02.Remains from the Past


‘’ Let us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon ‘’

Shakespeare, Henry IV, ii, 28

 


I



Saori was at her office. She was going through the files Tatsumi and Dr. Asamori had prepared for her. Compared to the demurred, composed young lady that many magnates and corporate elites had met that day, she presented a relaxed visage, much more human and less on guard. Her mauve jacket was carefully hanging from the hook at the wall, the ribbon at her shirt’s neck was untied. She had taken off her shoes, which were carefully hidden under the desk, and her long hair was tied up in a ponytail. Miss Kido was finally at home, by herself.

It had been a long day, full of meetings and calls to make sure the Graude Foundation would be in order during her trip to Greece. There had been some issues with the media she had wanted to deal with before leaving, and two IT companies she wanted to acquire. The only thing missing was a shipping contract with Solo Enterprises, but she would handle that in person. She was planning to stay at least a couple of months in Athens and travel to Japan for some days every three weeks, to make sure everything was progressing as she desired, which left her with plenty of time to take a short trip to Sparta and meet with Julian.

So all Graude-related business done, she finally leaned back on her chair and turned her attention to the matters that interested her. Charts and graphics flashed on her computer’s screen as she browsed through them. The information her grandfather had managed to gather about Sanctuary was deficient, poor in content and mostly out-dated, consisting mostly of data on the religious aspects and traditions involved behind its foundation, and the training of Saints.

Yet for years, that had been all they had to rely on, their warriors’ privacy plus the Veil being extremely resilient to their attempts at intelligence.

The situation as it was at the moment had allowed for improvements. At her request, Marin had sent her reports on the current population inhabiting Sanctuary, its subsistence methods, geography, politics and economy. The Aquila Silver Saint had been pleasantly thorough, adding information on each of the Saints and trainees, some maps and a personal appreciation of the current situation from a social and military point of view.

Thanks to her help, Saori felt that Sanctuary wasn’t an abstract concept anymore, full of myths and magic, but something she could easily grasp and understand.

She now had something to work with.

After all, she was not a priestess. As the head of the Graude Foundation, Saori Kido had been managing a modern-age empire since she was thirteen, gaining the respect of men four times her age who at first wanted nothing but to get rid of her, thinking her youth and gender made her inadequate to her post.

Like she had had to do many times in her life, Saori had managed to earn their trust through her actions, and show them that she was indeed Mitsuma Kido’s granddaughter. International politics, diplomacy, law, economy, etiquette, engineering, those had been her areas of study before her nature as Athena was brought forth, and as the prodigy she was, she had mastered them with flying colours, priding two university titles and a doctorate between her many achievements.

Mitsumasa Kido had shown vision in the way he had raised her, as if he had somehow known the day would come when she would have to lead Sanctuary in a way that was beyond symbolic. Thanks to him, she had never feared standing against those older or more powerful than her, stopping at nothing to get what she wanted from them.

Athena was, after all, a Goddess of wisdom and intelligent warfare, not just a muse that would inspire men into action.

And Sanctuary was her land, a city-state devastated by political treason, whose hierarchy system had suffered a terrible blow after the Sacred War, and a structural one during the battle against the Spectres.

Sanctuary was a war zone.

Saori sighed and flipped through the files for a last time, making sure she hadn’t skipped anything. It didn’t seem an impossible task, to manage that land.

Much simpler than handling the Foundation, with its huge scope, international status and all the constant negotiations and backstabbing of the business world. Sanctuary was, in comparison, a small project, somewhat like restructuring a rather unusual branch of her business, where the biggest difficulty would be to bend centuries of traditions in order to get results.

It reminded her to the early projects Mitsumasa had entrusted her with, the social programs she had had to develop for some of their subsidiary companies on developing countries.


Her grandfather had known.


Saori took a sip of coffee, frowning at the taste. It was colder than what she expected. She looked at the clock, surprised by the time. She had immersed herself in work once again, like her grandfather used to do and she always did when faced with a new project. Saori smiled, enjoying the known thrill at the expectative of seeing her plans take form.

