01.Inside a Dream

 

To behold the wandering moon,

riding near her highest noon,

like one that had been led astray

through the heav'n's wide pathless way;

and oft, as if her head she bowed,

stooping through a fleecy cloud


John Milton, Il Penseroso, 67



I



The hospital was quiet, the beeping of machinery and the muffled steps of the ghost-like nurses already white noise to the man’s ears.

The man waited; something he was bad at doing but had grown, unfortunately, used to. Even the hospital, a state-of-the-art facility owned by the Graude Foundation, was starting to feel familiar, like a home away from home.

He found himself wishing once again to be the one on that bed instead of her. It couldn’t be impossible, after all they had lived. Even a man like him had to admit that there was little left for him to do but believe in something beyond the ordinary. After all, what did he have left but faith?

Hope, Saori would say. Hope.

“ I hope they recover soon” he found himself wishing aloud, his hands over his lips muffling his voice.

The young man by his side nodded, looking just as anxious as he was. Those days took their toll on everyone.

“The doctors say it’s just a matter of time”

Tatsumi nodded. Hyoga, Shiryu and Ikki were merely in observation now, probably for no more than a couple of days. Shun had already been discharged, but Dr. Asamori had asked him to stay till his brother was free to leave, as both seemed to cope better with the treatment when having the other close by.

Dr. Asamori had said it was a miracle. None of them should have lived considering the amount of damage their bodies had endured, but the only signs they had of their wounds were small shadows: scars, sealed bones, phantom pain due to the physical trauma.

Divine Intervention, he had overheard some say.

They were the same words he had heard from Sanctuary, about the Gold Saints’ miraculous recovery. Men that should be dead were walking the earth again, their bodies scarred but whole.

“Tatsumi-san and Kido-kun?”

He looked up at the mention of his name. A petite nurse with a gentle face was standing before them, folder in hand.

“ Yes.” Ban said. Tatsumi nodded.

“I have good news. Hyoga, Ikki and Shiryu will be discharged tomorrow,“ the nurse recited. “ As for Miss Kido, all her tests came out normal, so the reason she hasn’t woken up yet is likely psychological. We are hoping she’ll regain consciousness in the hours to come.”

Tatsumi nodded once again, relieved. Before the test came, brain damage had been a possibility.

“ What about Seiya? “ Ban asked.

The nurse went through her papers. “ Kido Seiya…” She looked up. Tatsumi noticed in the kindness of her eyes that the news weren’t good.

“I’m sorry, there hasn’t been any progress. We should have an update by this afternoon, but for now all remains the same”

“ Thank you” Tatsumi said, the nurse bowing to him before leaving them alone.

“ How long will this take? ” Ban muttered in frustration. “Seiya doesn’t deserve this…”

“ He’ll be fine, ” Tatsumi answered, sitting once again on one of the beige sofas that populated the waiting room. “ They will all be fine”

The young man looked at him with that kind of look all of the ten bronze saints sometimes gave him, as if saying you don’t have the right to say that, you don’t even care. It had started to hurt him, that look, bringing forth feelings of guilt he was certain his younger self had never expected to have.

“Seiya’s been drifting for days now. If he weren’t on the cocktail of drugs they are giving him here his fever would have burnt his brain by now “ Ban’s voice grew slightly desperate ” The only thing they were able to say was that it his condition seems to be related to the black mark on his chest, which is something all of us already know!”

Tatsumi frowned, trying to find a way to appease him. He had to be kinder to them, the boys he had seen turn into men, gentler, show them somehow that he would endlessly appreciate all they did for his lady.

But it was hard. He had never been good with words, less so with feelings.

“He’ll be fine” he repeated, trying to keep his voice as even and reassuring as possible, “He will survive this. It’s Seiya we are talking about.”

Ban sighed and nodded, looking very much his age for once, not the trained warrior that he was, not the saint, but the young man that was barely brushing adulthood and didn’t know how to behave around the butler that had seen them grow. The older man patted his hunched back awkwardly; then relaxed on the sofa, closing his eyes to catch some rest.

 


II



Saori was dreaming she was in a hospital room. A suite in the Graude Foundation’s Hospital VIP floor to be exact; she could recognize the interior design she had approved during the last remodelling job. Her body felt light, somewhere between tired and empty. She licked her lips. She was thirsty.

She fumbled at the head of the bed until she found the switch to call the nurses, but it seemed electricity wasn’t working. She put on the robe that was carefully folded at the feet of her bed and, slowly, got up and headed towards the door. The switch there wasn’t working either.

Using the wall to support herself, she reached the bathroom. The water wasn’t running, but even so the mirror was veiled by humidity and steam, reflecting a reflecting a watercolour-like image of herself.


