silent. I enjoyed these brief moments, in which I could trample the ground where the blood of thousands had poured forth, and hear nothing but the wind in the cliffs and scrape of my shoes on the sand. This place, where hundreds had died for a higher motive, was so utterly peaceful it soothed me.

It was a battlefield, no doubt, even I could not hide the crude reality that enshrouded these cold plains of rock I walked upon; but despite the bellicose feelings that where manifested here, when dark fell all humans left, and it was just the earth and me once again.

During the day I would watch them in their futile struggles to succeed and become something greater than they were destined to be, boiling with human emotions and human points of view. I, on the contrary, could not be farther from that. I could watch them and see their mistakes, I could truly disentangle feelings from their mundane puzzles and solve them at once. I could fathom the deepest truths of creation they could never, with their simple minds, hope to understand.

I was human in body, but my soul was an entirely different matter. I was the man closest to God, I knew of humanity, deep enough to be able to see through it and transcend to higher plains. They all fought and forgot to see the absolute uselessness of their struggle. All these little children, not realising that their true importance was drawn in bigger scales, and that their lives here and now might very well mean nothing.

I could detach myself from this life, knowing that once I had paid my dues, whatever sins I committed in this life would be atoned for in the next. So I did not, like all humans, fight to stop the inevitable. If I was to die, then the time indeed had come.

And whatever happened, I was above them.

Yet sometimes, they still managed to puzzle me... sometimes...

"Very thoughtful... are you preparing for your ordeal?" The cool voice behind me did not startle me in the least, yet I was surprised that I had not felt him come.

"One might say so, Lord." I turned to face the Kyoko and eyed him curiously, wondering why he was out and about so late in the day.

"Ah... well, let us hope you are sure of what you are doing." He turned to face a bit to his right, as if unsettled by something, the mask gleaming dully in the faint light.

"With all due respect, I'm always sure; Lord." He face me again, and nodded absently, then adopted a more serious posture.

"Apparently, Aiolia will be returning tomorrow, morning..." He let the sentence hanging in the air, and cocked his head to one side. I sighed a bit unceremoniously and shrugged.

"Should I kill him then?" I inquired, seeing the tall priest glance at his right again, as if disturbed by something. He glanced back at me sharply.

"No. I have been thinking, and I would like to confirm his traitorous feeling first myself. I cannot have you kill a noble saint because of a wrong information." I bowed my head slightly, pleased that our Goddess was under the supervision of such a man as he. The Kyoko bowed in return and crossed his arms.

"Then what, Lord?" I replied, ready to comply to whatever the Kyoko thought best.

"Meet me at my palace... Aiolia will probably come to the throne room anyway: There we shall confirm the veracity of our suspicions... and if he indeed has turned his back on our beloved Lady, then you can step out of you hiding place and deliver him unto a higher justice." His words were so wise and calm in amazed me, yet he almost desired to believe in Aiolia... he was truly an example.

I bowed again, careful not to humiliate myself, but low enough to show my measure of respect for him. Even if this man might resort to cruelty in occasions in order to maintain peace and order; even if he was forced to lead us all into war and send us against each other... I knew he was also higher up, like me.

And that whatever he did, was for a reason I was not to question.

"As you wish, lord."

"No Gold saint... it is as Athena wishes. It is she whom you obey."

* * *

Milo:

"You should rest... we will talk tomorrow." Camus got up from his bed and moved to open the door and signal I should leave now.

Cold formality.

I stood up and jumped forward faster than he had expected, pulling his arm away from the doorknob and turning him to face me. "NO! We will talk now. It is way past time you answered my questions!"

Camus tore his arm out of my grasp, frowning deeply. "Whatever you want, we will discuss tomorrow."

"YOU CAN love, can't you? It's not an inability... you just shy away from it!" I didn't even know why I was asking him this... but somehow, I felt it was important. I felt that, without realising it, I had just come quite close to penetrating the ice, and seeing Camus from inside.

"That is absolutely irrelevant!" He stated, smoothing his clothes, anger plain on his features.

"But it isn't irrelevant! If it was, you would have answered already!" I balled my fists and glared at him, defying Camus to turn his eyes away.

"Then, if you already have your answer, why keep bothering me?" His voice was but a whisper, yet I felt the cutting edge... the closest to hate I had ever heard him come.

It took me aback for a few seconds.

"I want to hear it from you lips." I answered at last, standing up straighter and crossing my arms.

"I cannot fall in love." The answer came quickly, and his eyes never left mine.

"But could you... if you ever wanted it?" I saw him grit his teeth as his eyes darkened visibly, to a point I felt a cold sweat trickle down my spine.

"I will never want it." He tossed his head to push the hair out of his eyes and looked away.

"Why!? Why will you never want it Camus?" I demanded, taking two steps forward and gripping his forearms, hard enough to hurt. Yet he did not even flinch.

"Because I know where it all leads to. I know the truth." He punctuated the last word, and tried to break free, but I held on to him with all my strength.

"How would you know... you don't even understand the truth about love." I murmured, anger making my voice low and harsh. Camus raised his head slightly and gazed at me as if he found me pitiful.