She turned off the computer and shifted on her seat to stare at the painting of Mitsumasa Kido hanging behind her. Her gaze stopped at the kind eyes that had always been watching over her. She could almost see them smiling at the corners.

I’ll always thank Aioros for entrusting you with my upbringing, Grandfather” she said, her voice once again the voice of a child talking to her beloved and respected elder. Then she tidied her skirt and remade the bow at the neck of her shirt. With reluctance, she put on her shoes and headed towards the door, picking her jacket on her way. She still had a couple of hours before take-off, enough for her to sleep and avoid jetlag from messing up her first days there. She turned off the light and locked the door behind her.

The smile was still on her face.

It had been a long time since she had looked forward for tomorrow.



II



Marin was sitting at her cottage, resting her head on her hands. She stared at the papers before her in disbelief, wondering how she was going to pull through the requests Athena had made her.

This is insane” she said aloud, just to be laughed at by the resting figure on her bed. Shaina had agreed to help her, and had dragged June with her, the younger girl sitting opposite Marin. Even when it was years since Shaina had stopped using her mask, the Aquila Saint could not still get used to seeing her that way, centuries of tradition reacting against it.

Prejudice was going to be hard on Ophiuchus. Marin liked her and knew it was wrong to reject her for breaking the rules imposed on them when Saori herself had seen Shaina without her mask and said nothing about it, but even when she could consciously understand it, tradition stood, and her insides couldn’t but notice and frown.

Fortunately, Shaina had always been a bitch with an independent, aggressive spirit. Some frowning stares from behind a mask weren’t going to dissuade her, not when she was the mighty Ophiuchus Saint, one of the few warriors who had fought in all the Holy Wars and had even dared to face Poseidon alone –and had lived.

It was funny, how they were all becoming sort of legends in Sanctuary. Marin was certain neither her nor Shaina had ever expected that to happen.

Times were changing.

She looked at the papers again, at her Goddess’ orders. Times were changing indeed.

It would be easier if she had asked a Gold Saint” she said sternly.

Why? They are not to be trusted “ June asked.

Marin looked at the younger girl. She had forgotten that that was probably the sentiment of the Saints that hadn’t grown up in Sanctuary, especially after the Sacred War. The Gold Saints had betrayed Athena after all, and it was public knowledge they had fought against Seiya and his friends.

More legends being made, of which her student was probably the largest. Pegasus, Sanctuary’s Hope. She sighed. Who would have guessed?

Plus, they are mostly unknown in Sanctuary, except for Aioria” Shaina added. “ All they do is stay in their Houses, to which none of us can enter”

She began to see some reason in Saori’s request, on why she had specifically asked her, of all the available saints, to handle the preparations.

Which, in all honesty, were not that many anymore. The lines of Sanctuary had diminished considerably over the years.

“ … he could come in handy. He can organize the Gold Saints and take part of the weight off our shoulders” she considered aloud, weighing the possibilities.

Shaina looked at her, her bright green eyes betraying her surprise, then laughed once again, holding her sides.

I’ll call him errand boy next time I see him”

Marin ignored her, her mind already finding ways to get things done. “ June, can you handle security? I need the rounds being made as usual, and some people able to scan the situation outside the veil. You’ll have to be present during the ceremony too, so leave someone trustworthy in charge.”

The blonde nodded. “ No problem.”

Good. I will handle the trainees and remaining Saints. Shaina, can you make sure everything’s ready for Athena’s arrival? We need to accommodate the Saints that travel with her as well.”

The woman’s expression changed, and she sat upright, stretching her arm towards the table to pick up some of the names’ list. The lack of mask kept bothering her. All of Shaina’s emotions were out there for her to see, something the Saint in her couldn’t but consider a tactical drawback. “ No can do, Marin. I’ll gather the trainees and remaining Saints, you manage logistics and the Shinning and True.”

“ … Shaina?”

