Unbroken

Part Four: Camus

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

This page was last modified: 2000/11/07


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Author's Note:

Important: To do this chapter I had to watch the anime and write in the dialogues, but: I have the Spanish version, and this one was translated from the French one, that was taken from the Japanese one. And I had to translate it into English. So this is basically a Japanese-to-French-to-Spanish-to-English translation. Don't be surprised if what they say is not exactly the way you know it to be, but this is the story as I know it. Though the dialogues were not changed I added a lot to the thoughts.. so bear with me. ^_^;

Thank you! *hugs*


Unbroken -- Part Four: Camus

© 2000 by Sofía 'Toffee' Francisco

"No earth, no sky, can be discerned at all,
Only these ceaseless snowflakes: still they fall."

- 'Lost in Winter', by Hashin -

Milo:

"It's almost midday... shouldn't you be going up to your temple?" I regarded Camus critically, seeing the obvious dark pain that rode his eyes today.

"No... not yet. They won't get here for at least another 8 or 9 hours... if ever," he spoke softly, his eyes focused on the first temple, where the pulse of unknown auras shifted the power fields in the air. He looked pale and worn... older than I remembered him. Wasn't he only 20?

"Hm... they'll probably die in the second house!" I replied with false cheerfulness, and saw the flash of fear in his eyes. I let my smile drop and crossed my arms, looking at him. There was no use in delaying this any further...and there would be trouble if anyone realised he was out of his temple...today of all days!

"Probably. They are only children." Such sadness... I really had to stop stalling.

"Camus... your remaining pupil..." I saw him look up sharply, cutting me with his eyes. Nevertheless I pressed on. "...he is among the rebels, is he not?"

Camus said nothing for a long while, his eyes drifting to the first temple once again, his brow drawn in worry. "The Cygnus saint... yes."

So.

That was it. I opened my mouth to say something, but nothing came to mind. What could I say? Apologise? His pupil was a traitor and we would be forced to kill him. The Wars had begun and... just as had been predicted, the silver and bronze saints would be nothing more than colourful shields used to take the brunt of the first attack. And here, in the midst of Sanctuary, it all began.

Down there lay a girl who claimed to be Athena, of flesh and bone...and above us? A Goddess we had never seen, and a Priest whose heart was darker than the fires of hell. Who was right, then?

Was it so strange that these children would fall for a more palpable and true image? Was she more than just an image? Yet...they were traitors, and whether their crime was simple innocence or true evil... it did not matter to us now. Death was all they had in front of them now.

And Camus knew this... the fate of his sole pupil was sealed... he must have known it from start. Yet, why such a sad face? Was it because the child had gone astray... or because he would die?

Why that look of self-recrimination?

"You knew it was going to be this way," I told him, feeling unnerved by the searing agony in his eyes.

He bowed his head briefly, and then gave me a long look. "It was my choice... yet, I could have had it another way."

Another way?

Could Camus have somehow kept his pupil from all of this? Why didn't he do it? " Why didn't you?" I whispered, frowning. He shook his head and bit his lip.

"Because... he would not have been what he is now." What he was now?

"You could not kill Gabriel twice?" It was a strange phrasing, but he understood my question and nodded softly.

"Not quite. Gabriel was already half dead... he was brought into the world like that. But this child was alive... and try though I would, I could not draw this out of him. Until there came a point where I no longer wanted to. I wanted him to live." He sighed, and lifted his face to look at the towering clock that marked in fire the passing of each second.

"You wanted him to live... and yet you are letting him die?" Did he realise how he was talking himself into knots?

"He would have gone on existing, but he would have been dead. Like me," Camus touched his chest, punctuating what he meant, and then let his hand drop limply to his side.

"You are not dead," I replied, angered by his words. He shook his head, so sadly.

"Yet I will never feel with the strength he feels. I will never... laugh as honestly as he did. So... I will never live as he lives... as much as my time will be longer." I stared at him, eyes wide.

"You envy him?" Was it possible for Camus to feel envious of his own student?

"No... I..." he sighed and looked away, not knowing what to say, or not wanting to say it. I let it pass, and faced the fireclock silently.

What would today bring, if not more war and pain?

More blood spilt for nothing?

More graves with no names to give them an owner? Our lives belonged to us no more, not even in death.

And then, the aura around Sanctuary shifted; they were going to the second house. I glanced at my friend, seeing his pained expression, and feeling completely useless to him. As I always was when he needed me.

"And yet... it's a lovely morning," I whispered, feeling the warm sun on my face and seeing it reflect the smooth gold of my cloth against the marble slabs on the floor.

"It is..." he acquiesced, and turned to his temple.

* * *

Camus:

Where did it start, child?

When did I start depending on such banal things as a smile and a laugh?

I shook my head, climbing the stairs up to the nearest passage, feeling the painful shift of each aura inside Sanctuary. Milo was upset, yet he did not know the truth of what I knew. And, as usual, it was better that way.

The sun struck down with unrelenting force, a cheerful mockery on mother nature's part, that only added to my pain. And how I wished I could go back... return to those endless fields of snow, where all that could be heard was the whisper of the wind upon the pale land. And yet, at some point I could not define, it was more than just snow... there was a soft laugh... and cheerful joy.

A joy of life.

And now, it is this very thing that made you so special that will mark your ending. I could not make you something else.. I could not kill you. It was not the same as me... I had always been dead, but you were so alive; so utterly and completely living, that I could not destroy you. And then, in order to let you live, I signed your own death warrant. It was my mistake, child; you could not have both. So I chose to let your heart go on, and kill your mortal body in order to preserve your soul.

Perhaps... I had always known it would be this way.

* * *

A small group of children stood in front of me, huddled together in both fear and cold, drawing from each other what little humanity they had to give. I stared at them long and hard, making sure that my eyes reflected the cold uncaring life that was set for them. Choose that, or die.

Isaac stood a few metres behind me, having been my disciple for two years already gave him enough confidence to hold himself higher than those children, yet I could sense a beat of apprehension in his aura. I glanced back at him, meeting his steely emerald gaze. Isaac gave me a silent look, and then his eyes focused on something else, beyond those boys. I turned, and spotted the source of his curiosity.

A small boy was making his way up to us, carrying a backpack slung over his shoulder, apparently at ease in the freezing weather. I waited until he had reached us, and seeing him stop and blink at the group of boys it was clear he too, was here to train with me.

"You are late, child," I informed him icily, fixing a cold stare on him. The small blond stared back at me calmly and bowed his head mutely. I would have expected him to cower in fear, or apologise profusely; this silent behaviour spoke of a strange wisdom. Somehow, the child had reacted as an adult would react to me... and it was unsettling.

"I got lost," he replied, his face becoming dead serious as he gave me a cold look, recognising my authority. There was a clear Russian accent in his voice, laced with something that was... maybe Japanese? Strange..

I raised an eyebrow, making my annoyance evident. The child, surprisingly, held my gaze; not defiantly, but in simple wise interest. He was such a strange enigma I found myself dumbfounded. The child smiled and walked up to small group, his face acquiring that sombre look once again...the one had had carried as he made his way up to us. I could feel Isaac's curiosity, and let my gaze soften somewhat.

"Come on, children, there's a lot of work ahead of us."

* * *

That night Isaac came to me, his face shadowed with a mixture of fear and pain. I gave him a long look, and straightened on my chair. He came closer, but stayed at a respectful distance.

"What is it, Isaac?" He lowered his eyes to the floor and bit his lip.

"Did I make any mistakes?" he asked me softly, a strange waver in his voice.

I sighed heavily, seeing what the problem was.

"These children are here for a different cloth, Isaac," I told him quietly, and watched as his face lightened visibly.

"I thought..." I cut him off, not really wanting to hear his stammered apologies. Isaac was intelligent and he saw the chance I gave him; he bowed shortly and left. I stared at the spot he had vacated for a while, and finally got up.

I was going to go up the stairs, to the second floor where I slept, but a strange feeling halted me. I turned around at the foot of the stairs, the prickling feeling of being watched coursing up my spine.

It was the blond child.

"Got to your bed, child," I told him, feeling suddenly very small in the pale ice blue seas of his eyes. His gaze reflected a deep sadness, and spoke of an intelligence and wit too great for a child so small. And also, there was a striking warmth in him, contrasting with the sombre coldness he portrayed most of the time.

The child was hurt, but that did not make him love life any less.

He continued to stand there, looking at me. At last I sighed and turned to him fully. "What is your name, child?"

The boy looked at the floor and then back up at me. "Hyoga."

"No surnames?" I inquired, startled - even though I had already heard it - by the high childish tone in his voice.

"No. Just Hyoga," he replied, his eyes searching mine. Ah... I knew that look all to well. It was probably the same look I gave Ganymede every time I tried to read him. I blinked, narrowing my eyes coldly, even though I felt slightly amused.

"Very well then. Go to your bed, Hyoga."

After a few minutes, he did.

* * *

I shook my head, not wanting to remember those times now...not now.

It was my choice. I did not accept him as a candidate for my cloth simply because I cherished him as he was; even though I knew that such deep emotionality would be his undoing. He would act so outwardly cold, but I could feel the passionate heart that lived beneath the cold icy glare. Yet, I could not give up either.

The only thing left for me to do was to let things happen as they would, and see how far he would come.

"It is strange, to feel this guilty about something..." I murmured.

Should I get the chance to go back in time I knew I would make the same choice again. This child, was my weakness. I created an abomination... an ice saint whose purpose in life was the love he had for all those who surrounded him. And I allowed it, because he warmed me... and no one else had managed that.

Not since Milo had lost his heart, all those years ago.

* * *

Milo:

What was wrong with Camus?

The fact that his pupil was here as a traitor explained his unhappiness, but not that look of profound guilt. Did he feel the child's choice was due to his failure as a teacher? Or had he unknowingly influenced the child in that direction?

And then another, more important question struck me. Why had he allowed this child to become a bronze saint when he now had no heir to all of his knowledge? Perhaps the boy had no real potential... yes, that was probably it. And yet... even though my rational mind told me it was impossible, I could have sworn he looked moved by all of this.

He looked like he truly cared about the child, more than a master should care for a boy destined to die.

I walked to the main entrance of my temple and gazed down at the second house, surprised to feel a sudden burst of cosmo crash into Aldebaran's aura. And a few minutes later, another... Strange.

A small figure ran out of the Taurus temple and made its way up the third house. He was followed by three others ten or fifteen minutes later. Up to the third house...?

Well, there was no one there. There had been no one there for many years now.

Gemini.

I smiled sadly and turned my back on the sunlight, choosing the coolness of my shadowed temple over the heated glare that struck the stones at this hour. I was about to sit down for a while when something changed in the aura around Sanctuary... something violently unexpected.

I shivered, and then, recognising the shift, I dashed to the entrance, where I could see the third temple. And indeed, an unmistakable aura hung around the place. An aura I had not felt for many years.

Saga...?

It couldn't be...!

But, the Kyoko had summoned all saints back to Sanctuary, why shouldn't he be here? I laughed, slightly hysterical... Goddess...

It took me a few minutes to gather my inner senses enough to calm my breathing. I had not seen or heard from him since that day he told me he wanted nothing more of me. I had not expected that feeling him would force me into such a state. I shuddered and leaned heavily against a pillar.

Saga was here... oh, Goddess, Saga was here...

I pressed a trembling hand to my face, hating myself for this weakness, and took a few deep breaths, attempting to reorganise my wits. My heart bashed painfully in my chest, and I felt an irrational fear grip my soul and twist it wickedly. I licked my lips reflexively and closed my eyes. It was obvious that he would be here... so why hadn't I thought of it?

Because he had never shown his face around me up to now.