"I see how much good knowing it has done to you!" The words stung, more than I had expected anything he said to hurt. I let go of him, shoving him back and sucked in my breath, choking with anger.

"How dare you!" I cried in fury, banging my fist into the wall with such force the bed on the floor shook slightly. "How DARE you!"

Camus simply stared back at me calmly, his eyes carefully blank.

"The truth you say? What do YOU know of the truth!? All you ever do is talk, yet you have never felt anything! You criticise me for loving when you have never loved anything in you entire LIFE!" I cried, letting all my anger loose, taking another step towards him. "You come here, behave like nothing was wrong and analyse me when you don't even know what I cry for! How dare you!"

His eyes flared, but he remained as tranquil as before. And this apparent ease infuriated me even more. Did he have any feelings at all? Did he even understand what I was saying?

"Get out." It was a simple command, but the tone of voice he said it in froze the blood in my veins.

"Not until you answer me: Can you or can you not love!?" I stood there, poised to attack even though I knew it was stupid, waiting for him to react.

"Does it really matter?" He inquired, with that same authoritative voice that seemed to make the world stop in its tracks.

"YES! Can you or can you not? Are you really as frozen inside as you pretend to be?" I was going beyond what was acceptable, but I could not stop now that I had started. "When we were kids, did my confession make you laugh? Did you gaze at me as I left like a weak creature that would surrender to something as banal as loving you!?"

He winced then, and closed his eyes, his lips set in a firm line. "What if I did?" He inquired in a whisper.

I let out a snarl of fury and leapt onto him, all sanity fleeing at last as I toppled us over and landed right on top of him on the bed, his back pressed against the soft mattress. I lifted my fist and drew it back, ready to hit him, yet his eyes, staring straight into mine, forced me to stop. He looked so controlled, so perfectly centred it only made my anger worsen. If I could not defeat him by force, then I could break him.

I could break him.

I gripped his shirt and tore it open, tossing the rags aside. His eyes widened as he realised what I had just done, and I smiled. "Let me give you something you can think about." I whispered cruelly, pinning his hands to the bed as I leaned down and bit his neck softly. Camus tensed bellow me, and tried to push me off, I just bit him harder and...

Years ago... this was all I could have wanted. I had forgotten how Gabriel smelled... like something fresh and cold... even after our training... I remembered his smiling eyes as he taught me - with infinite patience - how to braid his hair before we trained. And I remembered all those little smiles... and rare laughs.

The sun gleaming on his wet skin as we played in the water... His eyes - so deep! - so sad, so lonely, as he turned to me and smiled.

His face as I told him that I loved him... so full of regret...and confusion.

His relief when he saw me wearing the cloth, and knew that I had made it...

And through all of that, the same fresh scent... like dew in the morning... or green grass... or the sea.

I had never realised that Camus smelled like Gabriel...

And I had forgotten...

Forgotten...

"Is this the love you speak of? Rape?"

A deep voice snapped me back to reality. All my anger had vanished, and I realised what I was doing.

Oh Goddess.

I jumped off him as if burned, unable to look at him in the face, and made a move towards the door.

"Milo..." My name...yet he said it so softly it made it even harder for me to leave. But...

"I can love." His voice stopped me, the words gradually making sense. "But I learned I should not."

I turned to him then, and almost fainted. He simply sat there, the remaining pieces of his shirt still clinging to his body, hair in a disarray, as he shook his head in defeat and looked up at me smiling.

With his eyes trembling... shinning too oddly... .

Almost as if...

"Ganymede taught me that... and he died doing so." He got up and picked up the remains of his shirt almost casually.

"I thought..." My voice was barely a squeak. I breathed in and tried again. "I thought you fought him, and killed him... and that was how you won your cloth..."

Camus nodded and gave me a small pained smile. "All that is true except for one little catch."

"What do you mean?" I didn't understand... what had Ganymede taught Camus?

"In the last minute, I understood the truth. And from then on Gabriel was dead... Yet how could I ever feel proud of myself, If I practically won this cloth by default?" He laughed softly, his voice was strangely low and strained.

"I don't understand... You won! You killed him." He winced at my tactless reply, and shook his head.

"I killed him; yes. But I didn't win." He dropped the tattered rags into a dustbin and walked back to sit on his bed.

"How is that possible?" I exclaimed, more confused now than ever.

"Ganymede let me kill him."

* * *

Camus:

"He let you!?" Milo exclaimed, his eyes widening in surprise and confusion. I nodded and sighed heavily. Somehow, I had wished I would never have to talk about this with him. But then, that would have been too good to be true. Still, I was so tired, all this fighting had only made me feel worse. I had come here in search of a refuge, and a little understanding. Yet here I was again, mending the seams of a heart that was not my own, and leaving mine to break.

Maybe, if I had chosen differently...

Looking back, I realised that as much as Isaac had been the perfect successor to my cloth, I could have made Hyoga the Aquarius saint too, if I had wanted to. But that was the main problem, I didn't want to. The ultimate power for and ice saint could only be gained through a complete detachment. We had to let go, and refuse any ties that would bind us. No hatred, no love... only friendship to a certain degree, and not more.