Maybe there’s been an earthquake or tsunami alarm, and they are taking precautions, she thought.


Yet oddly enough, the tubes outside her room did work, flickering from time to time. The corridor was filled by an eerie fog, like the ones that spread over swamps, thick and humid. Maybe she was having a nightmare.

Saori kept using the wall as support, and began to walk towards the waiting room, where she was pretty sure there were water dispensers installed. She would have to add some in the rooms.

Further down the hall, a woman that she had never seen before was standing before the door of a room. A visitor, most likely. There was something heavy and sorrowful about her figure, even when she couldn’t exactly pinpoint what. She looked like the Snow Princess of folklore, tall, with pale skin and long black hair. But as she approached her, she realized the woman was a foreigner, her features reminding her of Sanctuary’s statues.

She was young, about her age, and wore a one-sleeve saffron tunic, held together by a silver brooch. The hem of her dress ended at her knees, where it fluttered ever so slightly, as if pulled by the wind.

Saori knew better.

It wasn’t wind, it was cosmo. The same that was causing the fog and keeping the building under a spell.

Just like a veil.

Just like back then.

Pale blue eyes fixed on her, the look in them keeping her from screaming. The woman’s features were strong, with slightly slanted eyes, full lips and a defined nose. Leaning more towards attractive than pretty. A face that could have been beautiful, perhaps, if it weren’t for the harshness in her gaze.

The woman took her index to her lips and smiled ever so slightly.

“Shh.“

Saori closed her hand over her chest, remembering the feeling of the arrow piercing her.

 

Not another enemy, she thought, not now, not so soon…

“I told you before,“ the woman said in the same commanding voice she had heard in the midst of her despair, “ you always go the wrong way at this.“ With those words, she turned and began walking down the hallway. Saori followed her as fast as she could, her legs feeling like lead.

 

She stopped at the door of the room she had been looking into. Inside, she could see Hyoga, sleeping soundly. She tried to call his name, but found it difficult to speak. She tried to get in, but an invisible wall stopped her at the doorway.

The barrier felt like the one she had found in the underworld, sending images of the endless night sky to her mind whenever she touched it.

 

(… That door will not bulge…)

 

She remembered the voice’s words.

 

(… Leave that path alone…)

 

Further down the hall, she saw tags with known names by similarly locked doors. Kido Shiryu. Kido Shun. Kido Ikki.

 

Seiya…

 

Where had the woman gone to? Where was he?

 

Seiya!

 

She tried to find him through her cosmo, but it was hard to concentrate with that fog numbing her senses. She tried to find the stranger’s, but failed as well. The woman wasn’t leaving a trail.

 

Not now!!

 

It was then when she noticed. To her left, the same place where the stranger had turned before disappearing from her sight. Two distinct cosmos, not far away. One she didn’t know, slightly further ahead.

One she wished she didn’t know, halfway down the hall.

 

Hades.

“ … Seiya” she managed to whisper, the name giving her strength to move. How many times had he done the same, tried to reach her, calling her name for support? She couldn’t give in, she had to continue.

To the left.

Intensive care was there.

 

Don’t think about it, Saori, not now. He lives, that’s what matters. Focus on that and move.

 

Like she had thought, she found the woman there, standing by one of the rooms. This time, though, she wasn’t looking inside, but ahead, her back turned to her. There was no more sorrow in her stance, no mystery.

The woman was tense, her back straight; her body ready.

Saori knew that stance, had seen it countless of times whenever her saints would notice a threat around them, and felt, as she always felt when that happened, anxiety grow within her, her instincts sharpening.

There was someone else there, and whoever it was wanted blood.

“ No” the woman said, her voice, once again, leaving no room for discussion.

Further down the hall, Saori noticed deep shadows, thick as water, moving back and forth, like the tides, revealing for a second the glimmer of cyan-coloured metal plates.

Not now

 

Years of battles grew within her, and she felt her own cosmo about to come to life, the bright shimmer of gold running over her flesh.

The shadows moved forward, revealing the figure of the warrior they concealed the closer they got.

Another female, commanding black waters with every step, and to Saori’s horror, devouring her cosmo the more she burnt it, the golden flames disappearing under that darkness.

The warrior was there to kill her, her instinct screamed at her. No. Not her. Seiya.

 

Not now!

 

The black haired woman stretched her arm, blocking the door to the saint’s room.

“I don’t like to repeat myself, Erydanus Dictina.”

The warrior stopped once again, the shadows concentrating around her.

“ You and I both know that I can stop you through force. Let it not come to that.”

Saori stared at the two of them, trying to understand what was happening. Even when the woman’s voice was harsh, she felt there were no real threats in her words, and even when the warrior meant blood, she still yielded to the dark-haired stranger.