And the worst part... was that it hurt. It really hurt.

Had I been the cold unemotional Milo of before this may have passed over without much trouble. But not now, not like this. Feeling him again brought back all the old memories... and all the old feelings.

Damn him!

I growled, angered by my own weakness, and paced back into the temple, seeking the cold solace of the ancient stone.

* * *

Camus:

I jerked upright as I felt the rush of energy, a cosmo that had not made itself felt for too long. The flow of power was both heated and cold, almost feverishly electric and just as mutely tranquil. The cosmo that surged around the Gemini house glowed with a burning darkness, and a searing frozen light.

Saga.

I stood there for a few minutes, too surprised to do anything else. The Gemini saint was here? No one had felt him, or heard anything of him, yet now it was unmistakably his aura that enveloped his temple, as the child saints that fought there held on precariously to their lives. I felt myself go cold, pressed by an irrational fear for Hyoga.

He was down there... facing Gemini Saga, one of the oldest and most powerful saints. But why this fear...?

It was not as if I hadn't known the child would die early in the battle.

I just had wished he would last a bit... But he wasn't dead yet. I could feel his cosmo.

So why this fear?

Why?

Because I wanted to find it out on my own...his limits. I had never tested this child, like Ganymede tested me. It had not been necessary. But I needed to know - to feel - the extent of his power. Small as it would be due to his emotionality. I had to find it out by myself. And also... I had to give it one last try.

Maybe there was still a chance to fix things. Maybe he could still live... if only he managed to let go of some things. He could keep his fierce devotion for his friends, and forget the ghosts of his past.

He would never attain true power... but he would at least live longer... wouldn't he?

I nodded to myself, seeing that I would not be at ease until I found out the truth of this thing I had created. And if he did not make it, and took a turn for worse... I preferred killing him myself than seeing him succumb in pain to another who would not honour his soul.

His soul...

* * *

"You must be as strong as these ice walls, and just as unmoveable," these words... this phrase that had been the mantra of countless ice saints over the endless cycles.

"Hai," the soft determined answer, the strength born out of weakness. I looked down at Hyoga, seeing his huge blue eyes shine, his small mouth set in a firm line.

The others had all died or run away, but this one, this small angel-faced thing, had stayed by his own will and chose to fight in order to live. Isaac smiled vaguely, amused by the enthusiastic child. For the time being, at least; I knew that my older pupil would at some point find out Hyoga's real motives for being a saint, and he would reject the boy then.

I did not understand him, in his stunning and foolish determination to cling on to his mother. I could not grasp the concept of a child loving a parent so deeply, and his happiness... that joy that he had felt... it made me jealous. It brought back the harsh reality of my life, of what I was. I should have hated the boy for being so weak, I should have. But I couldn't.

"Sensei?" He looked at me, a soft painfully ancient smile lighting up his childish face. This ageless enigma of pain and joy had been thrust into my care, and though I tried to detach myself from him, I could not. He moved me; in his resolve to love and hate so strongly, in his strength that he used to hold on to that which he held dear.

What are you, child?

He was clearly meant to be an elemental user, not a psychic, but... he was too emotional to be an ice-saint, yet not passionate enough to use fire as a weapon. What was he then? The potential to use ice and cold air as his main power was there, and strong, but his personality and his mind were not the right type for this. He was destined to die even before he got anywhere.

And still, I trained him. Still I taught him the way of our life and the secrets of our kind. To be strong, like those ice walls, and... just as cold.

Isaac walked up to him and gave me a patient look. So devoid of any feelings or desires, so clear and devoted to a Goddess he had not yet seen. So perfect, so much like me. So empty. And there, beside him, stood a creature that I could not help but care for, knowing he would die. I trained him knowing that by doing so I was sending him to his death.

* * *

I opened my eyes again, feeling the warring shifts of energy around us; and chose.

* * *

Milo:

I would have gone on wallowing in my own misery, had not Camus' cosmo touched mine a while later. I realised that he was not as far up as he should be. That he was coming down. I walked briskly to the exit of my temple, and clearly saw his tall figure walking down the last few steps down to my domain. The sun shone off his cloth, giving him an unreal light as he reached me and straightened his cape.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, feeling too shaken up by the previous happenings to really understand this, or think about it. Camus frowned deeply, and stepped aside, going into my temple. "Camus?"

He did not answer even when I called his name, he just walked up to the entrance and stood there, surveying the scene below.

"I am going to kill him."

He spoke softly, but there was a hard edge in his voice that made my blood run cold.

"Kill him? Kill who?" Was all I found I could say. He did not turn to face me.

"Hyoga... my pupil." And nothing else.

"Camus... wha-?" He shook his head and waved my questions away.

"I... I owe him that at least. An honourable death. I will test him, if he is strong enough, he will live. If not, he dies," there was no emotion in his voice, and this scared me more than anything else. I knew that his pupils were important to him, I had seen as much... yet now he spoke of killing the remaining one... just like that... it made not sense.

"Kill him? Kill him? Camus are you crazy!? You can't just go down there and..." He slowly turned around, and the cold frozen look he gave me shut me up. I swallowed hard, trying to remember when I had last seen him like this.

"It is the best I can do for him. If he has the power to make it, then he will, but if he is too weak, then I would rather kill him myself than let him die at hands of someone else."

"It sounds like you are just too ashamed of him to let him be seen," I cut in, feeling an irrational anger at this behaviour. His eyes flared, thin lips tightening as he strode up to me with a coldness that seemed to take him whole.

"This has nothing to do with you, Milo," He informed me, indigo eyes shining like shards of ice.

"Then why did you stop by my temple to tell me? Or did you suddenly feel the urge to confess your sins to another sinner?" His sharp intake of breath warned me, and I moved aside just in time to dodge his blow. Camus spun on his heels, regaining his balance, and stood poised and ready to fight me.

"Well?" I pressed on, smiling cruelly.

He said nothing.

I shook my head in exasperation and waved in direction of the entrance, not looking at him. "I won't stop you, he is your pupil after all. Just don't do anything you might regret."

He relaxed then, and walked out of my temple without even saying goodbye. I just stood there, seeing him stride down the stairs.

Kill him? Ridiculous!

I closed my eyes and leaned against a pillar, wishing - though I knew not why - that I had let Camus tell me what had been bothering him, before all this began.

* * *

Camus:

By some power I did not fully understand Hyoga was now in the 7th temple, I could feel his cosmo easily, so I walked down the stairway to meet him. To kill him.

The temple was silent as a tomb, and there was dust all over that spoke of how long it had been empty. The sun barely reached in, due to the design in its construction, and where it did long shadows stretched into the centre merging in a pool of blackness at the very core of the structure. I shuddered involuntarily and walked in, tracing my pupil's aura until I found him, sprawled limply on the cold stone.

I stopped there and stared at him, taking in the changes that had come over him since that day all those years ago, when he had stepped into my life. Still, as he lay unconscious on the ground, he looked as fragile and peaceful as he had looked when he was nothing but a child. Too sweet, too humane.

He stirred slightly, gasping softly at the pain in some wound as he struggled to open his eyes, dizzy and disoriented. Slowly he managed to focus and raised himself on his forearms, and saw me.

His eyes widened for a few seconds before he fell again with a small moan. It took more will power than I had expected not to go there and try to help him... but I was not here for that. I watched patiently as he once again struggled to raise himself and stared at me.

"That cloth...?" a small awed whisper... he had never seen me in my cloth before, had he? "Camus... Sensei?" there was uncertainty in his tone, not because he doubted who I was, but because he did not understand why I was here.

"It's been a while since I saw you last..." I spoke up, trying to sound as calm and detached as possible.

"Why? That means... are we in the Aquarius temple?" such relief in his voice! He felt safe now that he knew it was me, did he? Oh, child...

"No, Aquarius is further up, this is Libra," I had to sound cold, and I could see unease slipping into his gaze at my formal attitude. He felt it in his blood; something was wrong.

"Shiryu's sensei guards this house..." he murmured as he rose to his feet, graceful even now that he was so hurt. I was a bit startled by that... so the boy knew the Libra saint? Shiryu's sensei...? The name meant nothing to me, but it was not hard to guess it was one of his companions. Another...rebel.

I sighed softly, not wanting to think about that. Where they really rebels? Or was that girl down there the real Athena? I didn't know, and this doubt ate at me. Hyoga was too emotional and too noble to choose an evil leader, that much I knew. And we - the gold saints - were right now obeying the orders of a Kyoko that had brought nothing but pain to us in the past. But we followed him because he was Athena's messenger... unless there was no Goddess behind Shion's temple.

Only a girl dying below.

I gave myself a mental shake, realising that I would find no answers to my questions... and because in the end the girl had done all the right things, and our Athena didn't even seem to exist. The answer was obvious, but there was an oath to keep us all from trading sides, if not personal reasons. There was no way to avoid this fight.

"He has not been here for a long time," I replied coldly, closing my eyes so I did not have to see his clear blue eyes searching mine almost desperately.

"But then... why are you here?" Ah... the question at last. Silence stretched between us, it felt like an eternity, and I wanted it to be so. After this, nothing would ever be the same. I gazed back at him suddenly, giving him a hostile look, and saw him pale visibly, his eyes widening. There was not turning back now...

"I am here to keep you from going any further, Hyoga."

"What...?" He rocked back slightly, as if my words had dealt a physical blow to him. He had such faith in me... and now I was turning on him, as his enemy. Against Athena...? His Athena.

"This is an order, and you will obey." But I had to know. I had to find out if all these years of training had been for nothing, I had to find out what it was the led Isaac do die for this child. I had see if there was even a glimmer of hope that he might live because...

Because...

* * *

He was standing there, looking out the window. His pale hair like a halo of sunlight around his moon-washed figure. The stars shone softly, and he gazed at them in silence, his back turned to me. Had he even noticed I was here? He looked so strong... so unmovable, standing there with his back straight.

"You should be in bed. Tomorrow will be a long day.." Not that days here in Siberia were ever long... but I had a hard set of exercises for Isaac and him to complete. He turned slowly, as if I had awakened him from some distant dream. His clear blue eyes rested on mine, shining with that soft light. Filled with admiration, with respect and...

"Hai, sensei," and affection. He had been here for three years, and in that time he had grown so much... and so little. Still there was that warmth glowing in his eyes... cold for a normal human, but too warm for an ice saint. Still he clung to his past, and used it as a reason to go forward. Those wide eyes that looked so innocent and so old... so full of life and so conscious of it at the same time; of every second that went by.

"Go," I could not help being so cold to him, because if I were to give in even slightly I knew that I would not be able to stop. I had to remain as far away from him as I could.. because ...otherwise... I would be too soft on him. Even though I tried to hate this child for his weakness, I could not. I could not even stay detached... every smile and laugh, every look and gesture... I could not detach myself from him.

And the boy knew it... or at least felt it.

"I'm sorry, sensei... I was just looking at the stars." He bowed formally, never trying to gain my affection either. He was content with the knowledge that despite his faults I still trained him. And for what? So he could go and rescue a corpse from underwater? Why this obsession child...? Why?

I walked up to the window and looked out, trying to see it through his eyes. The stars shone brightly, as did the moon; and both combined cast an eerie light on the deep layer of snow that covered the ground all around us. It was... beautiful.

"Hm... the sky is very clear tonight..." I shook my head and sighed. "Go to bed, tomorrow will be hard."

He nodded vaguely and then... he smiled. He turned to me and smiled... what was it about him that moved me so? Perhaps, it was that no one - save for Milo - had ever given me anything without expecting something in return. But it wasn't that... was it?