Our power was born out of coldness, when we were one with our cosmo, and not passion marred the deathly ice that came to enshroud our hearts. For bronze and silver cloths absolute detachment was not completely necessary, the lack of it only resulted in less power. But for Aquarius it was compulsory; we had to be as cold as we seemed, and we could not under any circumstance fall in love. Or seek revenge out of hatred.

Isaac was close to learning that... he was still passionate in his friendships... but he was close. He understood at least that we could have no personal reasons... even if he was slightly fanatical about it. But he still cared for Hyoga very deeply... Maybe, if I had purged that out of him too, he would not have died... he would not have tried to save Hyoga.

But he did, and when I arrived, almost two years ago, to Siberia's cold plains, after having witnessed Milo's strange involvement with Shaka, things had changed.

I could have chosen to train Hyoga then... but I didn't. I couldn't. He was nothing like me or Isaac... not even like Ganymede, and it was this that stopped me. He had the potential to become the greatest...

But at what cost?

I looked up at Milo, who had been my only friend all these years... and realised that I could not tell him these things. Nor could I tell him the truths that lead to Ganymede's death. He held Blood too high in respect, and knowing what I knew would only hurt him more. It was enough to bear a lover's betrayal in his heart; Scorpio Blood's behaviour would only worsen things if he found out.

"Yes... he could have dodged my last blow, but he didn't." Milo winced, and then frowned. I knew he was wondering why my master had done that... I had no intention of telling him.

Thinking back now, I realised that Ganymede had wanted me to know, he had arranged things for me to find out somehow... so I would understand the truth. After that day the dream was even more vivid...

Until I followed my role as ranking ice saint and begun the training process of my successor.

I had thought that by then I was impervious to all feelings save for my caring for Milo.

Yet I was wrong.

"Camus?" I looked up at Milo. "Why didn't he dodge it?" Ah... the inevitable question.

Curiosity killed the cat, Milo... but I am going to keep you alive. Scorpio is and will always be pure and unfettered passion. You were being untrue to your nature when you hid from yourself after Saga left you, and once again after resorting only to coldness after the death of Cepheus Albior. You can have what I could never accept, so the least I can do is let you live happy... or the closest I can manage.

My friend.

"I wish I knew."

* * *

Milo:

"I... I don't understand." I shook my head, and let my breath out in a frustrated sigh. "Why do that? Why not wait to confirm if you could defeat him?... Perhaps he knew you could so he avoided fighting..." Camus closed his eyes and shook his head softly in denial.

"No, was not like that... he just... let me kill him. Maybe he was tired of being a saint. I honestly do not know." But that made no sense.

Ganymede had let Camus kill him?

My own fight with Blood had been long and violent, neither of us ready to let go and die. Why had Ganymede given up like that? Was the death of the teacher also compulsory for the Aquarius cloth? And if so... why? Did he think Camus could not kill him?

No... Camus was very ready to carry on whatever the cost... so why let himself be killed?

There was something behind all this... and Camus was not telling me. From the looks of it he wouldn't tell me if I asked him either... but...

"You are lying to me, Camus." I stated, anger filtering into my voice.

"Lying? Not at all. That is exactly what happened." He paced around a bit, and suddenly opened a cupboard and took out a long sleeved grey shirt that he slipped on with a soft huff.

"Oh... I am quite sure things happened just as you say..." I murmured through gritted teeth. "I just think that you do know why they happened that way."

Camus frowned and stood up straighter, his eyes flaring dangerously. "I don't care what you think, Scorpio saint." He replied, in a voice so utterly cold and cutting, and so stunningly formal, all I could do was stare at him. "You have wronged me once too many in only one night."

I opened my mouth to snap back, but nothing came. He was right.

Oh Goddess, I was so angry I was barely seeing where I stepped. I bowed my head and sat on the bed once more, burying my face in my hands. The last I wanted was to hurt him, yet I was so ashamed of myself I kept on biting back when all he wanted was to help me. I sighed into my hands and remained like that for a while.

"Camus... I'm sorry... I just..." I didn't even have the courage to look at him in the eye. I felt the weight on the bed shift, and a warm hand on my back.

"It's all right, you are tired... so am I." I lifted my face from my hands to look at him. "Go to your temple... we will talk in the morning. And it will give you time to think things over."

I faced him, trying to gauge what it was he felt by the look in his eyes, but he was closed to me, he had retreated far away where I could not touch him for now.

I nodded at last and got up from his bed, walking to the door.

I was only when I was halfway down to my temple that I realised that in the end I never asked Camus what was wrong. And that although he had helped me, I proved to be useless to him when he needed me the most.

I stepped into my temple and welcomed the shadowed coolness that surrounded me, sinking into the darkness. I sat down at the base of one of the pillars and leaned on it, closing my eyes.

(Whatever it is... and if you don't know what it is...)

My reasons?

I had never thought of it the way Camus had put it, but the more I considered it the more it made sense. What had I ever done in my life, that was not decided by someone else? Becoming a saint was a case of do or die... and all those killings? Ordered by the Kyoko... or Athena.