Once again, she had the same feeling she had had when looking at the woman’s figure for the first time.

There was great sorrow hiding behind that tone full of absolutes.

“Tell her I was here. She’ll understand.”

The waves around the warrior hesitated, then stretched forward. The woman burnt her cosmo for the first time, a white light coming from her body, strong and dreadful as the cosmos of all Gods were. Whatever doubts she could have had about the woman’s nature faded away then, in the midst of that light, veiled by the fog turned heavy mist then unforgiving ice.

“You are digging your own tomb, thea. All this, for an agios?”

“ Go. Leave this place and never return,” the Goddess laughed, bitterly. “Remember those words, Dictina? Now obey them, just like I did.”

And with that, the black waters retreated deep into the shadows of the hall, until they were gone. The air lost its tension, the threat averted, only that dream-like fog remained.

“ Artemis…” Saori whispered under her breath when the silence became too heavy, the name coming to her lips through the power hidden within her. The woman turned, her cosmo still burning. Behind her, Saori could see the night-sky, with burning stars over and a crowning moon.

She should have noticed before. She should have known.

“It won’t take much longer,“ Artemis said, opening the door and heading into Seiya’s room. Saori followed her and pressed her back against the doorframe, her chest heaving.

“ Don’t harm him,” she said, trying to suppress the tears that came rushing to her eyes the moment Artemis lifted Seiya’s bedsheet to reveal his naked torso and the black stain that stretched on his torso.

It was from there that she had sensed her uncle’s cosmo, laughing at her still.

The goddess looked at her while she rested a pale hand over his chest. And what if I did?, her eyes seemed to tell her, mockingly, what can you do to stop me, as you are now?

 

“ Midnight boon,” Artemis said. Her cosmo grew deeper; the room darkening till the only light Saori could see was the goddess, crowned by the full moon, shinning in the midst of the ever-black sky. She was certain she could see water pouring from the moon, until Seiya’s body was submerged.

“Pegasus has taken the sword into himself. His cosmo is keeping the necrosis from spreading,” she said, her eyes returning to the darkened skin on Seiya’s body, “ A miracle, most would say, if they hadn’t been watching what your saints can do. But Hades is still a god, and your warrior is still a man. The curse shall remain, as it should”

“ It’s been fated” she added, and Saori could see resentment and scorn in the woman’s lips.

“ But not yet. Not now.” The water started to lower, revealing the man it had cradled. The mark remained on his chest, its colour barely darker than his skin. Like a birth mark.

Artemis lifted her hand from his chest and stopped burning her cosmo, the room returning to normal, the bright light bulbs blinding Saori.

“What did you do to him?”

The woman´s gaze hardened. “ Wrong again. You should have said “thank you”. Before as well. You have the worst way with words, Athena. They betray your feeling of entitlement.”

She stretched and moved away from the bed in a fluid movement, like a bored cat. The fog around them was beginning to fade.

“It was a healing spell. The pain should stop. I can’t undo what Hades made; no God can erase another’s doings. But he’ll wake up, and his body will heal, till that curse takes whatever shape the Fates decide.

“ But that’s for you to handle. You, Hades, Pegasus...you are tied together in a strange dance through the Cycles,” Artemis added, walking past her and towards the door.

“ I know you won’t keep this between us, as much as you insist on not being grateful,” she said over her shoulders, “ You’ll go and tell your saints about this, and you’ll prepare yourself for threats that aren’t there. You’ve grown too used to thinking the mortal world is yours, and that the rest of us just want to take it from you. That’s why you are always wrong. It’s a shame.”

Seiya stirred and turned on the bed, making Saori jump.

“He’s sleeping.”

Saori felt something loosening in her heart, her eyes clouding with tears that were soon flowing freely.

“ Why are you helping me?”

“Because I was impressed, and it was in my power to do so,” Artemis said, puzzled. “That’s what we do, Athena. We favour and punish, as we please.”

Saori rubbed the tears from her eyes.

“Thank you.”

“It wasn’t that hard now, was it?” the woman said with an impish smile, her tone teasing, just as it had been back then.

“There’s much I would like to ask you.”

“But not now, not here,” Artemis completed, noticing how her eyes never left her Saint.

“Will I see you again?”

“... Maybe. Stranger things have been known to happen.”

 

The machines around them started to beep normally, the fog gone. Saori looked behind her, at the doorframe, but Artemis wasn’t there anymore. She could hear the sound of people running, and soon a flurry of people clad in white dashed towards the room, followed by Tatsumi and Ban.