No one had ever truly cared for me... not ever. Milo was the only exception, and I still did not understand him. But he and I had shared a lot together, and there had never been anything even close to rivalry between us. We were raised together almost like brothers, and leaned on each other out of necessity... and finally some strange form of love. But... Isaac admired me, nothing else. Not that he should feel anything else...

And yet, Hyoga... loved me.

He did not care that I put his life at risk day after day with his training, nor that I so openly favoured Isaac all the time, nor that I told him he was weak at least two times a day. He did not care that I rarely - if ever - praised him, or that I treated him so coldly. He simply cared for me, not because I was his teacher or because I was raising him. He just did.

My mother... supposedly the one who should have loved me the most, hated me from the very beginning, never even smiling at me. My father had left us as soon as it was known that I existed... And my teacher had seen me as nothing more than a duty to fulfil. Those who should have loved me, those who had reasons to love me... hated me. I was nothing to them, never would be. For years the only creature that had given a damn about me had been Milo, because I was his only friend. But Hyoga... Hyoga cared for no reason I could discern, he just did. And this confused me more than anything I knew.

And even worse, was the fact that I cared just as much.

"Hai. Good night, sensei." And he left.

I took a deep breath and went upstairs, to my room. That had once been Ganymede's... I lay on the cold bed and stared at the roof, trying to make sense of my feelings. And failed. I knew he would die... but still I went on with this game.

* * *

He was slammed back into a pillar, the force of my cosmo toppling him over easily. Gods... so weak. But he got up every time, trembling with pain and close to fainting with exhaustion. He told me of the Pope, of Athena, of their mission. Trying so hard to make me see his truth. And I saw it... but I was not here for that. I was not here for his Goddess or any deity, I was here to test him. But it was so hard. I did not want to know it, because if he was not strong enough to make it, then I... I would...

"What I really want to know is if you will fight me." And there was no other option left to him. But he hesitated, his damned feelings kept him from going forward completely. Feelings for me, for his friends, for his mother. And he had to leave them behind.

To survive he had to attain true detachment. To survive he had to die... This was what I had feared so much... this was why I had never accepted him as my successor even after Isaac died. Besides... after that, things were never the same either. It was my mistake... or perhaps it would have been my best move... but I had not known how deeply he cared for me. It had been impossible to gauge.

But he had to live... And if to manage this I had to make him suffer then I would. I would break him if that was what it took to help him survive.

"You have not forgotten your mother, have you? Who drowned in the Siberian seas?" His eyes darkened, sensing something afoot. I spread my hands in front of me, ready to begin this once and for all. "Well... look," and I projected an image into his mind. He closed his eyes, and watched.

And I... began.

* * *

"My mother sleeps there..." A child, standing over the thick barrier of ice that floated over the sea. Eyes filled with determination to go down there... to get his mother back. Or to simply see her.

"That is not important," I replied coldly, and saw him frown, disagreeing with me.

"I will see her again someday," he told me, sticking to his resolution.

"She is dead, Hyoga. Dead." He sighed sadly, as if that was a bothersome fact.

"I will see her nonetheless." Did he understand? How could he cling to his past like that, to the point of worshipping a dead woman? She was dead... dead! So why did he not let go?

* * *

"Have you said goodbye to you mother?" Tears shone on his dark eyelashes, as he focused on the image I was projecting. I lifted my arm, and threw a beam of energy that would reflect on my constellation, and end this once and for all. End his ridiculous obsession.

So he would live...

He gasped softly, a pained frown taking over his features and clutched at his head, trembling. I closed my eyes, not wanting to see him suffer like this, and knowing all too well that I was causing it. But he had to finish understanding it. It was unhealthy and senseless for him to continue seeing his dead mother like that... and he had to let go.

Of everything.

"What was that...?" he whispered, pale and shaking.

"The sad truth," I replied coldly. He shook his head, unable to find coherence in all of this.

"You had nothing to do with her! You had no right! She was my only strength and now you..." I looked away, ignoring his pain and anger as best I could. "Why did you do this... Why!?" he cried, angered, betrayed... hurt.

"I have never blamed those who cannot forget the past, and often break down crying over the same thing long after..." Like Milo... who still grieved Saga even though he did not say it, or know it. "But that is common people, and you are not. You are a saint! You should thank me for cutting away your past!" You are an ice saint, and we cannot have these feelings... or any reason at all. We cannot... child.

"What did you say!?" His fist shook with anger as he fought to remain in control.

"If this angers you then don't think it over any more, fight me!" And he did... but still, it was not enough. Still he fought because of his feelings... and so, he was weak.

* * *

"He is... very sweet," Isaac answered my question concerning what he thought of Hyoga a bit doubtfully, his hard green eyes avoiding mine. I sighed and slumped into a chair.

"But?" I asked, sensing that he was not finished.

"With all due respect, sensei... he does not seem to fight, for Athena. It's like he had..." A small frown appeared on his brow. "Like he had... personal reasons."

He spat the last two words as if they had been foul. So, Isaac did not know Hyoga's true motivations? I sighed, realising that this could not be put off any longer. Not with my trip to Greece the next day.

"There is something you should know, Isaac. And I am telling you this because he might try something while I am away... and I need you to... deter him if possible." He blinked, and stood straighter. He was big even for a fourteen year old, and well built by any standards. He would be the perfect Aquarius: cold, detached, noble and stunningly intelligent.

Perfect... too perfect.

"Sensei?" I knew Hyoga was going to try and see his mother... but I could not postpone this trip. I had a nagging feeling about Milo, that something would happen, so I had to go. But at this time of the year... strong undercurrents whirled under the thick layer of ice.

And if Hyoga was caught in one of them...

"Surely, he has told you of his mother?" Isaac nodded.

"She died for him, on a shipwreck. What does she have to do with this?" Green eyes flickered confusedly.

"Hyoga wants to be a warrior so he can break the layer of ice over the sea and rescue her body," I said it all in one breath, fearing the result.

Isaac jumped to his feet in outrage, his cheeks flushed in a sudden irrational anger that took his breath away, eyes flaring coldly. I saw him stand like that, watching with my usual disinterest as he fought for control.

"That... that is..." he searched through the haze of his fury for the right words.

"Personal motives. I know... But it is his own weakness." Isaac knew of these currents, and he was fond of the boy no matter what. If he did not beat him up to keep him from going, then at least he would warn Hyoga of the danger if he did.

And if the child still decided to go... then it was his own fault... if he... died.

The thought was to horrible to contemplate. I wished I could stay... but I knew that Milo needed me, or would need me soon. So I had to go.

When I came back... Isaac was dead.

* * *

"Now you are full of love for you mother... and hatred towards me." Gods... it hurt... "You are full of mundane emotions. This makes your cosmo far weaker than a warrior of your standards should be."

He struggled to onto his arms... very much like at the beginning of our fight. "Then... you have been doing all of this... to help me attain the 7th sense? Is that what you wanted?" I could feel his confusion, his pain... and I could see how tired he was... but I could not help but give it one last try.

Tell him what he had to do so he knew how to pull through.

"You want to defeat the Gold saints? I recommend you rid yourself from those lowly emotions... you don't know what you are saying." Hear it child... understand it. Once and for all.

"Are you telling me to forget my mother... in that deep abyss?" Why did he keep talking of her as if she lived? "I can't... I can't! I can't!"

He fell to his knees, hands touching the cold stone almost pleadingly. Sobs tore through his body as the conflicting emotions wreaked havoc in his heart and soul, tearing him from within. He cried, as I had feared he would. And he... failed.

He simply failed.

I was so afraid he would say this... even though I had known he would. I tried everything.

I clasped my hands above my head, ready to deliver the final blow. I would rather kill you myself, Hyoga, than let you die a painful death at the hands of another. I am your teacher... I owe you this... I...

He looked up all of a sudden, eyes wide. And I could not help but remember all those smiles, all those laughs and soft looks. All his efforts, the purity of his feelings. His noble heart.. his gentle heart. I knew this time would come... but I had not know it would hurt like this.

I had not... known I cared so much.

"Aurora Execution!"

* * *

"Sensei!" Laughter... ringing like echoes of bells over the mountains of ice. The white landscape that stretched before us like a heaven of moonlit perfection. The rainbow glimmers as light struck the ice... and the laughter again.

"The aurora borealis...?" Isaac mumbled, staring in awe at the sky that seemed to have been doused by some capricious god with his watercolour pallet. On nights like this Ganymede would sit outside and draw. Just draw.

"Sensei... look at that one!" Hyoga pointed up at a particularly colourful streak and laughed.

So peaceful... so happy... as both boys stared up at the heavens in rapture... and those soft blue eyes smiled, too... so joyfully... so full of life...

* * *

A cold mist swirled around my ankles, falling like a blanket over his body. His skin was white as chalk, like his hair, and his lips were a soft blue tint. My Aurora Execution seemed to have finished him off.

Hyoga... sleep in peace.

I could not change you... my plan failed. But you would have died anyway... had you gone forward. This was probably better, because you didn't have to die in pain.

I felt tears sting my eyes, and a deep pain that tightened my throat and made it hard to breathe. Like a vine gripping my chest in an iron grip, and crushing me.

In the end I had not been strong enough to kill him, I had not been able to. So this was all I could offer...

I lifted my hand, to create an ice coffin that would hold him, for aeons if needed.

Forgive me... I did not want to do this, even thought it was fate. But you were too gentle... too human!

Tears ran down my cheeks unbidden, as I realised that it was over. That I would never hear his laughter again, that he would never gaze at me with those soulful eyes, so full of love and wisdom, that I would never hear his voice again... or see him running over the pale icy plains.

Never again...

This coffin would not melt... not for a long time... no matter how many gold saints tried to break it. You body will remain as it is for all eternity if possible, while your soul rests far away from this war.

Goodbye Hyoga... I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me... some day.

I stood there, watching my final gift to him. There he would stay, until, years from now, the world was safe enough for him to live... happily.

Finally I walked past it, leaving him behind. Leaving all of it behind.

He would live... that in itself was a consolation... the only consolation I had. Already I missed him... that was the measure of how much I had cared. Not like a teacher, not like a brother... I simply cared because he had been an angel and the only person that never hurt me intentionally. The only person that loved me for what I was, and nothing else.

I had saved him... and that should have made me happy. But the knowledge that I would never see him again broke me, and the tears would not stop even as I made my way back up to my temple.

* * *

Milo:

He arrived not long after the third blue flame that shimmered on the fireclock vanished in a swirl of dying energy. I felt him approach at a slow pace, as if some great weight held him and pressed him down to the ground with unrelenting force. He walked with his head bowed, and that was proof enough of how badly off he was. Camus - above all - favoured his pride and regal attitude, necessary for his coldness and detachment, yet now he walked like a wounded animal. So I knew the boy had failed, and that Camus had won.

And lost.

He came into my temple and sighed, straightening his shoulders slightly. I walked up to him, unsure, afraid. This was not the Camus I knew, he was far too hurt and humbled; like he had been when I caught him in the grasp of a nightmare. A hellish memory or thought he had wanted me to hear, and I had been too blind save for my own need until it was too late.

"So... You kill..." He shook his head softly, still not looking at me.

"I - I couldn't. He is in a coma, in a coffin made of ice. And he will stay there until the world is safe. Probably... a few hundred years from now," his voice was low and rough, awkwardly strangled.

"In a coma...?" So. He had not killed the child, but leaving him like that... it could be worse than death itself! "But... he will be alone, and lost when he wakes! He may not make it out th..."

"Anything is better than this. Anything is better than dying in a senseless war. Than dying in pain, without honour." He raised his hands to his head, and I could see them shake slightly as he removed the cloth's headpiece and closed his eyes. His expression was lost under the sea of indigo hair that shadowed his face, as his hands clenched on the polished gold helmet he held in his hands. "I could not kill him... but I could not let him live either, so..."