But Saga?

Saga had been mine, a reason that was only mine and...

But that was it... wasn't it? The time I spent with him had been the happiest years of my life. And in those times all the assassinations I had to perform meant nothing to me, because I was...

Happy.

(You can find it... as long as you are true to yourself...)

And I had found it again... but it was something I had lost. But the feelings... the memories?

They were there... weren't they? Should I live for my past?

I shook my head, trying to clear my thoughts.

(Then get it back!)

I had to see what was inside of me... and I had to be true to myself.

Perhaps the only way to feel at ease with my soul was to undo as much of the damage I had done as was possible, and then find a better path to follow. One where I chose what I did and why I did it...

Where I could understand the point of my existence, as an assassin and as a saint.

I had never had a reason... but there was something I had lost... and I had to get it back at all cost.

My confidence.

* * *

Camus:

He had left... I wasn't sure whether I regretted it, or whether I would have wanted him to stay a bit longer, but he needed to think things over and get a grip on himself. I had not been so crudely open with him in a long long time... he had to mull over what he had been told and reach his own conclusions. He would probably take a while, but I knew him, thus I knew that after our conversation he would definitively take a turn for the best.

Yet... I had so wanted to talk to him. And now, I was alone again, wasn't I?

I lay down on my bed and closed my eyes, trying to relax. I touched my neck gingerly and felt a bruise where he had bit me. I had not expected him to react like that... even now he could take me by surprise.

I should be angry, after all the things he said and did... but then, I knew he didn't really mean half of them, he was just being self-protective.

He would be all right now...

And I?

I would just go on as I always did... the colder the better.

Right?

* * *

Milo:

It was dark outside, stars lit up the sky like a million fireflies, glimmering in ethereal beauty, meant to last for aeons. But then, many of the stars we saw were already dead, and what we got was nothing but the afterglow of their lives. How many things were like that? They shone like stars and seemed to live forever, and in truth they were already long dead...

I got up with a sigh and walked to my room, running a hand through my hair almost reflexively.

Just then, something tugged at the edges of my consciousness... A presence?

"Milo?" I turned violently as I heard my name whispered softly behind me.

A small shadow stood at the entrance of my temple, outlined by the pale starlight. I frowned and took a step towards the figure, not making out the face, but recognising the cosmo easily.

"Katrina?" Why was I calling her by her full name? Yet, somehow, there was something in the air that told me that this was serious.

Something was wrong.

"Milo... you have to help Aiolia!" She pleaded in her sweet mellow voice, moving closer to me, her hands fisted in helpless anger.

"Help Aio...? Kat, what's wrong?" I walked up to her and put both hands on her shoulders, shaking her gently. Had I really made love to this girl only a few hours ago?

Goddess...

"They are going to kill him! For being a traitor! But..." She almost cried out at first, then her voice dropped to a whisper. "... but Aiolia is not a traitor... it's wrong! Wrong!"

She shook her head in anger, and growled softly, her shoulders tensing involuntarily. I took a deep breath and fixed my eyes on her mask. "Who is going to kill him."

"Shaka... I mean, the Kyoko... well, more like both. They will do it when he goes to see the Kyoko!" She stammered, her distress evident.

"Make up your mind, Kat!" I shook her again, and that seemed to snap her back into reality.

"Shaka...by orders of the Kyoko." She mumbled, her fist trembling. "For betraying Athena."

That made no sense... no one could be more devoted than Aiolia... especially considering that business with his older brother! Yet, he had been sent to kill those rebels and the false Athena... and now he was being accused of betrayal? Had he killed them? Was he being judged for a failure?

Or had he joined them?

Impossible.

Aiolia would never betray Sanctuary... not when his honour was at stake. But then... why?

"Where did you find this out?" I demanded, upset.

"I heard them talking it over... the Kyoko glanced my way, but I don't think he saw me..." She shook her head and looked up at me desperately. "You must do something! I know he is not a traitor!"

No, she did not, she just refused to believe it.

But why? And Shaka?

I let go of her and bit my lip thoughtfully, trying to organise all these events in my mind. Kat remained there, frozen, waiting like a nervous feline for my answer. I looked at her and crossed my arms.

"Go to bed, Kat. I'll do what I can, but if you honestly think he is not traitor then he is not, and the truth will be known. Don't worry."

"What if his innocence is only confirmed after his death?" This brought a strange uneasy feeling. I shuddered involuntarily, my thoughts straying to that blue cosmo... to Albior...

Whom I had killed.

What if his innocence was proved now? When he was dead?

"I'll do what I can... now go." She looked at me, her whole posture speaking of her fear and desperation, pleading for me to help where she was obviously too weak to help. "Go." I told her steadily, my eyes never leaving her mask, until at last she turned around and scuttled off on all fours.

She leap a few steps and stood there, like a big cat surrounded by the night sky, and disappeared.

I stomped down the stairs and flopped onto my bed, face down. What on earth was going on?

And what part did I play in this cruel game of death? Aiolia was going to be killed for treason...