I don’t want to see Seiya yet, nor know how to behave myself around Saori Kido,” the green-haired woman said evenly, her eyes going through the list.

Marin realized she had stepped on a landmine. There was a reason after all, for Shaina to not wear her mask. She should have been more careful.

Sorry, I was insensitive.”

The woman looked at her, and smiled again. It was ironic, that someone with such a dreadful character could have such a lovely, angelic face. “It’s easy on the battlefield, you know? There’s the enemy, and we all have something else motivating us, a cause to focus on. But small talk and social life are not my thing,” she shrugged. “And your student is a drag, you handle him”

Aquila smiled behind her mask. Shaina had a valid point, Seiya was a handful.

It’s really diminished, hasn’t it? “ the other woman continued from behind the list” We have plenty of trainees, but when it comes to the teachers… “

Marin nodded, her smile and light mood disappearing under dark clouds. Even when a miracle had happened and most of the warriors that had headed to the underworld had managed to survive, Sanctuary still carried the scars of the Sacred War. It was impossible not to notice, especially for Shaina and herself.

Ophiuchus and Aquila were the only Silver Cloths that were currently taken, their comrades’ constellations an unavoidable void.

It not only pained her for those that weren’t among them, but also made her worry for the future. With the Gold Saints and Seiya and the boys, Sanctuary was stronger than ever. There were plenty of elite warriors with battlefield experience to protect their Goddess and their walls from external threats, and it was unlikely an internal one would happen after the Sacred War took place. But with the Silver Saints decimated from their ranks, there were no teachers, the trainees left frustrated and without proper guidance. Breaking up fights between the young had been one of her latest occupations, the incidents spreading even into town.

She sighed again.

Athena was coming, and her presence, with that of Seiya and the rest, was surely to bring some calm to Sanctuary. As for the future, all she could do was trust in the wisdom of her Goddess, and hope for the best.

In the meantime, she had a task at hand.

I’ll handle logistics, then,” she agreed, breaking the heavy atmosphere.

Don’t forget to talk to errand boy” Shaina teased, a huge grin gracing her face. Even June laughed this time.

I won’t,“ Marin replied, standing up. “Let’s get to work.”

The Gold Saints are going to flip,” her fellow Silver Saint said, unable to hide her amusement.


Unable to hide a thing…


But right still. If she, who considered herself flexible, had had troubles adapting to something so minor as Ophiuchus’ decision of dropping her mask, they, who were the ones to uphold Sanctuary’s traditions, were going to have serious problems with Athena’s requests. Gold Saints had never been good with change and the raised-abroad Saori Kido seemed to be determined to implement it.

Whatever,“ June said, bringing her back from her brooding. The girl was by the door, already, waiting for the two silver saints to leave first. Marin hadn’t noticed her moving. The Chameleon Saint was good. Bitter and mistrustful of authority, but good nonetheless. Albiore had been a good teacher, perhaps the best Sanctuary had ever had. “ These are Athena’s orders. Not even they can go against Her.”

True,“ the Aquila Silver Saint admitted. She had to concede that her curiosity was also piqued, wondering how they would react, how all of Sanctuary would. The time of peace was turning into a time of change.

They were interesting days, full of unknown probabilities. Athena’s requests didn’t seem that heavy when seen that way.

Things were changing; it was also natural that they would change as well.


III



Ikki disliked taking planes. It wasn’t out of fear of flying, but more out of an annoying sense of discomfort, like sitting on pins. He had little idea of how planes worked should anything go wrong, and there wasn’t much to do inside of them to keep his mind busy either, making him feel a bit too into the arms of fate for his taste.

His brother, on the other hand, seemed to have no issues with it. He could hear his gentle voice from a couple of seats before his, constantly chirping with Seiya about the sights below. It made him feel relieved. He had feared something was bothering Shun those last few weeks, but hearing him enjoying himself so naturally eased his worries. To a certain extent.

Of course, Shun was also to blame for him being on the plane to start with. His younger brother had insisted that he should travel with them and at the very least, stay a couple of days in Sanctuary. Not what he wanted to do, not what he would have done if that soft spot of his wouldn’t have looked at him like an abandoned puppy.