"Poor child... It is a dishonour to have been removed from a war like that..."

"That is the point Milo... He was not a man, or a warrior. He was a child. A lost, heartsick child with too big a heart and too much hope for the future. Too many dreams to have them crushed here, for no reason. He was too emotional to be able to forget the things he loved... his mother..." That last part was only a whisper, but it rattled me with the force of a cry. Mother?

It was that dream he had refused to talk about... that made him look so lost and hurt all of a sudden?

And his words shook me deeply, for I had never heard him speak so sweetly, or so sadly of anything. I had never even guessed Camus could still resemble Gabriel enough to sound as human as he had sounded. And at last I understood what had been bothering me all along. This child - Cygnus Hyoga - had managed to do what I had been trying to accomplish and had failed every time. He had made Camus love him, or at least feel a certain degree of affection. I knew that whatever feelings Camus felt regarding me were too faceted and held too many nuances, our friendship was marked by our mutual love just as much as it was determined by pure need. Yet this child inspired a feeling I could not dream of creating, not in Camus at least.

"If you think this was best..." I shrugged.

"I don't know. But it was all I could do. I ..." He looked up and I saw what I had failed to notice, and should have suspected due to the raggedness in his otherwise smooth voice. There were tear marks on his white cheeks, and his eyes glimmered with a wavering sheen of light that was too unnatural in him: he had been crying.

I stared at first, taken aback by this sudden proof of emotion in him. It was not that I doubted his ability to grieve, I just never thought he would cry over anything. Or anyone. I drew closer to him and lifted my arm, not even aware of what I was doing, tracing the moist patterns on his cheeks. They were real. He lifted his head slightly, and moved it to one side in order to avoid my touch.

I was at a loss; there was nothing I could say or do that would ease this pain from him... there had never been anything I could do for him. And yet, he had given me what little heart he had left and had kept me alive, even when I had prayed for death. I had been too proud to end my own life, but Camus had gone through the tedious job of forcing me to eat and remember that there was a life. And now, I had nothing to give him.

I could not hug him, though I felt the impulse to do so, knowing that it would only make him more uncomfortable, and with both of us wearing our cloths... I just took a step forward and run a hand through his hair, as I had done so often before and after braiding it. He looked up at me, the gesture and confirmation of my eternal friendship was not lost to him, and his eyes softened somewhat.

"He'll understand it... when he awakes," I whispered, and brushed away the dampness from his pale cheeks, seeing his eyes grow distant, his soul prey of some memory long gone.

"I never told him..." he whispered softly.

"What..?" I asked, placing my hand on his shoulder to claim his attention. He snapped back into reality, paling slightly as if what he had been about to say would have condemned him.

"Nothing... It was just a thought..." He pulled away, brushing my hand off his shoulder absently.

"What? That you cared for him?" His whole body jerked and became taut as high-strung wire, one hand clenching on his headpiece.

"It's not important... not anymore," He sighed then, and let his shoulders fall slightly. "It probably never was... he was meant to die. This way at least, he can have a life... someday."

"What will you do now?" Stand for Athena? ...and which Athena at that... no, there was only one. No matter how corrupt Shion had become, there was only one Athena, and for her we would fight. And after that, after that maybe - just maybe - there would be a life for us. Neither one had anything left save for each other, it was together that we would find our place in a peaceful world, once this war was over.

"Protect my temple..." he murmured, his voice sounding hollow and lost. "There is nothing left but that."

Perhaps I should have made him stay, at least for a while. Those tears had been only a small fraction of his pain, and to think that he was close enough to let it all out should have made me react. I should have told him something else too: that he was important to me... that I cared.

But his cold anguish seemed to call for privacy, and I let him go.

I should have tried to do something else, though there was probably nothing to do. But he had been there... so many times, and for so long...

* * *

"You knew... didn't you?" I stared at him, enraged at his calm demeanour. Enraged that he could act so coldly when I felt so hurt. When I was so lost.

"I did try to warn you..."

"Don't you dare take that 'I-told-you-so' attitude at me now!" I had cried, rising to my feet. Outside, the wind howled driving fine slivers of ice into the thick layers of wood of Camus' house. It was among these barren plains of ice that I had tried to find solace from my pain. Where I would never be found again.

"I am not going to," he stated coldly, eyes never leaving mine.

I shook my head sadly and shrugged. "Maybe you are right about one thing... there is no need to get emotional over this." Camus had frowned then, his deep blue eyes narrowing to slits as he studied me.

"Don't."

"What? I am only saying that you were right..." He shook his head vaguely and looked out the window.

"Don't act like you don't care. You know you do." I balled my fists in anger at his words.

"How dare you say that! You most of all! How dare you assume you know how I feel!?" I cried, taking a menacing step towards him. He did not back off.

"I am not. I just now it hurts, and that you should not act like you didn't give a damn," he spoke so calmly, so correctly, it made my blood boil.

"You don't even know what it feels like! How can you tell me this when you have been acting like nothing mattered for as long as I can remember!" there was no use in lashing out at him, I knew it. I had come here hoping he could help me, knowing that there was nothing he could do. But I was too hurt to care.

"Yes... but you are not me," That shut me up, and all I could do was stand in front of him as he stared out the window in perfect calm. I slowly dropped into a chair and his my face in my hands, hoping... praying that somehow I could die. I don't remember how long it was, but all of a sudden I felt a warm blanket being draped around my shoulders, and cool fingers feathering through my hair.

"I loved him..." I whispered softly, and felt him squeeze my shoulders slightly. I cried myself to sleep that night, and fell into a depression that would have been my death had Camus not been beside me. But he was, and because there was still one small link that bound me to my heart, through him I survived. I came to myself a few weeks later, cold and uncaring. A void settled within me, and refused to be filled from that day on.

* * *

I was awakened from my memories by the touch of two auras, and the soft sounds of two of the bronze saints entering my temple. They walked in hesitantly, afraid and unsure of what they would find. But what did alert me was the steady thrum of energy coming from the seventh house. Wasn't that where Cygnus was...?

But the cosmo that burned down there was far too warm and gentle to belong to an ice-saint. And I felt no traces of Camus' training in him... as matter fact, his aura reminded me of...?

There was a powerful strength hidden below the pearly layers of sweetness, and a burning courage shimmered around this child's cosmo, that shone with the same intensity his teacher's cosmo had once possessed. Andromeda. The child for whom Albior and his entire Isle were sacrificed, for betraying Athena. Albior... whom I had killed without honour or respect...for this boy. But I sensed no evil in this child... nor in the probing energy of the two children that stood at the entrance of my temple.

Suddenly Andromeda's cosmo flared brilliantly, and then dropped to nothing. Both youths tried to turn around and run back down the stairs, but I stopped them. It did not matter that their aura's tasted of courage and nobility to me, and that they were acting out of concern for a friend. It did not matter that they were only children...they were traitors, so they would die.

And I would have killed them, defenceless as they were. They did not know or understand the nuances of lightspeed, nor did they grasp the full potential of their forcefully developed seventh sense. So they would have died, prey to my scarlet needle; had I not been interrupted by the unwavering glow of a new energy. One that was nothing like what I had felt earlier today, but could still be recognised clearly as Cygnus Hyoga. And the fact that this child lived, after all that Camus had gone through to save him, made my blood boil. He walked up to his friends, standing straight with a look of calm intelligence, and handed the limp body of his friend to the other two saints.

I was stunned by the fact that my first attack did not touch him, and even more when he formed tight rings of ice around me so his friends could pass through. Ah... this was getting personal. I did not dissolve the rings, though I had learned that trick from the days when I trained with Camus, I merely waited until the other three had left.

This child, that had earned Camus' affection, that had put him through such pain, and that had been granted a pardon many would dream of, stood here. I had to keep my anger at bay, and concentrated on being cynical and cold. Because deep down, I was beginning to resent this boy's existence more than anything else. And the very fact that he had ignored Camus' sacrifice for him...

But the fight proved to last longer than I had thought... and he stood up again and again, even though I struck him with all the power of my scarlet needle. He did not give up, his eyes shining with determination and a strange wise light that I had never seen before. He fought on with the courage and perseverance of a true saint.

And he was strong; Camus had done a great job with this boy, who could fend of my minor attacks with the practised ease of a true master, and who had managed to hit me one or two times. He was by no means a fluke. But... strong as he was, he lacked the power to get through me... through the twelve houses.

I fought to keep a calm and cynical facade, as I struck him down, seeing him tremble with pain each time my scarlet needle touched him. Yet he fought on, unrelenting. He got up even though he was beyond in pain, forcing his battered body to go over the boundaries of human resistance. For what?

Why did this child fight on like this? How could he go on... on and on... why...?

I smiled, yet I feared him more than I had feared anyone before. This child... was stronger than many, and had twice the heart. This child...

Was what I should have been.

The pride, the power, the honour... the heart. All the things I forsook when Saga cast me off. When my life lost meaning and reason. But this boy did not give in... he pressed on, ploughing his way through an unforgiving world in search of his meaning; too noble to ever to give up on his beliefs.

"You have two choices now, Hyoga. Either you give up... or you die."

He got up shakily, eyes blazing like shards of crystal, burning cold... but burning nonetheless.

"You don't need to ask..." his voice shook as he got up. "I won't choose either!"

So.

That was why I should at least let this one have what Albior was denied. He was a child maybe, but a brave child. And he did not fight us out of any evil intent, only for what he believed was the best. For the world. For the people he loved. I would not commit the same crime against a fellow saint again. I was an assassin, but not a criminal. I would kill... but I would kill with honour when it was deserved.

Because Hyoga had withstood the brunt of my attack, I would give him the only prize I had to offer: my strongest attack. The true death.

Antares.

And he would be the first one warrior I would use this on... the first one who ever deserved this. I had fought and killed hundreds, yet I had never encountered a soul such as this. Perhaps that was why Camus hurt for him so.

But he smiled... a pained, satisfied smile, and spoke.

"Milo... how sad for you. But will you be able to hit me again... like that, paralysed!?"

"What are you saying... how can you still speak!?" I looked at my feet, just then feeling the slight cold that enshrouded me - that my cloth had shielded me from - and saw. "What is this! My legs are frozen! It can't be... how did you do this!?"

Saying that I was awed beyond imagination was not enough to convey my sudden mental numbness, at the fact that this child could hit me unnoticed. Strong as he was for a bronze saint, he was nothing in the face of a Gold saint. Wasn't he? Camus trained him to become a bronze saint, nothing else.

Could he have done otherwise?

Did this boy have the potential for something greater?

"I did not fire my Diamond Dust for nothing!" He smiled, shifting into his combat stance.

"I can't believe it... your Diamond Dust was nothing to me!" and after, almost to myself. "He has frozen my legs before I noticed!" It was impossible.

But it was true.

Before I could free myself he rushed up to meet me and threw me into the air with a violent upward blow, sending my helmet flying. Impossible.

It a powerful technique - no doubt - but not nearly enough to incapacitate me. Not enough to even destabilise me... but it was impressive. Against anything but a Gold saint... he would have won.

He took a shuddering step forward, and I gripped the wall to stay up for a few minutes. He stood up straighter, as I took my time to clear my mind from the surprise. I would have to be more careful from now on.

"I made it...?" his whispered hope reminded me all to harshly that I had to deal with this now. Camus had probably felt through our auras, what was going on. I had no right to further his pain by playing with this child any longer. I let go.

"Hyoga! I am sorry, but your attack hasn't hurt me in the least." A glib comment, a smile. All designed to make him angry, but... it would not be long now. The blood... "By the way, why don't you look at your body."