For treason! And his little pupil had come to me, begging for my help... asking me to side with a supposed traitor!? But... what if he wasn't a traitor?

Had the Kyoko been wrong then? Could he have been wrong with Albior too?

The thought was too horrible to contemplate...

And to pull Shaka into all of this! But then, even if I was the assassin... killing Aiolia might have seemed too much to ask for? Yet, if Athena asked it I would have been forced to comply! But no, Shion had chosen Shaka for another motive... he wanted to Virgo saint by his side... didn't he? Seeing all he did and being a strong ally.

Damn him!

But what about Aiolia? Katrina had asked me to help him, but there was nothing for me to do! And he would be killed by Shaka... and Shaka would go on, thinking of his purity and the proof of his devotion such an act would give. Aiolia would die a meaningless death...

Surely, no warrior deserved such a death?

I shuddered and curled up on my bed. Killing Aiolia would mean nothing to Shaka... even if he was a traitor he did not deserve that! Albior had not deserved the death he got! I could not save Aiolia,...but couldn't I at least make sure he was treated with the honour he deserved?

And then... how could I do even that?

Shaka was too inhuman for that... he was...

(... he does not see the emotions behind human actions...)

Camus' words... He has said Shaka was not exactly pure but closed off. Shaka was not unable to feel, he just passed the possibility by, thinking it too banal! And in doing that he was missing the point entirely, and thus could not be farther off from Godhood! How could he be close to god when he wasn't even close to humanity?

I shook my head in awe. I had been so angry with Camus at that moment that I had not realised the horrible truth of his words. Could I use this to my advantage? Or, more accurately, could I use this to honour Aiolia in his death, disregarding the question of his treason? I could not rescue Aiolia, but I could give him a fair chance...

But there was more than that... wasn't it? I wanted to undo what I had done. That night, with Shaka, I made the mistake of believing I could show him something he would have to learn for himself. I had seen it in his eyes, near the end... that search for wisdom that was leading him to his own grave. The only way for Shaka to understand this was to make him feel... but how?

How could I make him understand that? That the purity he searched for would not be found like that... so coldly? He lived to find it... and his life meant nothing save for that... save for that?

His life, his existence... he saw them as transitory and unimportant. He lived for the greater scheme... so his life right now was of no apparent value to him save for the gaining of more knowledge. But he wasn't really gaining anything valuable, and his detachment was born out of the wrong sources, thus... it was breakable.

In other words... Shaka's one remaining weakness was that, if he was fought and brought to near death... perhaps he would understand his error!? If put in such a position, he would probably unconsciously fight to live, and that would prove to him his mistake!

If he saw how he truly valued his existence as Shaka... then he would have felt fear... and that would mean he had been defeated to his own incomprehension of his feelings as a human being. And so, Shaka would become a human again...

Could I do this?

Could I turn the man closest to god into a human?

Yet... he wasn't really deserving of that title, was he? No one was... but I could teach him that... and then... I could pay him back. It was thanks to him that I had recovered my emotions, had he not decided what he did, I would still be the monster assassin. But I was human now.

The least I could do was return the favour, it was on my honour.

And, strangely, I wanted to do it too... in my heart.

(...get it back!)

Yes... Camus was right. I needed to get back my strength, my confidence and my love of life. And my love for the life around me. I was an assassin, and as such, I had to understand the value of what I took, only then could my decisions be considered truly... just.

I got up from my bed and walked up the stairs determinedly. Maybe I didn't have a reason yet... but I would find one. I would make my life into something worth remembering, something that Saga...

...would have been proud of.

* * *

Shaka:

It was almost dawn, the sky's dark blue shade was paling slowly as the last stars faded away. They would shine again tonight, and for a million nights again before my time was over. Yet for now, they were gone, as the sun took over the heavens, announcing the coming of another day.

And on this case, the death of a warrior.

Aiolia's cosmo could be felt clearly now, advancing towards Sanctuary, his aura high and strong, flaring with anger and violence.

Traitor.

How dare he come here with such an attitude? But it didn't matter now, not really. He would speak to the Kyoko had give him his explanations; if they were what we had been told, the he would die today.

Under this glowing sun.

* * *

Milo:

I had spent most of the night up and walking, trying to calm myself. It was somewhere between night and dawn that I felt the unmistakable flare of Aiolia's cosmo, slowly approaching. Now I waited for him, having followed his cosmo to know where he would come through.

I had already made up my mind, and I knew what I had to do... it was strange, to feel so sure of my actions, and so confident that I was choosing right. It had been years since I had felt like this...

But now I was myself again... really myself, not the half forgotten shadow of the Milo Saga had loved.

The Milo Camus wanted to keep alive.

Myself.

I lifted my head lightly when I saw Aiolia's silhouette in the distance, and let him cosmo touch his, so he would now I was here. He reacted violently, his aura sparking against mine defiantly. I just waited. Letting him feel the tranquillity of my cosmo. As he approached I realised he carried someone in his arms...

Shaina... one of the female saints.