So there he was; flying to Greece in what he thought was as close to a field trip they could get, in what was also the largest amount of time all of them had spent together in the same room in a while.


Shun should be grateful for the things he put up with for his sake.


On the fore seats, he could make out the back of Shiryu’s head. Saori he could not see, but he knew she was sitting by his side, next to the window. On their left were Ichi and Ban, who were followed by Nachi and Geki. From what he had heard, Tatsumi had been forced to stay in the Mansion, while Jabu was already in Sanctuary, keeping company to Ellie Arisawa.

Eris. Ikki didn’t like that, old foes returning.

On the seats behind Saori and Shiryu, were Seiya and his brother, the two who were enjoying the trip the most and seemed to have found a new source of entertainment in teasing the terrified-of-flying Geki with the willing help of Nachi. The Wolf Saint didn´t look as tense as he had been during their soccer game in Japan, which seemed to please Shun.

That was one of the other things Ikki had noticed. His brother seemed to be very set on building bridges to narrow the distance between the two unspoken groups the ten of them had divided themselves in.

Not that I feel part of any, he thought to himself, even when he knew that, despite his preference for remaining on his own, he had a closer bond –even when he couldn’t say he had actively looked for it-with Seiya, Shiryu and Hyoga than with Jabu and the rest.

Ikki smirked. Ok, so they were the rest for him. Shun could handle the bridge-building if he pleased.

Hyoga shook his head next to him, a faint smile betraying his feigned disapproval. “ They are like kids,” he said.

Damn annoying kids,” Ikki added, louder. Nachi and Shun became instantly silent and proper, while Seiya turned on his seat to look at them and pulled his tongue.

Brat,“ he said teasingly, to Hyoga’s laughter.

They were sitting a couple of seats behind the rest, mostly because they had been talking while boarding, partially because neither enjoyed being too close to groups, and in a lesser degree, because they had found an unspoken –like the groups they were divided in- appreciation of the other’s presence. It wasn’t a friendship in the usual definition of the word, as it lacked all the light and joyful things friendships usually had, considering Ikki had raped Hyoga’s mind and Hyoga was one of the few who could brag of almost killing him –an almost that would have been true, hadn’t he known about his skills beforehand-, but it was close enough.


If Ikki had to put it into words, he would probably admit that Hyoga didn’t bother him as much as there rest.

There was something soothing in Cygnus’ presence, in the self-contained way in which he behaved and the emotional intensity Ikki knew he kept tightly inside.

He was also a good travelling companion, he was finding out, keeping mostly to himself while not being unapproachable should he feel like striking a conversation.

Just two hours left” he said to himself, leaning back. It made the flight easier to handle.

Hyoga nodded.

Ikki looked at him from over the corner of his eye, studying his profile for a second, the foreign features he had grown used to and that had kept the other man apart, different among them. The deep set eyes, blue and unclouded, were fixed somewhere on the horizon. Faint shadows were under them and Ikki could pick some nervousness, which was usually alien to the other’s demeanor, in the slight tension of his muscles.

He was suddenly certain there was something off. Nothing big, but something was worrying him, of that he was sure.

Ikki considered asking him, but he knew Hyoga was both too private and too fucked up as to give him an honest answer.

Perhaps it had to do with having to meet his master again.

Ikki was no stranger to the tale of what had happened in the Aquarius Temple during the Sacred War.


Does killing our masters make us patricides, Hyoga? If the old man would have been alive when we returned from training, you and I both would have gone after Mitsumasa Kido’s neck, something none of the rest would have done, like none had to face their own teachers in battle. It’s ironic that us, who would have killed our father, ended up being the ones who killed our masters.


Hyoga felt like an accomplice; that was the reason he noticed the small changes in his mood, why he felt close to him even when words were never necessary and they rarely shared their time.