“ My Lady, what are you doing here? What happened? “ her butler asked, making his way through the army of doctors and nurses. “ Are you all right? “

 

Seiya is sleeping, she wanted to answer, but the joy and tears wouldn’t let her. “ I’m thirsty” she finally let out between sobs, watching the incredulous faces of the doctors while they checked her saint, rejoicing at the faint batting of his long eyelashes as he slowly opened his eyes, the lightest touch of annoyance on his brow at all the fuss.

His eyes met hers with relief, and he mouthed her name.

Thank you


III



‘’ You are kidding me ‘’

The mauve-haired girl shook her head and went on throwing clothes from her huge dressing room into another suitcase. She had long decided to stop relying fully on her servants for menial tasks, since Seiya had accused her, shortly after he had returned from his training, of treating him and the rest as possessions.

Learning to relate had been a constant challenge for her since then, and even when she knew she would always retain her spoilt ways, she was satisfied to see some advancement.

‘’ But... you are still weak... and besides, you hate very hot days! Greece is incredibly hot in summer! ‘’

“ I do like the beach” she retorted, holding a swimsuit.

He blushed.

‘’ Seiya, we talked about it tons of times, and we ended up the conversation the same way. You complaining and me not paying attention ‘’

Seiya crossed his arms over his chest and leaned against the wall, too used to Saori’s stubbornness as to know that contradicting her was a losing battle. Truth be told, he could not understand her motives for wishing to return to Sanctuary just a month after being released from the hospital. No matter what Greece meant to all of them, Japan was their home.

And Greece was full of dark memories.

“ Now, Seiya. Sanctuary needs some reorganisation and you need vacations, I just can’t get why you are being such a mule about it.‘’

She sat on the suitcase and tried to close it down without much success. Big dresses had always been her soft spot.

‘’ It’s just that I don’t want you to get hurt, ‘’ he said, placing a hand on top of the suitcase and closing it with ease. The thing was going to explode when she opened it, he thought, the mental image of puffy skirts flying through the air making him grin.

Saori sighed. He had become overprotective ever since they had been allowed to leave the hospital, an attitude she found extremely sweet, but also annoying. She had always been strong-willed, and all that caring, regardless of the nice motives behind it, sometimes felt stiffening, like a rock on her path.

‘’ Seiya... ‘’

‘’ Yes? ‘’, he answered, his voice already showing he was preparing himself to one of her lectures. It had been happening often, the lecturing.

‘’ There is no one left to harm me, Pegasus. War is over.”

“ Those wars.”

She sighed, the memory of the black-haired goddess’ words returning to her mind. They did behave as if the rest of the Gods wanted to take the world from them. But they had given them plenty of reasons.

Any contact they had had with those ancient forces had led to bloodshed. From those they cared about, from themselves. A peaceful, normal life had been denied to all of them thanks to the mingling of the Gods.

But I am also one of them, an inner voice she paid no attention to tried to remind her.

 

I’m different, she corrected herself. She was Saori Kido. Saori. Kido.

 

She took a deep breath, quieting her mind.

 

“ We are not at war now.”

‘’ Hai... ‘’ he said, sounding unconvinced.

‘’ So we are off to Greece, ‘’ Saori smiled, looking at him with her “nice” expression, the one she wore when she had to negotiate difficult contracts for the Graude Foundation.

‘’ Hai... ‘’ repeated Seiya, still unconvinced.

‘’ We’ve never been there, in Sanctuary, just to… be there, Seiya. I’d like to see the place and get to know it, to understand it. It is my duty to see to it.”

She turned her back to him and walked towards the window. She could see the garden stretching below, all green and a myriad of warm colours. Under one of the trees Shun was playing with the dog Seiya had brought, years before, when Ikki had taken the Sagittarius Gold Cloth from them. She couldn’t remember how they had been able to keep it, wasn’t it a police dog? Tatsumi must have bribed someone. The Kido name could do wonders in the modern world.

“ Will you show them to me? “ she said, thinking how much her life had changed since she had met him “ All your favourite places.”

The sound of his voice made her swallow.

“ You tried to make me leave the last time. Forbade me to enter Sanctuary.”

Saori took another deep breath. She had done that, it was true, just to be saved by him once again, and almost losing him in the process. She was still unsure whether she regretted her actions or not. In the end, she had grown as over-protective of him as he was of her, and there was still little she desired more than giving him and his brothers the chance of having a normal life, away from...from what had been their lives since birth.

“ I just want you to be happy. You did enough for me. You’ve done en-”

Seiya hit the top of one of the suitcases, silencing her. She flinched.

“ What?!” she let out, turning. She managed to catch the sight of Seiya’s profile, his face a deep red, as he headed towards the door carrying one of the trunks.

“ Wherever you are makes me happy, get that into your thick head”

She felt her cheeks grow warm, her hands rushing to cover them.