"Are you here to kill me, Scorpio saint?" He inquired, his voice savagely defiant. I got up from the rock I was standing on and shook my head,

"No, Aiolia. I am not here to kill you." His eyes narrowed visibly, and strong wave of distrust going trough his golden cosmo.

"What then?" He demanded, in such an authoritative tone it made my blood boil, though I managed to stay outwardly calm.

"I am here so you can honour an old debt." I replied, crossing my arms over my chest. "And I don't care why you are here or not, or what it is that has forced you into this position. I sincerely hope you know what you are doing, or there will be one very sad kitten in this Sanctuary." I saw a flash of pain in his eyes, but he quickly masked it.

"What debt are you talking about?" He unconsciously pulled Shaina's prone body closer to his chest in a protective attitude, his eyes darkening.

"Two years ago, you defied me to seduce someone, remember?" He paled, panic registering as he remembered what I spoke of. "And if I won I could ask anything of you, Aiolia. Anything."

He breathed in deeply, his eyes set on mine. "I always keep my promises."

"I know." I smiled at him then, and uncrossed my arms. "Listen, Aiolia. Up there, in the Kyoko's temple, Shaka will be waiting for you. He will be the one to kill you..." I saw his expression change to the closest to fear he would allow himself to show.

"The Virgo saint...?" I lifted my hand, signalling that I hadn't finished.

"I want you to defeat him." His jaw dropped as he heard my request. "On your honour, I want you to defeat him."

"Are you out of your mind?" He exclaimed.

"What? Are you planning to let him kill you?" I asked, smiling devilishly. He shut his mouth and stared at me sullenly. "No... you are not. Then you can very well pay off this debt."

"Why do you want this?" He sounded partly awed.

"Who knows? Once you asked me to seduce him, thinking it too much for me, yet I won? Is it so hard to understand that I would like to see you excel in your own territory? Fight and win, that is all." I told him, smiling openly.

"But that's not only it, is it?" He looked at me long and hard, trying to understand why I was here, doing this right now.

"Maybe not, but that is none of your concern." I looked up and saw the bulky figure of Shaina's pupil making his way down to us, obviously having felt his teacher's cosmo, despite his lack of power. Aiolia looked in that direction too, and looked down at the limp body he held. "And it is about time for me to go too... take care of yourself, Aiolia."

"Milo..." I raised an eyebrow at him and smiled, his voice trailed off.

"I should be going..." I turned to leave, but he took a step towards me.

"Milo wait... if something happened... would you please tell Katrina that I am proud of her?" His voice was soft and worried. I did not turn to look at him.

"Sure... but it would be better if you told her yourself." I laughed softly then. "Besides, I'm not to happy catering around your messages." I informed him crossing my arms behind my head casually.

"And why is that?" The bulky creature was almost here. I looked at him over my shoulder and smirked.

"Cause I don't really like you."He smiled then and moved to face the Shaina's disciple, I turned my back on him for good and left.

And there wasn't really much more for me to do, was there? From this point on whatever happened was up to Aiolia and Shaka... hopefully things would turn for the best, and if not...

I had already decided.

I would fight this war for Athena, and fulfil my duty to her, but after that... after that my life belonged to me, and I would make my own decisions, and lead my own existence.

I would find the purpose of my being here... and if it was no longer there for me, then I would make one.

But I would live... and somewhere in between...

Somewhere in between I would be happy.

Yet as all these thoughts crossed my mind I realised I had strayed of the path and had ended up in the middle of Blood's graveyard... the flowers were in full bloom, their fragrance almost intoxicating. The soft morning breeze rustled among the dewy petals scattering a rain of colour all over the air. I stood there, seeing this place like I had never seen it before...so alive... so full of passion and power.

Yet it was nothing but fragile flowers...

I walked up to the unmarked stone and stared at it in respectful silence. This place had meant something special to Blood, something only he knew... but it had been special, hadn't it?

Just like all those stars... many of them were dead,... but they kept on shining for aeons, and we would keep on seeing them and loving them for what they represented. Humans were like that... weren't we? We lived short lives, shorter than those stars...but what little time we were allotted we lived it to it's fullest, and shined so bright that even after we were gone... we were remembered.

I touched the cold, moist rock and smiled softly.

Our blood would flow onto the rocks, and our tears would be swallowed by the ground, but we lived on.

We lived on as long as we were loved.

* * *

Shaka:

Aiolia arrived soon after I entered the ample room, prancing in like a dominating cat, full of himself and his self righteousness. The Kyoko received him formally, but Aiolia refused to acknowledge even that small show of respect, and launched into a series of pointless imprecations directed at us, so stupid and traitorous I realised that there would be no turning back after all.

"You betrayed Athena and killed my brother for nothing!" He cried, his voice turning savage with anger.

That was the last straw. He would not insult Athena and her High priest in my presence... in no one's presence. I stepped out of the enfolding shadows, eyes closed and flaring my cosmo so he would know of my presence. I felt the change in his aura, of surprise and a little apprehension. "Virgo Shaka." He murmured...yet the surprise in his aura...it was not because I was here... it was as if he had known I would be his killer, he just had hoped otherwise.