He was bleeding too much, soon he would loose most of his senses and he would die. He would die. I smiled cruelly, wishing I could feel the mirth I reflected, but all I felt was a cold aching void, the child fell to his knees, eyes dimming. All I could do was stare, as those brilliant shards ice lost their glow. Soon...

I walked up to him, slowly. He tried to focus on me, but he was too close to fainting, the pain and blood loss taking their toll on him at last. This was what Camus had wanted to save him from, this pain and desperation.

This...death.

I told him, warned him, hoping he would give in and accept his imminent death, but he struggled to his feet again. Unheeding my warnings, he tried to fight on, only to be struck down again. As he fought to get up once again, I pressed my hand to his shoulder, holding him down.

"Stop fighting Hyoga, can't you understand Camus' feelings?"

Did he even see what transpired behind those cold midnight eyes... did he not see what he had? What no one else would ever be able to attain, and he had it. I felt the resurgence of my hatred, at his looks of surprised ignorance.

"What did you...say? Camus' feelings?"

Goddess... it was an agony to spell it out to him. And it made my blood boil. How could he even doubt that Camus thought the world of him... after what he had done? How?

I could feel Camus' aura, trembling with rage, pain... fear. The cold golden flow that seemed to ache, burning me with the sensation of futility. He wished Hyoga had stayed down... and he knew what my powers were like; he knew what I was putting the boy through.

Camus...

"Fine..." I let go of his shoulder, turning my back on him, forcing that look of agony he bore to disappear from my mind. It was not his body that pained him now. "I will explain this to you, before you loose your mind..." a pause. I could feel the waver in his cosmo. "Why did Camus go all the way down to Libra... and immobilised you in the ice."

His eyes flared, at for a moment he looked like he would say something... but he merely waited for me to speak. And those eyes... so warm, so cold, so determined, so wise... so stupid... made my skin prickle.

"First and foremost, Camus wanted to know how determined you were, and the limit to your capacities as a saint. That is why he did not finish you off so soon." Ah... there was pain in his eyes now... and a strange look of confusion I could not figure out. Why did this child doubt Camus' esteem for him...? "And seeing no option, he did the last thing he could, to change you." I did not know what it was, but I knew Camus had pulled his last trump card, tried everything, to save -,or kill - this boy. But that had not altered the result, there was no denying it... nor was there any denying to the pain I could feel in my friend's cosmo.

"Are you saying that Camus did it, with that purpose?" Now he was angry, he spoke with evident fury.

"That is right. You needed the final power... the seventh sense, to fight against us Gold saints. And Camus put you to test, to see if you could awaken it. " He was looking at the ground, a storm in his pale eyes. Disbelief, anger, incomprehension, fear... despair. It hurt... I did not know what had happened... and surely not even Camus was cold enough to hide his affection for this boy. Something had happened... something that Camus had wanted ...no, tried to tell me. I knew it now.. that day... that day that Camus came to me, before all this began, talking about his dead disciple... that day he had tried to tell me something. Something that had hurt him deeper than anything else... something about this child.

(...Isaac is dead...

Who the hell is Isaac?

My oldest pupil.

See, told you. I bet the you the other one dies within the next five months!)

And that look that he had given me, of fear and disbelief.. I should have noticed it then. I should have... should have... Hyoga's ragged breathing drew me out of my troubled thoughts, his chest rose and fell painfully. There was nothing I could do... was there? I couldn't even fight him... Camus was right, he was a child. Only a child.

"You were unable to forget your mother..." he jerked as he heard this. "It will be impossible for you to awaken your seventh sense, and Camus..." I had to stop, feeling my eyes burn. Camus...There were so many things I did not know... that I could have changed perhaps. And now it was to late. Hyoga's eyes were glimmering with an emotion I could not understand, and a pain deeper than he could speak of. "...he chose to bury you, with his own hands, in the ice coffin. Instead of letting you go on, with your desperate fight against the Gold saints." Hyoga fell to his knees, hands shaking. I sighed and finished. " He hoped you would come back to life in a few hundred years."

"Camus..." Such confusion in his voice...

I looked at him, his trembling shape, and sighed. Maybe.. there was something I could do. "Hyoga... I will save your life in deference to Camus. You will regain your senses again... given time." If he had survived this far... then he could make it out of here. "Now... leave the Twelve Temples... no, leave the Sanctuary." I walked off, letting him be.

But his voice, sudden and determined, made me gasp and turn around my head to stare at him. "I can't do that."

"But... what are you saying, Hyoga!"

"Mind you own business Milo... and the same for Camus. Listen to me, Milo!" I faced him fully, anger rolling over me like thunder. How dare he...?

"What!?" I exclaimed, balling my fists.

"I have friends to whom I swore to give my life... and they go on with their desperate fights. I don't want you to grant me this, so I can survive for years or even centuries. My life is worth living because I am alive now, and it a joy to walk the same roads as my friends." He closed his eyes. "No matter how hard it is... there was a time when I cursed my untimely birth, but now I thank God for letting me live at the same time as my friends." He crouched slightly, ready to fight.

"Hyoga... don't tell me you'll..."

"Indeed I will!" He lunged at me, putting all his remaining strength in his attack. "It doesn't matter that I have lost all my senses, I will never stop fighting until I die!"

With a quick dodge and a kick I sent him flying.

Until he dies... For his friends.

I knew this feeling all too well... Camus... for Camus. That was it, wasn't it? He would fight on and on for his friends... and I would fight on, for Camus. I concentrated my power, sending my thoughts to him, knowing that he stood there, looking down at us. I raised my mind and my heart to him... and let him know.

"Did you hear it, Camus?" I spoke out loud... let the child know what he had caused... what he was worth. "Camus of Aquarius, did you hear what he said? It would be an insult to him, to be merciful. I will fight him, fairly, and face to face. Giving his life is proving that he is a man, and a true saint." Not a child... never a child. How wrong we both were. "I will finish this, with all my strength... because I have accepted that Hyoga is a man, and a saint... do you understand this, Camus?"

He did not answer, but I knew he had heard. Perhaps... he hurt too much to answer.

I faced Cygnus, eyeing his huddled body, shaken by pains all over his battered form. But there was no room for pity in my heart now, not anymore. I would kill a saint today and - traitor or not - such a noble soul deserved a noble death.

"What's wrong with you, Hyoga? Did you not choose to fight and die, instead of surviving? Come on Hyoga! Get up and fight, come on!" I watched his slowly rise to his feet, his armour scraping against the cold marble tiles of the floor. "Get up..."

"Sensei.. Camus..." To whom he spoke, I did not know. But the unfettered emotion in his voice was warning enough. Indeed, he would fight. He muttered a whispered litany under his voice... and I realised all of a sudden that he was speaking directly to Camus, as I had done earlier. Fine... let him say goodbye.

"Now, Milo! This will be my last shot... I am loosing all my senses yet I will raise my cosmo to its limit. But if I fall here today, my friends will fulfil our dream of victory, so we will all fight to the very last!"

"Fine, Hyoga! I will kill you with Antares, as I promised!" Let this end... let his fight end.

It was fast... and before he knew what had happened, my fingers were buried inside his abdomen. For a moment, there was pain in his eyes, and fear... but then it was all gone, and he was falling back with a cry, blood pouring from his wounds. He managed to stay on his feet, and took a few confused steps back, eyes clouding over. He put a hand to his stomach, a small moan breaking from his lips. I watched him, feeling a sudden fire in my chest, as he reached out to me, trying even now to defeat me.

How many of us had such courage?

How many of us would give it all, like he had, for our Goddess...?

I stepped aside and watched him fall, his body striking the ground with a metallic clang that filled the room.

"Hyoga... you have fought fairly... and face to face. This is what you wanted but-" I jerked and stepped back, away from his body. The stars... Scorpio's fifteen stars were crafted in ice on my body. "What is this...?"

I glanced at Hyoga... he had...

A saint's vital points were marked by our constellation, and he had them in less than a second... but when? Was it... when I released my last attack? Yes... I saw it clearly now... faster than I had expected... no, faster than I had been able to see. Hyoga had struck my fifteen vital points whereas I had thrown only one Antares.

I shuddered and gasped as I felt the cold seep through the cloth, numbing my skin. If I had not been carrying this cloth I would have died first... I had survived... but this was not a victory. Hyoga raised his cosmo in that last moment... and it went higher than mine.

"That means... that he has awakened his seventh sense..."

Oh, the bitter irony of it... that Camus' hopes had come true, both of them. Cygnus had been strong enough after all.. and also, he would soon die. A honourable death.

Death nonetheless.

I turned to walk off, but the soft flare of cosmo behind me brought me up short.

"He still lives... but, not for long." Where does he try to go? To his friends...? To the Kyoko? But he had no more energy; blood flowed from his wounds onto the floor. No... why did he prolong this...?

"Hyoga! How is it possible that you still try to get up!?" I knew he would not answer, but I could not understand it. Why... Why? What was it, that they believed so strongly, that made them fight like this, that lent them such an amazing power and determination.

Could it be... that that girl, Saori Kido, was truly Athena? For whom they risked their lives... but that would mean...!

I ran to him, lifting his feverish body and pressing him to my chest, feeling his faltering pulse on his neck with my fingers. "Hyoga..." His eyes were closed, and his body shook each time a fresh wave of pain jolted him out of his near unconsciousness. He was dying... no... no...

No!

I raised my hand and delivered a swift blow, stimulating his nervous system to shut off most of the pain, and to increase the regenerative speed. It worked on minor wounds... but it was all I knew of healing... He cried out, eyes widening and the falling shut. I waited, tense and afraid for those seemingly eternal seconds... until I felt his heartbeat grow stable, and the blood stopped seeping out of him.

Yes, he was strong. So strong that his body had seized the given chance of survival... He opened his eyes wearily, and stared at me in utter confusion.

"I only struck your nervous system, to stop the bleeding. You will regain your six senses, as they were before the fight."

"Why...?" His lips barely moved.

"I wanted to see how far you'll get... how you will fare through this," he got up after I spoke, a strange mixture of respect and veiled gratitude stealing over his features. And he made his way out of my temple, careful at first because of his wounds... and more surely as the pain faded slowly.

"Yes... fight on, but remember Hyoga... I did not save you. I have given you the hardest test."

His courage and strength... were worthy of a saint of Athena.

A while later I walked out the back door of my Temple, and saw the vague shape of the Cygnus saint running up the steps, and I felt the steady thrum of his energy, so much like Camus'... and yet so different. I looked up at the Aquarius temple, and saw him. The golden glow of his cloth as the sun struck him made me squint. He just stood there, looking down as his pupil was forced to fight and kill, watching him be hurt and torn at. But he also saw the power in him, indomitable will. Had Camus known this... and if so, why hadn't he trained the boy to become his successor?

But there was no answer from him, or anyone. The fight went on, even though there was no reason to it.

* * *

Camus:

The sun's last rays struck the far off hills with the vague languorous shades of dusk, swift golden licks upon the land that faded before they had time to really coalesce into something more. The sky darkened slowly, shifting from a pale blue to the darker, more intense purples and reds over which the stars would begin to show. It would be over soon.

Only a few more hours and this meaningless nightmare would be over, regardless of the outcome... I wanted it over and done with. I looked down, seeing the glimmering shapes of the three remaining bronze saints, the only ones that had managed to come this far. But then... no one had expected any of them to get even half this far up, had we? But they had. They had pushed themselves beyond their limits, for faith, for friendship, for love. And we? What did we have to be proud of, after this was over?

Perhaps... If I had not let myself be ensnared in the first place, I would not hurt so much now. But there was nothing I could do, I was defenceless. Completely at the mercy of feelings I had denied for too long. Feelings I never grew to understand, and that had won me over.