“ So to Greece it is, right? Sanctuary. It will be nice, seeing Marin and Aiolia again.”

She smiled. “ Be careful with that trunk” she said, her smile deepening when hearing him grumble as an answer.

Things were going to be ok. All she had to do was believe.



_______________________________________________



I am always with myself, and it is I who am my tormentor‘

Leo Tolstoy (memoirs of a madman)


________________________________________________



IV


She waltzed into the cabin, dropping her bag unceremoniously on the bed. Her wolf followed, sniffing the room before curling up on the high quality rug. She was already getting used to the routine, to all the similar-looking first class cabins in Julian Solo’s ships, to the questioning and the stares whenever she boarded.

The questioning always ended the moment she showed them the papers Julian had given her, an ID and passport under the name of Artemis Alpheia, and a number of files with the blue-silver logo of Solo Enterprises and his rather beautiful signature and seal.

His ships were hers to use, whenever and wherever she pleased, and so was a credit card, shiny and impressive to all those people that lived outside her world. A present from Poseidon, for stopping one of her Guardians from killing him and his two remaining warriors, and reawakening him in the process: safe passage through his realm, the vast Oceans.

He had even given her a permit for her wolf, to avoid “foreign immigration policies” problems.

It was handy, even when dealing with all the fuss annoyed her. As much as she had spent much of her life away from her home, her travelling was limited to isolated places, and she still considered her mainly an islander.

But Julian Solo had currently taken Sparta as his home-base, and Saori Kido had Athens and Tokyo.

 

And I can’t just go back to my Island...

 

How long had it been already? Five years? More? It was strange to believe that so much time had passed already.

She had left at seventeen. She was certain that her younger self had never expected to be away for so long.

So it was boats for her; and Greece again. Athens, and then Sanctuary. Known ground compared to Japan and its language and people, who couldn’t but eye her constantly due to her foreign looks.

Artemis really disliked that, being stared at with judging eyes. It was happening more and more often of the late, regardless of location.

Her wolf looked up, picking her uneasiness. She sighed and sat beside him. The huge, black beast turned on his back and rested his head on her thighs, offering her his chest and neck to pet.

“ You lazy bastard, “ she said while scratching him under his ears, her voice full of endearment.

She leaned back against the bed, the wolf climbing over her to lick her face before settling beside her. She rested one of her hands on his head, petting him mechanically.

 

You shouldn’t be doing this, a voice inside her head told her. You know you shouldn’t.

 

It’s just for a short time, she convinced herself. She said she wanted to see me again.

 

That was not what Saori had said, but it was what she had implied. Maybe

She tried to see the consequences of her visit, of her using Poseidon’s ships and opening a door to save Athena’s men, but she needn’t her oracular skills to know that something would undoubtedly be awaken by that.

No Power would remain still after his or her plans were foiled, not even if the one foiling them was a relative.

No, in their case, even more so if it was a relative.

If it was her.

Dictina had said so, hadn’t she? That she was digging her own grave.

 

Artemis stood up, shoving her bag to the floor before stretching again on the bed. “ Arcade, down,” she said to her wolf, the cabin’s bed comfortable but not big enough for both of them. He whined but obeyed.

She could still remember he had been a pup when she found him, all fucked up and bleeding by a trapper.

The world had been white and cold back then, her rage bright red.

 

It had happened in Siberia.

 

She covered her eyes with one of her arms, the lack of light soothing. The memory of the hospital returned to her mind, of that room as pristine and sterile as her cabin was.

Five years.

Hyoga was safe.

 

That’s good

 

The desire to have woken him up returned in the form of a knot in her chest. The scar over her palm ached, making her curse inwardly. She scratched it, like she often did.

If things continued as they were, she would have to see him anyway. It was bound to happen.

Fated

Artemis laughed bitterly. She didn’t want to.

 

She noticed the heavy weight of Arcade on her legs, the wolf trying to make room at the end of the bed. She stretched her hand to brush his ears with her fingertips, the warmth reassuring.

She didn’t want to meet anyone at all, to have anything to do with her sisters and uncles and whoever was still walking the world.

 

Liar, the little voice whispered gleefully.

 

“ Fuck,” she said, and let her cosmo burn freely over her skin to release some tension, trying to get a hold on herself. The air around her cooled down, a wisp of mist forming from her breath. The sea answered her, an ancient, familiar feeling, friendly winds rising to accompany her in her trip.

She wished for night-time, but time still belonged to her brother, his symbol reigning in the sky. Artemis stood up and closed the curtains to engulf the room in shadows. She took a deep breath and pressed her forehead into the cool glass.

“ No matter what you might want, there’s no way out now, Alpheia” she told herself, hoping her own voice and the name her people had been calling her would bring her a sense of reality. “You started this, now finish it.”