But how...?

Well, such questions were of no matter now, not to me.

"This will probably end in the so called 1000 day wars..." I told him, sliding into my battle stance. Aiolia bared his fists at me and began to concentrate his crackling golden energy.

"So be it." He replied.

"You will have to go through me to get to the Kyoko." I warned him once again, just to let him see the depth of what he was getting in, his aura glowed sarcastically and flared itself fully.

"Won't that be fun?" Was his soft inquiry as he focused his power and leapt against me. I fought back, not having to use my full potential with him, which somehow made me feel more at ease.

He was no match for me after all.

Still, he manoeuvred things in such a way that we ended up griping each other's fists, caught in an inevitable deadlock. He was deserving of his title in power at least, Aiolia was notably strong.

But I would win just the same.

Behind us the Kyoko watched in calm silence as we fought, safe upon his throne in all his majestic glory. I could see him in my mind. I tried forcing Aiolia to his knees but he withstood my attack and turned it back onto me. I resisted just as strongly.

And then, out of nowhere, his cosmo grew to an amazing height and exploded against mine, sending us both sprawling to either side of the room. I shook my head, trying to clear my orientation, and pinpointed him, getting up too.

How had he managed that? I had thought he was quite below me... yet apparently he was just feigning a lesser power than he in truth possessed to take me by surprise. I had not thought him to be able to think a plan out, not like that. As much as my normal reaction would have been amusement I felt a beat of unease run through me as his cosmo slammed into mine once again.

But why?

Why did I feel like this? It was ridiculous, I was well above his power level! Yet, it had been years since anybody had managed to throw me to my knees. I frowned, concentrating my cosmo.

I had to finish this off now.

Now!

Aiolia feinted and pounced on me from another direction, I turned just in time to dodge him and sent a ray of energy against him. He barely managed to evade it, landing in a half-crouch half-roll. He got up and extended his aura so it smacked into mine violently. I fought back, angered my his power and by my own growing unease.

Was he ready to die fighting here?

I did not know why, but that question had never held so many volumes as it did now.

Yet, just as we leaped apart from another round of hit and feint the room's aural charges shifted powerfully, I opened my eyes in surprise just to see the Kyoko standing up, his arm extended towards Aiolia.

And the lion? He faced the Kyoko in empty acceptance, his eyes suddenly devoid of all life and reason. I simply stared, trying to understand what had just taken place.

"Relax, Virgo Shaka." The Kyoko spoke smoothly. "Athena has granted me a greater wisdom."

"Lord?" I asked, while watching in awe as Aiolia turned around and walked blankly towards the door.

"Leave him, he will resume his post in his Temple. Now... don't look so confused. He will be much more useful as an acting saint than as a corpse, and it would be dishonourable to have you kill such lowly opponent." The Kyoko walked down the stairs that lead to his throne and stood beside me.

"Won't he rebel again?" I asked, hearing the slam of the door as Aiolia left the room in a daze.

"No, he is under my control now. He will fulfil his duties and will be...released, from his responsibilities once he is of no more use." He smoothed out the heavy fabric of his dark blue cloak and pushed a few stray silvery strands of hair off his shoulders. "Until further notice, you are dismissed."

I stared at him.

I should have been offended by his interruption... but he had only acted upon the Goddess' wishes, and he had saved my honour from being sullied by such a confrontation. I was not, after all, an assassin. I smiled softly and nodded, bowing slightly before leaving the temple.

Yes... Sanctuary was safe with this man. Even if he was called a tyrant for now, all justice was subjective, at least this Kyoko understood fairness at a higher level than all these humans, and acted as such. If he was blamed for choices others would not understand I would back him up.

He was, before anything, the speaker for Athena.

I thought briefly of the unnatural feeling that had assaulted me as I fought Aiolia; it had been so strange and out of place, yet now it was completely gone and I felt even more confident of my choices than ever. It must have been nothing more than a small slip. A dangerous slip, but nothing more.

After all, wasn't I the Man Closest to God?

* * *

Milo:

"He is dead, isn't he?" Katrina's voice was soft and strained, the fading sunlight reflecting off her mask as if it were a mirror.

"No...not really dead..." I tried to explain, knowing of such techniques, but I could not, it was to complicated for her and that was not the question here.

"Oh, his body lives...but Aiolia... my sensei Aiolia... is dead."It was more a statement than anything else, and I could see by her body posture that it was what she believed.

"There was not much for me to do, Kat." She shook her head, she was not here for apologies.

"At least you did what you could... even though you won't tell me what, I believe you tried. But now all that is left is a pathetic husk of what he was..." She sighed deeply and clasped her hands behind her back in an almost girlish attitude. "I guess all that's left for me now is to leave..."

I raised an eyebrow at her. "Leave?"

"I want to see it for myself...what made him become a traitor... and I want to lead my own life. I have seen too much of this, Milo. And the dishonour my sensei has suffered... to be used as a puppet just because... I have had enough. From now on... I will make my own paths." She cocked her head to one side and shifted her feet.