But he was wild-guessing, and he knew it. Returning to what had twice been a battle field for them, facing his master once again, all those were reasons that would have worried other people, but not Cygnus.

Hyoga was stronger than that.

Ikki sighed, that smirk of his once again on his lips. He closed his eyes and decided to make do of the couple of hours that were left of the flight and sleep through them; least Seiya started making a ruckus again and forbade him that small pleasure.


In the end, Shun was right about him. Even when Ikki hated mankind, he cared about people too much.


IV



‘’ ... Justice has proven itself once again as the most righteous cause to fight for. Our cause. Fate has been harsh with us; we have all suffered and cried. But the time of tears is over. A new day shines over Sanctuary, a glorious day that foretells an even more glorious future... ‘’


They were kneeling at the Coliseum, all the men and women that followed the Goddess of Wisdom. Even the trainees had been summoned, who remained unsure and nervous at the back of the lines.

It was the first time something like that had happened in Sanctuary, at least as far as Milo knew. Athena was not one to address her faithful face to face, yet there she was, standing before them, a small figure compared to the colossal statue crowning the city, her cosmo larger than life itself.

Both the novelty and the reality were unsettling. Traditions were the base of life in Sanctuary, hierarchies, daily rituals and rules of obedience keeping it together. Change was something that threatened that, even when coming from their Goddess herself.

After all, there were many reasons why Athena had kept herself from her faithful, reasons Milo, as a warrior, could understand with ease. The most obvious one was to remain an object of inspiration, an ideal, like the statue that crowned their land. That inhuman goddess was easy to follow, her strength undeniable. The human female was more complex, the risk of anyone finding her too frail, too vulnerable, even too desirable, was one that was too big to take.

They had lived to see the result of such a risk, when Saga unleashed the Sacred Wars on them and decimated Sanctuary to half its forces.

The other reason, the one the Saint in him was most aware of, was that Athena, as the Shield of the Human World, was a constant target to her enemies. Her face being kept from the public eye allowed them to keep her more protected, keeping her away from possible assassins. That was why the Kyoko was such an important role in their daily life. Not only the man was the father-figure of all the Saints in Her service, but he was also Sanctuary’s public face. A man devoid of his persona so he would be able to speak his Goddess’ words, and also the one that would take the blows her decisions might attract. Loyalty, wisdom and strength were three virtues that man should hold.

A man that loved and cared for her, in the most platonic and absolute sense of the word.

All that secrecy was needed to allow Athena a degree of freedom, some movement in the world she kept safe.

Showing her face, on the other hand, forced them to guard her more closely, keep her in tighter chains.


In the end, no matter what, Milo thought as he listened to his Goddess’ words, being born with such fate implied a heavy prison.


Yet whatever his musings could be, Saori Kido was their Goddess, and as such she had already decided to make her identity known. After all, many had seen her already, and her outer world persona, the heiress of some commercial and technological empire, seemed to be one she wasn’t willing to abandon.

It was a strange situation, one he had never expected to live to see, the day in which their Goddess would be standing before them, not the Kyoko, not someone else, to tell them her hopes and wishes, her plans for Sanctuary.

To tell them what she expected of them.

Saori Kido could be made of flesh and blood, but she already knew what she had to deal with.

Athena, he corrected himself.

It was strange indeed, and humbling, to be standing there, kneeling in the Coliseum, knowing that the lithe woman that was talking to them was his Goddess.

Those changing times brought dread in his heart, so used to traditions, yet he also felt he was glad to be alive to see them, see her, once again, ruling them for the good of the World.

‘’ You are drooling, Milo,‘’ Aioria teased.

Milo grinned at the man next to him and shook his head. He was certain the feeling of awe he was experiencing had to be similar in his brothers-in-arms. Being addressed by Athena herself was something none of them had ever thought possible.

He sighed ever so slightly and returned to his humble stance, head lowered, knees bent. Gold on his body, Scorpio shining brightly over his skin. His stand could be humble, but his heart was as proud as it had always been.