It’s just a trip.

 

“You can do this,” she repeated, hoping the gentle rocking of the sea would soothe her.

It was going to be a long trip.



V

 

 

 

Shun looked pleased, a huge smile giving him off. He had managed an impossible task and was now enjoying himself at the orphanage he had spent part of his childhood in, with his brother and Seiya.

 

His ability to bring the best out of people was something he secretly prided himself in, even when he thought it was no secret that Seiya admired Ikki as if he were his own older brother –which Ikki was, at least half, but none tried to think too deeply about that part of their genetics-, and that Ikki cared about their most hot-blooded companion, in his watching-after-from-a-distance sort of way.

So getting them to be closer was his current goal, at which he was, of course, succeeding. After all they had lived, after Hades, he wanted his brother to develop closer ties with the rest of their friends, to have someone else, other than himself.

Shun was, after all, not a fool, and he knew to what lengths Ikki had gone for him. Even when he knew better than to brood on the past and drown himself in guilt, he also knew that, should something similar ever happen again, should he ever feel the shadow of Hades inside him, he would handle it himself.

The last thing he wanted was for his brother to follow him, and for that he needed him to have others. Someone else to care about, if that was the only thing that seemed to tie his sibling to the world.

“Once a loser, always a loser, Seiya.”

Shun looked up to the soccer field before him. He had known surrounding them with kids would work. Ikki could be guarded and Seiya could be clumsy, but both were suckers for little kids.

Simple guys with gentle hearts. He was certainly blessed to count them as his family, and wished they would forgive him for not being as simple.

At the moment, though, there was nothing to forgive and a match to win. Something Seiya’s team was failing at catastrophically due to Ikki fouling him whenever he had the chance.

Last time they had visited the orphanage, his older brother hadn’t been with them. He closed his fingers together. It was frightening, thinking how many times he had been close to losing him.

I won’t again

 

He sighed. He feared their relationship would always have an unhealthy, obsessive, over-protective element in it. He prayed it wouldn’t be to their detriment, not after all they had lived.

 

He wished for a simple life, a simple future, and a large family for his brother. He was made for one.

 

Ikki didn’t know, but it was long since Shun had decided he wouldn’t have one himself. He would be the best uncle ever instead.

 

“ They are still children, aren’t they? “ Miho commented. The girl was sitting next to him at one of the benches by the field, Nachi on her other side.

Shun had not expected to find him there, and had expected less to find out he was involved with Miho, whom he thought was Seiya’s girlfriend.

For a second he had feared all his plans of filial bonding would turn into a major disaster, but Seiya and Miho had greeted each other as cheerfully as ever, while Nachi shook hands with him in a very manly “this is my woman, behave” sort of way.

The Lupus saint seemed to be more troubled by Ikki’s presence than Seiya’s, something that was, unfortunately, out of his hands to fix.

His brother’s skills were heavy, and few that had survived him were comfortable around him. It had to be hard. Ikki knew how to pry into the core of people’s minds.

In the end, not all conflict could be healed.

“ Shun, get your ass out of the bench and come help me,” Seiya called, sprawled once again on the grass.

“ I’m cheering for Ikki, Seiya,” he yelled back, resting his back comfortably on the bench.

The boy their world knew and feared as Pegasus glared at him while he brushed the dirt from his jeans, just to receive a blow on the back of his head from a soccer ball too well-aimed by the not-less feared Phoenix.

“ Nachi, you come! I need help, dammit!” Seiya let out, giving Ikki the finger.

Shun smiled warmly. That was it, wasn’t it? Perhaps not all conflict could be healed, but if someone could shorten the distances, that was good-to-goodness Seiya.

“ Nachi, make me a favour and kick my brother’s ass for cheating,” Shun said with his best smile.

His childhood companion stared at him, visibly not knowing what to do. Another Kido, like all of them. Half-brother. Shun couldn’t but wonder if the other five knew about that, too, if the Unicorn, Lionet, Bear, Wolf and Hydra knew they were related by blood to the five of them.

He wasn’t sure, but he leaned towards a yes, something none of them would ever discuss, even when it was right there, right on their faces.

Jabu and Seiya were very physically alike.

Unicorn and Pegasus, each the leading heart of the other four.

 

If there was something Shun no longer doubted, was that Fate loved irony.

“ Nachi, do so,” Miho said, a deep frown making her face look adorable, “ I hate cheaters.”

“ Miho…” the boy started, but shook his head, defeated by their combined powers.

“ Seiya, pass me the ball,” he yelled, heading towards the field.

“ Hah, you are screwed now, Ikki!” the brown-haired boy replied, this time avoiding the ball. “ This is revenge!”