This would end in no more than a few hours, and after that... there would be no more laughter, never again, only the white fields. Only the white fields. There were so many things I wished I had said... so many questions I wished I had asked, but it was too late now. Down there, staring at the receding shape of a lost comrade, stood my pupil. My last pupil... whom I had sentenced to death. My youngest pupil, who would be my nightmare for years to come.

A stubborn pupil... that should have stayed down.

I watched his lean shape, standing at the foot of the last stairs that led to my temple; I had never guessed he would come this far... not being the way he was. But he had, and he was here. Milo had not killed him, and I did not know if I was thankful of angry at him for not doing so. For how could he survive... how could he go on... now? I did not truly believe he had awakened his seventh sense... it was impossible. He was too warm and passionate to be able to attain such a power as an ice saint. I had condemned him to being like that... because I had loved him too much. But he was strong, stronger than I had expected him to become. And yet, he had not been able to leave his past behind, he had chosen to die. No... in the end... it was the only road he could follow.

The choice had been mine.

All of a sudden he looked up at me, his eyes hardening into sliver of ice, a frown marring his smooth features. I could feel the tension in him... the confusion, the hatred. I knew Milo had told him why I had sealed him in Libra, but I also knew that it made no sense to him. I had betrayed him. Not here, not now... I had turned on him the day I found out Isaac was dead. I still didn't understand all that had happened that day... all I knew was that I had misjudged what this child felt for me, and I had made the mistake of taking it for granted.

For too long.

Cold eyes regarded me as he urged his friends to go forward, and I saw their fear as they took me in, seeing me for the first time. Apparently Hyoga did not tell them about me. But then, it wasn't surprising... not after...

I stared at him coldly, taking in all the details, all the changes in him. But there were two things that remained untouched... that wise light in his eyes, and that untameable emotions in his heart. It was him, the only way he could be... thoroughly Hyoga; painfully imperfect.. and yet... flawless.

But there was resent in those eyes too... a mixture of confusion and distrust, a powerful anger that fed his cosmo in the exact ways that it shouldn't. He may still look up to me... but I had crushed that affection I had so adored in him... I had made him hate me.

And if there was one thing I could change.. One thing I was granted to change in my past, I would go back to that day and not make the same mistake twice. I would have tried to listen... just once. He turned to face me and told his friends off. They walked up the steps hesitantly, scared beyond comprehension, but I let them pass. My fight was not with them, it had never been.

Why, child... why did you not stay in that coffin? Why?

I wanted to scream at him, to demand him to go back... but there was nothing I could say then, there never was. I just turned around and walked back into my temple. As I strode into the shadows I realised that the sun had set already, and the first stars had already begun to appear. But these were not the stars I longed for, not the brilliant midnight suns that I had grown to love. All I could think of was of Siberia... the cold endless fields of Siberia, and the laughter. That laughter that echoed like bells. Where everything was white... completely white and...

"Camus... Sensei." Here it came... The end. "I would like to show you my gratitude, towards you. I was able to learn your techniques - and too many - things from the fact that I fought you directly in Libra." Yes, he had fought me, twice. But the first time... "I want to show you my gratitude... not with words, but as a saint." Oh child... please... don't..."This means I will defeat you using all the techniques I learnt from you."

I kept my cool face and cold stare all through his warning, and I did not let him see how this affected me as he changed his balance into a more familiar stance.

"I understand... I accept your challenge. I will fight at my very best and that means that this time I will bury you for sure," I spoke with a tranquillity I did not feel. Pushing my cape behind me I turned to face him fully and spread my aura. I saw him back off slightly and adopt a defensive stance, as he saw the powerful golden glow that grew around me, wide enough to touch the soft edges of his own cosmo. And his eyes, like blue flames of death, flickered in the glow of my power with the promise of violence.

I did not remember seeing him look so menacing, or strong before. Yet I could remember - and miss - that pale vulnerable shine that had always been present. His wisdom was inexorably linked to a pain that run deeper in his blood than he could say. There was something, and he never explained it... but I knew that it was what made him that way. It was one of the questions I had never known how to ask, and thus remained unanswered.

I should have tried harder.

* * *

It was dark, it had been dark all day. The clouds roiling above us with the clear rumbling sound of an upcoming storm, and I could feel the static in the air. Isaac and Hyoga walked on slightly ahead of me, where I could keep my eye on both at the same time.

"We are not too far off," I called to them. "Only an hour or more in this direction."

Neither answered, but it was understandable. They were too tired from the long training, and we had not expected a storm to break out today.

Isaac walked on relentless of the cold, biting wind, but there was something in Hyoga that unsettled me. He would continuously jerk to look around, eyes wide as he searched the landscape. Every few minutes... as if he could see or hear something that scared him out of his skin. Isaac took no heed of this, but I did. It was not the attitude of a child scared by a storm, nor was there any confusion in him.

He knew what was going on, and it scared him.

I walked up to the child, placing a hand on his shoulder. "We'll get there soon."

He nodded, a relieved smile stealing over his face, banishing the grim set of his lips. But it was not the prospect of getting home soon that relieved him... it was the fact that I was close by.

"Hai."

"Speak a language I understand," I scolded him, and his smile widened.

On days like this... he looked wiser than the oldest creature on earth.

But, when later that night I stopped him from going to bed and asked him what was wrong, it was fear of me that reflected upon his eyes.

"Nothing, sensei..."

"You were afraid of something, out there." His eyes hardened, closing in upon himself.

"I was tired... I am still. No one wants to die out there... like that," the tone in his voice suggested something, as he shuddered. It was a half truth he used as an answer, it always was.

There was something that scared him.. but it scared him even more that I would fin out what it was.

* * *

"Diamond Dust!"

He lunged forward with a powerful burst of cold air, but it was not stronger than it had been back down in Libra, only more determined. I lifted my hand slowly and stopped his attack easily, unharmed by the shards of ice.

"I told you in Libra. I taught you the Diamond Dust! Besides, you can't defeat me with this air, it's not cold enough!" I concentrated my cosmo to inverse the flow. "Really cold air is like this!" I could not keep the pain from my eyes in that one second, but he did not see it as he leapt into the air to avoid the brunt of the attack. But the wave I sent out was larger than what he expected, or knew to be possible, so it struck his leg and froze it.

He cried out in pain and lost his aerial balance, falling in a heap into the marble floor. I watched in silence as he struggled to his feet, and fell back down.

"My left leg is frozen..." There was a clear note of angry frustration in his voice. As if he had expected to be able to defeat me, and was finding himself in pretty much the same situation as he had been only a few hours ago. I sighed and walked up to him, careful to keep my gaze steady and uncaring.

He turned and looked up at me, glowering. I did not even flinch at the searing hatred, only pressed on.

"What is the absolute zero, Hyoga? Answer me!"

"Absolute zero... absolute ze..." his voice dropped as he remembered. I waited for him to answer, but he seemed to be caught in a downwards spiral into his memories.

Child... let this end soon.

He cried out as I released a new wave of energy that froze his other leg and slammed him into a pillar. He fell slowly and lay there gasping, pain clouding his eyes. I had taught him the absolute zero, and I had taught him of the necessary coldness in combat. I had not told him that this lack of feelings was the centre of our power. To stop the movement of the atom... how could one influence one's cosmo to become so cold, if there was passion and love in one's heart? Impossible. He did not know, he did not have the key. He would never defeat me because he did have the knowledge to carve his way in the right direction.

But as I watched him tremble in pain before me, I could not help but want to get out of here. To go back to those times... when all there was to see was snow, above and below. That was the place I would always want to go back to... the only place I had ever felt at home in. And I wished I could go up to him, and take him out of here... how I wished... for something impossible.

I took a few steps and straightened in front of him. "As you well know, Hyoga, the absolute zero is the coldest state matter can reach, but it is impossible even for me to lower the temperature of any object to that point. When two ice saints fight each other, it is the one that get closest to the absolute zero that will win; because this means that he is the best and he controls his cosmo."

Hyoga faced me coldly, clutching his aching leg between numb fingers. "And all of this depends on one's cosmo?"

Ah... yes. In a way it did. But the truth was that it depended on our hearts, on the capacity we had to freeze them over. But this he did now know... I hid this knowledge from him, to stop him from dying, to kill him just the same. "Exactly. This means that no matter how hard you try you will never be able to make your air as cold as mine. You will never get that close to the absolute zero, not more than me!" I slowly lifted my hands, ready to end this.

Ready to...

"That is the main difference between you and I. That makes me win and you loose!" With my arms clasped above my head, for my final attack. His eyes widened and his entire body went taut.

"What does that pose mean!" he cried.

My greatest technique... and this time, I would not fail. I simply could not bear this any longer. I couldn't, just couldn't. If he was to die anyway then let it be now, and fast. Even if it meant he would hate me for all eternity, I did not want him to suffer any more... and he did not have any chances of becoming strong enough to survive as a saint.

"Aurora Execution!" He let out a surprised and angered shout as he was sent backwards and high up into the air. "Come to terms with your defeat, and die again with this cold air, Hyoga!"

Godddess... Goddess no...

I looked away, unable to bear the sight of his immobile body... unable to banish the memories of his laughter, of him as a child, of his smiles. Of everything. But a rough scraping sound forced me to look again, and I bit back a gasp as I saw that he was still alive, and getting up.

And now... now there was true hatred in his eyes, a fury beyond my imagining burned within those crystal orbs like the crackling firelights of a storm.

"But... you did in fact get hit by my Aurora Execution, how can you be-" He cut in sharply, wincing in pain as each movement jarred his abused body.

"Sensei... you told me that no technique would work twice on a saint!" He gritted his teeth as a wave of pain made his body jerk and cut his voice off harshly. But he just pushed himself forward, changing his stance to a more violent one, spreading his silvery aura. My chest felt heavy and knotted as I took my battle stance again, and readied myself for this to go on and on...

But those eyes... Goddess... if only he did not look at me like that.

With such uncontrolled hatred... why... why did it have to be like this?

"Even though I could never make my air as cold as the absolute zero I will lower it until it equals yours and I will defeat you!"

Where did this power come from? How could he summon his cosmo again and again like this... it made no sense.

He attacked me again, and I stopped it just as easily. "I told you it would be useless!" I reflected the energy back at him, mingling it with mine to make a current strong enough to topple him over. He was bashed into a pillar and then fell down. This time he did not get up.

I stared at him, trying to understand how he had made it this far, when his heart was ruled over by such strong emotions. The emotions that I valued him for... that had led me to think he would always love me.

Yes.

I had been a fool. He had loved me with the clear untainted heart of a child that believed the best, he had given me all the affection I had never received from anyone else because he had cared. No other reason. And he had done so even though I had always, always favoured Isaac, because he had still believed in his heart that I cared. He was right, no doubt. But I never told him, I never let him know how he amazed me, how every day I spent with him was a day I cherished forever. I never told him now he moved me... and how I valued him.

I never told him that he had - somehow - managed to unfreeze my heart. And because I held my tongue... one day... I lost him.

* * *

I walked back slowly, the white landscape soothed the turmoil inside my somewhat. I hoped Milo would be all right, but he had said as much. Maybe... maybe that affair with Shaka had been for the best after all. It had been years since I had seen such light and hope in his eyes. For the first time since Saga left him, he looked alive.

The wind rustled my hair, unsettling a few snowflakes that rested upon the ground. I walked on, taking in this place that I had grown to associate with peace... with happiness. I smiled slightly and lightened my step, hurrying home. I would probably find Isaac scolding Hyoga... I chuckled softly at the image of my overly formal pupil lecturing the younger boy.

But I felt only Hyoga's aura...