"Why do you tell me all of this?" I asked her quietly, unsure whether she knew how dangerously close to sacrilege she was.

"Because you, of all people, can understand this... call it a hunch." She shrugged and laughed softly; yet I knew for sure that she was just hiding the pain she really felt. "Well ...bye!"

"Kat, wait! Aiolia asked me a favour... that if anything should happen to him I should tell you something, in his name..." I saw her turn violently, and stand there rigidly.

"What did he say?" Her voice was almost trembling; all her manner had become suddenly upset, as she set al her hopes in Aiolia's one message to her.

"He said..." She arced her back slightly, almost hopefully. "... that he was very proud of you."

Katrina stood like that for a few minutes before she slumped, visibly. She laughed then, holding her sides as she laughed and laughed almost hysterically.

"Is ...that ...all?" She asked between gasps, fighting for breath. "Really all?"

"Yes." I answered, and the looked at her, where her eyes should be. "I'm sorry."

Katrina stopped laughing abruptly, her arms falling at her sides. "That's all?" She whispered, bowing her head. "That's ALL!?"

She flew at me, her hands fisted in my shirt as she trembled with rage against my chest.

"He is proud of me? Proud...?" A soft hissing sound came from her then, like an angered cat, and she pulled away.

"Kat..." I tried to reach out to her, but she jumped back as if burned.

"If he ever recovers, tell him something from me?" She took a deep breath and sighed. "Tell him he's an idiot."

She bounced back then, and ran out of my temple before I could react. I wasn't going to stop her anyway.

The sun was almost gone and no one would think of stopping a silver saint from leaving is she so wished.

She was free... she could roam the world and lead her own life as she chose to. Just like I would when I had paid my debt of honour by protecting my Goddess.

Until then...

* * *

"So she left?" Camus stood at the entrance of my temple, his eyes running over the endless expanse of starlit sky that stretched above us.

"Yes... she will be all right, of course... but I'll, miss that spunky kid." I walked out, and offered him a glass of juice, as I sipped my whiskey. Camus raised an eyebrow at my drink, and smiled, shaking his head like a surrendering parent.

"And now?" He asked me, his tone slightly wistful.

"Now? I don't know... we'll see, I guess." He smiled at me then, a small soft smile, but it made me happy enough. It was so peaceful, being like this, that I didn't event think of bringing up what had happened the other day... or the reasons that motivated our actions. Nor did I ask him about that dream that had upset him so much, nor about his pupils. I just enjoyed this brief moment of solace we could both have, and forgot all my troubles and all my worries just for a little while.

For a little while.

"Camus...?" I could not help asking him one thing though.

"Hm?"

"Do you think humans are like the stars sometimes?... I mean, in how they shine even after their deaths, as long as they are remembered...?" He turned to the sky again as I spoke, and sighed deeply.

"I used to... but not anymore. Living for and from our memories is living in the past...one cannot survive like that." I took a few steps forward and stood shoulder to shoulder with him.

"Perhaps... but, maybe our memories are all we have, and they are all that makes us what we are. Don't you have a memory you would want to keep forever?" I looked at him, and waited for his answer.

"One." He replied, not lowering his gaze from the sky. "Laughter... and snowy plains."

I frowned then, not knowing where or when this memory came from... even though I knew it was more important that he could - or would - explain to me.

"One is good... one is good enough." I smiled then and let the my eyes search the skies as we stood there, simply being who where were. Not warriors, not humans, not men... just friends. And, almost as if the heavens had heard our thoughts and felt our souls, the sky shifted. One at a time, becoming more and more by the minute, small pinpoints of light began to fall, like a sparkling shower over all of us.

And so, for a few minutes that night, the sky let all of its secrets fall open and blessed us all with a thousand falling shards of light, lighting up the darkness and banishing our pain.

For a while.

I did not know what the future brought... No one prepared me for what happened next. That night, as I stood with Camus watching the starshower bathe the heavens I did not know what tomorrow would bring. I just made the most of the moment and enjoyed it to it's fullest. It was, I now realise, the last time I ever had with Camus... like that. The next day an announcement came, that we were to stay in our temples, for the false Athena was going to attack Sanctuary. My whole life changed that day... as did the lives of all of us. But I did not know that then, as the stars fell over my head and Camus smiled and laughed softly.

None of us did.

And so, like children blessed with innocence by ignorance, we lived. We stood there at the entrance of my temple until the last star had fallen, and all that remained were the ephemeral suns we saw every night of our lives. After that we walked back in and spent most of the night talking, of nothing in particular; and when the sun came out and it was time to go he smiled at me and walked up to his temple. Like a star that shines on regardless of the future; I did not know that he would die before I ever asked him what it was he wanted to talk about, so I let him go and went to sleep.

That was the last time I ever saw him smile.

The End of Part 3 -- Continued in Interlude 1: The Poet and the Painter


Author's Endnote:

Toffee says: I thought this would be the shortest chapter... and it turned out to be the longest one so far... ^.^ Oh well, it's not like it was something bad, hey? *grins* No spoilers this time! And now...the phrase I hate the most: To be continued... *LOL*


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