 

“ I wonder if boys ever grow up,” the girl said while she served him a glass of orange juice.

“ I doubt these ever will,” he replied, accepting it with a smile. Shun placed his free hand over hers before she released the glass. “ How are you doing, Miho?”

She blinked, surprised, then smiled, brushing his worries away like a gust of summer wind.

“ Well. Nachi and the rest have been very supportive, and Saori ever so generous, ” Miho replied, releasing the glass and reaching for one for herself. “ Of course, the orphanage hasn’t been the same since the boys were adopted, but they always come to visit and play with the new kids. “

She tugged one of her dark curls behind her ears in a feminine gesture. She didn’t use ponytails anymore, her wavy hair long and loose.

“ But I do miss Ellie,” she whispered.

That Shun had known, and had been one of the reasons behind his decision to bring his brother closer to the rest of their friends. That was also the reason to Jabu not being in Japan at the moment.

In the two months they had been at the hospital, there had been an attack to the orphanage, directed at Ellie. Luckily, the Unicorn Saint had been around, but the Goddess in the girl had reawakened, and had to be transported to Sanctuary for protection.

If Eris, whom they had already considered defeated, still slept within Ellie, he would not take chances with himself.

“ Don’t look so worried!” Miho added, smiling brightly, “ She writes me letters often, and calls every week. She seems to be doing well. She’s studying psychology, can you believe it? Long distance, it seems, but studying it nonetheless. We are all changing, growing up.”

Shun stared at her, for once at a loss of words.

She beamed, returning her attention to the soccer field before them. Ikki’s team was doing a victory dance over Seiya and Nachi, who where sprawled, once again, on the grass, led by the Mighty Phoenix himself.

“ We had a happy childhood here, didn’t we, Shun? “ she said, her voice older than her years.

He looked at the field, surprised by the maturity of her words. Girls always surprised him, just when he expected them to break and be weak and needing they proved him wrong by becoming stronger and wiser than he ever thought he would be.

“ We had.”

 

They stayed till dinner. Seiya had ordered pizza and became the immediate idol of the children, to Ikki’s dismay. At least of the boys. The girls had attached themselves to Shun, their huge, curious eyes stuck on him.

During the night, he had received at least five marriage proposals, to his brother’s chagrin.

Ikki, in a very Ikki way, had managed to sneak some beers, which he shared with Nachi as the two of them bonded in silence, watching Seiya and Miho while they took a stroll at the gardens.

The Lupus Saint waliked with them for a few blocks when it was time to return. He was renting an apartment near the orphanage, to support Miho.

Seiya told them, when they were just the three of them once again, that the pair were engaged and living together. He seemed genuinely glad, but Ikki rubbed his head just in case, making Shun feel that the night had been a success.

The mansion was all calm and silence when they returned, the known, overwhelming building filling them with a sense of reassurance and apprehension only home could bring. It was when they were reaching the entrance that they noticed. Ikki was the one to react first, his stance changing. Shun and Seiya followed, turning on their steps to look towards the training grounds, the windows showing the lights were lit.

 

The wind grew colder around them, and soon a faint snow followed. Ikki answered, a red aura lighting his skin, having been the first one –and that far only- to manage to get it back, after leaving for a week to drown himself inside one of those volcanoes of his.

It was like the first time they had felt it, cold and detached, deceivingly controlled but hiding a depth and intensity of feeling that few could match.

Hyoga’s cosmo.

 

“ Lucky bastard “ Seiya said, meaning nothing against Hyoga but unable to hide his frustration.

 

Their brother had recovered.


 

VI

 


Hyoga fell on his knees once, sweat running down his face, making his hair stick uncomfortably to his neck. The ice below him rose to meet him, growing over his legs in a tight embrace.

He couldn’t count how many times that had happened already.

It had never happened before that day.

 

“ Don’t touch it” he said.

The footsteps stopped.

He stretched his hand over the ground, the ice stretching to touch him. If he hadn’t had an ice-based cosmo, he would have frozen his hand.

“ Nice,“ Shun said, disappearing for a second just to return with a branch. He knelt by the now turned into an ice-court training room, and touched the ice with the branch, dropping it before the ice stretched towards his fingers.

“ I didn’t know you could do that,” he said, his green eyes meeting blue.

Hyoga shook his head.

“ That’s because I couldn’t.”

 

Shun frowned slightly. He had sent Seiya and Ikki inside. Seiya was not good with Hyoga when the Russian was in one of his guarded moods –which was most of the time-, and he wanted to show Ikki there were others he cared about too, to keep on drawing that healthy distance he was so set on developing.