I blinked twice in confusion... where was Isaac? I spread my senses trying to find him, but there was not even a single trace of his familiar cosmo. And there was an aching undertone to Hyoga's aura that made the blood freeze in my veins. What had happened here?

I ran up to the house, opening the door with a slam. "Hyoga!" I cried, alarm making my usually smooth voice deepen and become menacing.

No answer came.

I strode through the door, tossing my pack on the floor as I made my way to their room. But I did not need to go that far. The fire in the hearth was burning, and the lonely figure of my younger pupil huddled as close as he could go. He was curled up, trembling all over.

"Hyoga!"

I ran to him, not understanding anything of what I was seeing. I leaned him into my arms and pressed a hand to his burning forehead. He opened his eyes, glazed over because of the high fever.

"Sensei... make them... go away..."

I did not understand anything of what he said, as he simply leaned into my chest and shuddered.

"So many..." he whispered. "Leave..."

"Hyoga, where is Isaac!?" I shook him gently, and he moaned in pain as the movement made the world spin around him. I could see the disoriented glassy eyed look he gave me. "Hyoga... where is Isaac?"

"Isaac..." his voice was no more than a murmur... but the pain that cut into the misty eyes opened a void inside of me.

"Where is he...?"

"Isaac is dead..."

Nothing seemed to make sense for the following days. Hyoga rode the fever, and for moments it seemed like he might die. But I made him survive, I stayed by his side. This might have been a good time to be gentle, but the confusion, the shock of hearing that Isaac was dead, had numbed me completely. I tended to Hyoga, and a part of me screamed in fear at the very thought that he might die. And it was a very different pain than the one I felt for Isaac.

That was only regret...

But what had happened?

What?

Hyoga was delirious for four days, but on the morning of the fifth day it was clear that he would make it. I breathed a sigh of relief, and let him rest in bed for the next two days. He was well enough by then, though I could see the pain in his eyes... and something else: he was afraid.

Dreadfully afraid.

And I was too numbed by the strange turn of events to do anything except feed this fear with my constant indifference. Yet I could not leave things like this, I had to know what had happened.

And this was where I should have... should have... never.. hurt him.

"Hyoga," I spoke up the next day, when he was out of bed. "Come here."

I sat in the kitchen, leaning my feet on the sink. A scene that oddly reminded me of Ganymede, years before. He walked up to me, hesitating. I saw him swallow nervously and clasp his hands in front of himself contritely. His attitude unsettled me terribly... where was the sunny child I knew so well?

"H-hai?"

"What happened here?"

Silence. He looked down, his eyes glazing over with tears, shame evident on his face. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it, unable to form coherent speech.

"Hyoga..." I must have sounded so angered... when in truth I was only worried.

"Isaac is dead."

"That much I have gathered," it was an effort to sound calm, and indeed my voice must have become rougher. I saw him pale in fear at this. But if Isaac was dead... then who would be Aquarius?

Hyoga?

No... not Hyoga.

I couldn't... training him to become my successor would mean I would have to force him to change, to forget his emotions just like Isaac had. To become a noble killing machine, like me. Like all of us. And this child, whose very strength was the enormity of his heart, was all I had. I could not do that to him.

"He... I... I tried... I mean, wanted to... go and see..." tears fell down his cheeks unbidden, and he took a deep breath. "I tried to go down, to see my m-mother."

My sharp intake of breath must have scared him, as he stopped to stare at me. No... this couldn't be happening... strangely, I realised I was more rattled by the fact that Hyoga had actually tried to go, and that he could have died. But then...?

"Go on."

"He warned me not to... sensei.. it's my fault, he warned me about the currents and I..." I couldn't stand the pain in his voice, so I cut him off.

"Don't stray off the subject, where is Isaac?"

"I got caught in a current... he saved me but..." I stood up abruptly, my chest heaving.

No...

Isaac had died saving him. But then all that was left was Hyoga. Who would be Aquarius? Certainly he had the potential... but if I made him... if I...

No!

"Sensei...?" His soft voiced question ran up my spine like lightning, and without thinking I lifted my hand and struck him to the floor. He fell without a sound.

"You... You..." You could have died! You could have hurt yourself! "You killed him!"

Why did I say such a thing? I knew he was in enough pain... and it had been Isaac's own fault. I had never expected him to care enough for this child, to sacrifice his life for him like that. It was not Hyoga's fault. In the last minute Isaac had remembered his emotions, and they had forced him to do this.

Or perhaps his overly developed sense of nobility.

Hyoga got up slowly, clutching his cheek in abject shame. "I'm sorry..." Again... that contrite whisper.

Stop it! Stop it!

Did he not see? It was not his fault... It was Isaac's fault. And because Isaac had been a fool now I would have to do what I had always hoped never to have to perform. Hyoga... as Aquarius? Goddess no...

"How can you say you are sorry!" When it was him that ruined it all? "Who will be Aquarius now!?"

I saw him flinch, all too aware of his lower rank where Isaac had been concerned.

"I'm sorry," there were still tears on his cheeks.

"Be quiet!" Goddess... I just couldn't hear him like this. I couldn't bear to listen to him apologise in that meek little voice.

"Let me try," he spoke up suddenly, his eyes filling over with a determined light. Try? Try to become my successor? That was exactly what I feared the most!

"You could never become the Aquarius saint," I spoke angrily. At a loss. I did not know how to react to these emotions, they had been buried for too long. I didn't even understand or recognise most of them. I should have controlled myself but...

"Let me try."

"Don't be ridiculous... you... you..." You would die. You might become the strongest saint ever but you would die, your heart would freeze over like mine, and you would be lost forever. "You will never be fit for that!"

He bit his lip and looked away, humiliated beyond imagining.

And I didn't see it.

"If only you hadn't..." I spoke through gritted teeth, trying to deal with the confusing emotions. Trying to understand why this child was so important to me. Why...? How...?

"I said I was sorry!" he cried, balling his fist and looking at the floor. I turned around violently and backhanded him, sending his lithe body into the wall.

"And you think that will fix things!?" I strode up to him and grabbed the collar of his shirt, pulling him up.

"Sensei..."

"Shut up!" Please don't look at me like that... don't talk to me like that. I tossed him to the floor. Again, he didn't even moan when he landed.

And, all of a sudden, he looked up. I stood there, in front of him, my cosmo crackling slightly about me, as I kept it from expanding. Fists raised, my eyes blazing with a mixture of coldness and disgust. But it was disgust at myself for not being able to deal with this. Because I was afraid, for Hyoga.

And I didn't realise what I had done until it was too late.

His eyes widened slightly, then closed. I did not know it then... but on that day, at that very moment, Hyoga was lost to me.

For years he had believed I cared, trusting in his own instinct and giving his best, not only to save his mother, but to please me. But I had never told him how good he was, never told him how proud I was, how I marvelled at him.

So, on that day, as I struck him for the third time and walked up the stairs to my room, I did not notice the heartbroken expression in his face. And though I did hear him crying softly I left him alone, like I always had. But it was not the Hyoga I had so cherished that greeted me the next morning, or any morning after that.

In the end, he came to believe at last what he had been trying to deny since the very beginning: that I could not care less about him. And even though it was lie, I never told him. I kept on training him to become Cygnus, for the next two years. And though there was laughter sometimes... it was never like I remembered it. But he did not loose his emotions because of this, he simply hardened his heart to me... until I was only his teacher. Until he didn't care.

The day he won his cloth I was not there, I simply told him where it was and that his test was to get it. He disappeared from my life after that. I went to Greece hoping Milo would be there, hoping he could understand me... or help me, for once.

But he was changed, so I never had a chance to tell him... that I would have to kill the most important person in my life.

It was a long time later that I realised... that Hyoga had been afraid of loosing me.

And that in a way... he had.

* * *

"Hyoga... I hope you have understood that none of you attacks will harm me, you can do nothing against me," I spoke levelly, as he twitched on the floor, trying to muster enough strength to get on his feet again. I lifted my hand, and concentrated my power, enveloping in my cold aura. Damn you, this time stay down! "I don't want to keep fighting, because this game has ended with my victory. I don't want to hurt you anymore," not again, not ever. "I will give you another ice coffin... this is what I can do for you... Hyoga."

Ice materialised around him quickly, this time in a rather less harmonious way than the last. I was clearly too affected to be able to create a perfect sepulchre. Keeping my breathing even and controlled, I finished the coffin and used my cosmo to set it upright. This time I would make sure he was safe... and that he would stay out of these wars. Even if I had to watch him like this for the rest of my life, in my temple.

"You have your frozen tomb. As you know," and I spoke directly into his mind, for the first time. "No matter what happens it will never melt, and no amount of Gold saints can break it. You don't have the Libra sword to free you this time. Sleep in peace Hyoga, and this time forever! There is nothing you can do to free yourself, so relax and await your death."

Eventually his body temperature would drop and he would slip in a coma state, his body in frozen stasis, until - a hundred years from now perhaps - the ice broke and would be welcomed into a peaceful world. I would make sure that it would be so.

Slowly I turned around and began to walk off. I would see this every day of my life from now on... but for now I needed some dark and quiet. A place where I could fine solace from this disaster I had made my life into. And I could not help but remember the laughter... the plains of snow.

Siberia.

Back to those times when all was peaceful, when nothing could go wrong. Back to those days when I was truly happy... and only now did I realise that indeed... I had found joy in those lost days. And I would never have them back. Never...

A sudden crack made me stop in my tracks, turning my head in awe. No... it couldn't be. The coffin was splintering, large cracks appearing on the surface, coming from the inside out.

He's trying to break it from inside? That's impossible! And suddenly, his cosmo took a leap and exploded against my coffin. He let out a scream under the effort and the ice shattered in all directions. But the sudden explosion of energy he let go was stronger than I had ever felt in him... or in Isaac.

I was thrown back against a pillar, shards flying all over the place. "I can't be!" I cried, staring at him.

How could he have summoned such power? It was impossible... His aura, his stance, the way he screamed, he had been under the pressure of his own emotions taken to their highest peak. "He destroyed the ice coffin, when even a Gold saint couldn't do it!" He lay sprawled on the cold floor, unmoving. But I could feel his cosmo, and I knew he was alive. But the power he was generating... What on earth had happened to him?

He couldn't have crunched the ice unless he lowered his cosmo below the temperature of my own... as low as 273 degrees below zero. The absolute zero! Hyoga had unconsciously... No... Impossible. He was too emotional, there was no way he could go that far down when his heart was burning so brightly. I could feel the ardent hope, and devotion in him, giving him frozen aura tinge of sweetness, and fresh stream of cool yet hot emotion that ran through him.

But... it was no possible. Both his legs were frozen, and the rest of his body was not far from being so, too. Where did he get such power from? I couldn't understand it.

He pushed himself up and stood, trembling because of the pain, or the cold. Or both. He looked up, his eyes aflame like I had never seen them before. "I already told you... I may not be able to reach the absolute zero but I will make my air as cold as yours and I will defeat you! I will kill you!"

Could it be... that I was wrong?

That Ganymede was wrong?

That all that we knew... all that we thought... had been a mistake? That there was power to be found in our hearts, and not in the lack of them?

"No Hyoga! Stop!" I cried as I saw him raise his fist and call forth his cosmo to attack me once again, this time with all the fury he could muster. He let out a cry as he released the powerful wave of cold air, his hand open and spread towards me, an offering of death.

I concentrated my power, cold and unwavering as it was, and stopped the flow of Hyoga's cosmo with a stream of my own. But neither of us overpowered the other. The constant flow of energy crackled furiously, releasing blue sparks into the air around us. A single streak of icy light that hung between us like a deadly veil.

"What is going on here!? The air is hanging between Hyoga and me! How can that be possible!?" Hyoga's air... was as cold as mine? The power of his emotions and his will of steel had made him attain the same level of power as I? No.. it couldn't be. And yet... "Well done, Hyoga, very well! I am proud of you for making your air as cold as mine. But still I am sorry to say you will not be able to defeat me."

No... but not because he lacked the power, it was because I carried a stronger cloth. That was all. I did not know if Hyoga was merely a break in the rule, or if he was the heralding of a new era. I did not know if his power and passion could ever be duplicated. All I understood was that there was a strength in him, that I had not believed possible. But if he was capable of such immense cosmo... then he could indeed succeed me?

No...

Maybe the roads to attain power could be different, but the Gold cloths could not be changed in that sense. I could bear my cloth because I was - or had once been - as cold and unfeeling as it demanded. I could leave all my emotions out of my heart when I fought. But if my cloth were ever to take on Hyoga, he would become what I had feared the most: myself. He couldn't win this battle... I couldn't let him. If Hyoga managed to control his seventh sense, and defeat me... the Aquarius cloth would choose him.

All of these thoughts circled my head as the beam of cold air hung between us, and I told him, in my most menacing voice, why he would loose. Why my cloth was stronger.

"Did you understand it, Hyoga? As long as I carry this cloth you will never be able to defeat me, no matter how hard you try!" I cried. "Are you listening to me?"

No answer.

His head was bowed and the flow of air slowly began to tip against him, the crackling blue force of our powers combined began to lash at his unmoving shape. He was unconscious? But his cosmo was just as mortally cold as mine... yet the cold air we had propagated was going straight at him... it would kill him... tear him to pieces!

Those endless seconds... Goddess no.

Wake up, child. Wake up...

Maybe I had been wrong all along. Even unconscious, the power of his feelings fuelled his cosmo with a strength I could never dream of. Because he had hopes, and dreams, whereas all I had were a few stray memories and a thousand nightmares. Maybe that was what had made me care for him... his belief in the world, in humanity. That sheer love of life that I had lost.. that I had never had in the first place.

I was the weaker one.

I had attained a greater power, but I had chosen the coward's way out. I had run away from all emotions just like Milo, and I never saw it. My cloth demanded a heartless power, and that was what I had given it. That was what Ganymede had seen in me, all those years ago, when he found me half dead in some nameless part of France. But Hyoga, who had the world pitched against him, who had been loved and had felt the loss all the more keenly, had risen again and again.

His determination to cling on to his past becoming his strength, a force I could never compare to. That was why I had to kill him now, or at least leave him out of the battle without letting him defeat me. All that he was, all that he had become... it could not be lost in the cold grip of my cloth. I would not let it happen. Goddess, I wanted him to live, to feel the joy that shone in his eyes... but I did not want him to become what I was. So I had to kill him.

"This is your destiny, so goodbye!"

The flow inverted into him completely, a bolt of white-blue light that turned itself upon him with the force of a hurricane. All of a sudden, I wanted to scream at him, to wake up. To fight on... to give up...

He stopped it.

In the last moment Hyoga opened his eyes and caught the oncoming wave between his hands, standing up against the onslaught of both our cosmos. His eyes shining with an ardent and steadfast determination. His cloth shattered into dust, unable to stand the low temperatures that swelled within his hands.

"What!? He held back the..." His eyes... clear cut crystals that seared me with those feelings. With all the hostility he could muster.

He was strong, yes. If he would let me explain... if he could only stay down, and leave this place. He might be the salvation of all ice warriors. Not me, or those who already existed, but those who were to come. He had found a way to generate power enough to survive as an ice saint, and no need to leave behind that which made us human.

No need to forsake love.

Except Aquarius... I... we, who carried this cloth, were doomed from the very beginning.

All of a sudden he shifted on his feet, and it took me a few seconds to realise what he was about to do, so I didn't even have time to change to a defensive stance. He focused all the power into a bright glowing orb of light, and then threw it at me, making it become a stream of pure freezing energy that toppled me backwards and sent my headpiece flying. I landed with a thud against the floor.

I got up slowly, feeling the ache in my body due to the cold... the cold? I looked at my shoulder, as I felt it strangely heavy, and saw.

It was frozen.

"What? What is this..? The gold cloth is frozen!" Numb shock tinged my words, as I stared in utter confusion at the thin layer of ice that covered my armour. "So I was right about the absolute zero..."

Suddnely... everything became white.

I took in a deep breath, as the air in the temple cooled down due to the power we had released, and a thin layer of frost covered the pillars and the floor. White... like Siberia.

Like those endless fields, and that laughter.

A laughter that had become hateful eyes because I had never known how to react, because I did not understand my emotions... I had not understood the workings of my own stony heart until it was to late. Until it did not matter that I cared for him, because he could not care less for me.

But... that power...

Hyoga had reached the absolute zero, when he was between life and death. He had gone farther than me. I was defeated.

He had won.

But he had nothing else now, not even the necessary knowledge to use this power. The Diamond Dust was not stable enough to put such power into it, it would go haywire. He didn't have any way of using such a force against me. And I could not let him win, he would not give up, so I would make him stay out of this. Even if I had to put all of my life force in this last blow, I would freeze him and save him from this.

And I would defeat him thus. He would never - never! - become Aquarius. I would not let him. I would rather kill him first, than see him change into that. Like Isaac. Like Ganymede.

"This means that you will die no matter what, Hyoga!" In this white temple... white and pure as the place you had grown up in. The place I had grown to cherish because of you. "This time I will kill you, with this Aurora Execution!" This time... this time..."But... what!?"

He stood before me, legs spread and firmly planted on the ground, arms lifted above his head with both hands clasped as if in prayer. No, it couldn't be. He couldn't be trying to...?

I couldn't believe it, that was the Aurora Execution! What kind of foolishness was this? Now that he had nothing to hurt me with, he would use my own weapon as his last chance!

Don't, child...

If he did, if it worked... the backlash created would kill us both. Was he that bent upon killing me? For his friends? For Athena? If he mastered this technique... if he managed to control what was rightfully only used by Aquarius, and he tamed with the force of his emotions... then... the cycle would be broken. Could there possibly be an Aquarius who...?

No, it made no sense. And I didn't want to take the risk of finding out. "It's useless! The Aurora Execution is my best weapon, and it's the one that makes the best of cold air; it's impossible to copy it after seeing it once or twice!"

His cosmo... it was so white... I couldn't see his eyes, but the firm set of his chin warned me. He would not give up. Not now, not ever.

He never had.

"Well... I will let you learn this for future reference..." No answer from him.

I don't want to do this, child... lower your hands... please...

"Look at this, Hyoga! The essence of the Aurora Execution!" I let out a violent cry as I let all of my power loose, all of my cosmo, everything that I was and I had become since the day I started training up until now.

He, too, lowered his arms in one jerky motion and let the last of his cosmo go, in one final and desperate gamble. For a moment I thought it would be the same as a while ago, a constant stream... but then, as both rays clashed into each other, I felt the amazing cold wash over me like a river of ice... like the Siberian seas... and everything became white.

So white...

* * *

Laughter...

"Sensei!" a warm little voice, as I came down the stairs. "Merry Christmas!"

"What?" I was too confused by this greeting to make sense of the message.

"It's Christmas today!" he laughed again, an angelic smile in his childish features. Isaac smiled vaguely as I walked down, and shrugged, as if to say the child was mad.

But he was not. He was just Hyoga.

He would always be just Hyoga.

"Oh... I'm sorry... It's a Catholic holiday..." he murmured a tad contritely, but too cheerful to seem truly repentant. I gazed at him coldly, unwilling to let him know how strange, and sweet this was to me.

But he didn't care about that, he just handed me a handmade card with a pine tree drawn on it, and rushed out the kitchen door laughing.

Into the white snow. Into the endless fields.

Into tomorrow.

* * *

I was white here too. My limbs felt heavy, and I could feel the strange weight of ice on my cloth, I could see the pearly white sheen of it on my outstretched arms. And on him. His hair was white, covered in frost, like his body; his lips had become blue and the colour on his skin was fading by the minute. I tried to concentrate.

There was something I had to tell him, wasn't there?

(Sensei! Look at that one!...)

But it was so cold. I shivered convulsively, trying to regain my breath, that seemed to elude me. What did I have to say? Everything was so white... I had wanted to come back here... to these fields...

"Well done Hyoga..." Child... he was dying? No no... please no. "To be in such a tough position, and master the Aurora Execution... You have made it your own technique."

Mine could never be compared to the sudden burst of searing white light he had produced. I could not force my voice above a small murmur... and the world was turning around me. But... I was still forgetting something... "You have taken all I had." My heart, my soul... my life. I could not keep the emotions out of my voice. I couldn't hold back my pain as I saw him, for I did not mind dying now, knowing how great he had become indeed. But I could not stand the fact the he, too, would die.

No... please no.

Goddess... no.

"You acquired the absolute zero, while you could still feel something..." It was more than just the numbing cold that I spoke about... but he did not know this. After all... I never told him...

Maybe I should have... on those days...

(sensei...)

And that laughter would never have died? Maybe... I didn't know... things weren't making sense anymore...and everything was like that place. All save for the laughter...

(...look at that one!)

Yes... that laughter...

I had to concentrate... concentrate... There was something I had to tell him. "Right between life and death, you did something greater than your teacher and at last... you awoke your seventh sense." Milo had been right...

"You have come this far... because what you believed in was right..." Athena... Friendship... feelings...

Love.

I lowered my arms as I looked at him, at his frozen body. Child... no... not a child: a man. A saint of Athena. Yet how I longed to hear his voice again... to go back to those days. He had defeated me, surely and strongly. He had overcome all that I had set before him and at last... he had shown me the truth. But there were so many things I had to tell him... to ask him...

His steadfast determination...

(She's dead, Hyoga, dead...)

(...I will see her nonetheless)

All the things he saw, the things that made him what he was. That wise look, that fear, and love of life...

(Sensei... make them... go away...)

But my vision was fading. Yet I had to tell him... before he died, before I died. I couldn't let it end like this, with him thinking that I...

"And I wish I could let you go on living..." and laughing... on those plains..."And keep the power you have attained..."

I had... to...tell... him...

"But I can't..."

That... I...

"Forgive me..."

I could feel tears in my eyes, but they would not fall; frozen. Yes, forgive me, for everything. For not telling you that...

(sensei...)

Ah... that laughter?

The world was spinning, clouding over as everything faded out... fading...

"Forgive me... I can't."

I couldn't save you... I couldn't even thank you.

I tried to focus on him, to muster the strength to speak up again, to tell him... but everything was slipping away, falling in upon myself; until I could feel the cold floor against my skin. I tried to open my eyes, to speak, to scream

How proud I was.

(You must be as strong as these ice walls, and just as unmovable..)

(Hai...)

How important he was to me.

(I'm sorry, sensei... I was just looking at the stars...)

How much I loved him...

(Let me try!)

How I admired his courage...

(sensei...?)

Laughing... Siberia...

Those plains of endless white... and the laughter, like sleigh bells. I wanted to tell him, to speak up. But it was so quiet... and I could hear him... was he here...? That laughter... Why did I hear it?

Maybe...I was home?

A dream?

Was this a dream?

Would I still see him smiling when I opened my eyes...?

But I was here on the floor... and I had to tell him something... important...

But everything was so white... like Siberia... my home.

I had to tell him... but the world, my temple... all of it.

Everything was so white.

So very... very...

white...

The End of Part 4 -- Continued in Interlude 2: Through the Eyes of a Child


Author's Endnote:

Toffee-rambles: Hey! This chapter is dedicated to Aurea! For being so nice, giving such great support and doing such lovely pics! *huuuuuuuugs* Don't ever change!


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