With Cygnus it was difficult, though. Even when Shun considered Hyoga his closest friend and knew that feeling to be mutual, he couldn’t but help notice how his brother and the ice saint always managed to fall in a comfortable, silent understanding.

He sighed. Maybe that was why he was drawn to him after all. Hyoga was a version of his brother he could reach, without all the heavy emotional baggage Ikki and he shared.

“ How are you feeling? “ The second time in the day he asked that. He feared he was starting to understand Saori and the detached concern she showed for all of them.

He wished he didn’t. He had developed an instinctive rejection for any behaviour similar to those touched by the Gods.

“ I can’t control it.”

Shun frowned again, unable to understand. Perhaps Hyoga wasn’t as much as his brother after all. There was a complexity and depth in his words and actions that Ikki lacked.

“ My cosmo” he went on when noticing the younger saint’s puzzled expression. “ It’s coming too strong, can’t wield it properly”

“ Perhaps you should ask Camus. Did you hear from him?”

Hyoga shook his head. Their relationship was an odd one.

“ Still…” Shun continued, sitting on the floor, legs crossed. “ … that’s not what I asked”

It was Hyoga’s time to look at him with puzzled eyes.

“ How are you feeling?”

He sighed, then smiled faintly. After all, they all had been training, in their own ways, to see what was going on with their cosmos. Ikki’s way had annoyed them all greatly, Shiryu could manage to call his dragon, but couldn’t sustain it for long. Seiya was having it the worst, he had fainted a couple of times from the pain, and once got seizures, to their horror.

Shun hadn’t even tried to summon his. He was terrified of it.

“ Good ,“ Hyoga answered. With a batting of his arms, he proved his point, doing the movements Shun almost knew by heart.

The figure of Cygnus grew behind his friend’s back, the breath-taking swan made of ice that sang for his dead ones.

“ Diamond Dust,” he heard him say in that calm, collected voice, and his deadly cosmo took the shape of that terrible storm, able to kill a man with just touching him.

The wall at the end of the training room froze completely. Shun knew that it would go down by just touching it. He had seen men do the same, embraced by Hyoga’s attack.

“ Damn,“ the blond growled, shaking his hands. Little sparks of white jumped around.

It was unfair, Shun found himself thinking, for powers so terrible to be so beautiful.

“This is bad,” he continued, rubbing his eyes forcefully.

“ Hyoga?” Shun asked, puzzled by those words.

“ Don’t get any closer!” Hyoga snapped harshly, regretting his lack of self-control immediately. “The ice is too slippery”

“ Then come here,” Shun retorted, not giving up, “ you managed to do what we all want, why are you so angry?”

“ I’m not… angry,” the other saint answered, his shoulders slumping. The white cosmo that had been shinning around him was subdued; the light diminishing till it vanished completely.

“ I’m worried.”

“ About what? Not controlling your cosmo? “

Hyoga shook his head. “ Shun… remember when we were at the hospital?”

The green-haired boy nodded. He had some memories of it, of his brothers full of tubes. For the first time in his life, he had found them terribly vulnerable and frail.

They weren’t the kind of memories he enjoyed remembering.

“ Don’t you remember anything strange about it?”

“ Strange?”

“ Ban said something strange happened, the night Seiya recovered.”

“ I don’t remember anything. “

Shun stretched his hand towards Hyoga and pressed it on his cheek.

“ What is it?”

He didn’t meet his eyes, his blue gaze fixed on the frozen wall, while his left hand rubbed the palm of his right one nervously, as if searching for something in it.

“ Nothing,” he finally answered, pushing him gently away, the fakest smile Andromeda had seen on Cygnus’ usually sincere lips “ I’m thinking too much.”

“ You always do. Let’s go back, it’s the middle of the night already.”

Shun stared at Hyoga’s back as they left the training grounds, and found himself recognizing a strange feeling of dread growing in his guts.

That night he had slept heavily, like all had done. His brothers were under some heavy drugs and he had managed to fall asleep after days without doing so.

He had slept well, pleasantly surprised by a familiar cosmo, something that made him think of home.

He had been certain it had been Seiya’s, not giving it a second thought until now.

Seiya hadn’t recovered his cosmo yet.

 

Dread, indeed, inside his guts. He looked at his own hands, noticing them trembling, his pulse a mess.

 

Burn his cosmo, that was all he had to do, burn it and recognize himself in it, that he was once again his own person and Hades was nowhere to be found, turned into vanishing darkness. He had abandoned his body after all; Shun had stood against him, with his brothers. Had seen his face.

 

Eris had also been taken out of Ellie’s body, so had Poseidon of Julian’s. And there they were now.

 

He closed his hands and followed Hyoga outside, towards the warmth of the mansion and the summer heat. He couldn’t try to find out the truth just yet. Not yet.


 

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