He kept his eyes open. He had been doing so since they had been summoned and Athena had started his speech, his ears only for her while his eyes went over the slight cracks that drew spider-webs on the ancient marble floor –the place where dozens of other saints wearing his very cloth had once stood, where Holy Wars had taken place and Saga had battled the Bronze Saints in what was still a hushed reality-, to stay on the edge of the white cape before him, on the folds that spread on the floor to the way it began to rise to cover the figure before him.

He was glad he had ended standing behind him. Facing Aquarius still filled him with fear.

Milo could only see his back, but he was certain his posture was flawless, elegant and powerful at the same time, his mind’s eye remembering how graceful his movements had always been. .

His heart clenched when seeing that cape, as much as it was elated by Athena’s presence.

After all, that was something Milo hadn’t expected either, to be able to stand next to Camus again. Whenever he thought about it for too long, he felt the need to reach closer, make sure he was indeed there, alive and not lying frozen in the Eleventh Temple, taken away from him forever.

It scared him horribly, and feared that the slightest word would spirit him away, turned into the diamond dust he could summon, the gold changing back to the dark he once saw him clad in.

Days like a dream, those were for him, days he had never expected to see, his life forfeit the moment he chose, like all of them did, to open the way for Seiya and the rest to reach Athena.

The Gold Saints should be dead, that was reality. Camus, himself, all of them. Yet there they were, Athena’s deadly first class warriors, breathing under Sanctuary’s summer skies. Even Dohko, the young-turned-old-turned-young Saint was present, the Seventh House finally having its owner under its walls.


A glorious day that foretells and even more glorious future, Saori Kido had said. When looking around, to the men kneeling before her, enemies and friends but most of all comrades, one couldn’t but understand her words.

Sanctuary had never been stronger.


A glorious day. For Milo, it was still a miracle he couldn’t grow used to, a dream he wished he would never wake up from, and dreadfully feared it would be snatched away from him the moment he considered it true.

¨... But that doesn’t mean we can stop fighting” Athena continued, walking down the steps to mingle between them, her resolute movements and the certainty in her eyes empowering her words. Her bright, frightening cosmo just confirmed that power. A Goddess, undoubtedly. Theirs.


Athena


“I wish we could, I wish we could just lay down our weapons and live a peaceful life. But many things happened to us, and many things will.” She spread her arms, as if the whole stretch of the land could be held between them, and in way, it could. ” This is Sanctuary, our world, our life. The symbol of everything we fight for. Our safe haven. And because of that, we must protect it; keep on strengthening these ancient walls that shield the world. Protect Sanctuary... protect Earth, the same way we’ve done so many times already.”

She returned to the place above the steps, and looked at each one of them, her eyes steel “The Holy War is over, yet we can’t tell what the future might bring. But what we can tell is that as long as evil exists on Earth, I know Sanctuary will be there to face it, and stop it. There’s a saying about Evil never resting. Well, neither does Justice. Neither do we. “


Milo swallowed, feeling a current of electricity go down his spine, the hair on his arms standing on end. Even when he knew things weren’t that easy, that Justice wasn’t always a clear path to follow and Death was the lesser danger they were facing, the Scorpio Gold Saint found himself believing in those words, in that girl. Joining her promise, with his whole heart.

His fears lessened. He could be a man, but was a Gold Saint first.

No matter what, Sanctuary would endure. All those who were present that day would make sure of that.


V

Seiya had never been one to think too deeply into things, nor let his thoughts come before his actions. Over the years, he had been called a brat, a fool, an impetuous daredevil, and a hundred different names he couldn’t deny, nor, in all honesty, had grown out of.

If he had to describe what his life had been so far, he would say it had been a constant race, one in which he was either running after a missing woman or being pushed forward by one– most of the time doing both. None of them ever seemed to be standing on the same place he was, always a little further, always behind a veil, always about to leap out of his reach all over again.

He had never been one to think too much, and he was pretty sure his brains were not one of his strong points, but at times of peace he couldn’t but remember that feeling of urgency, that need to reach them least he lost them all over again.

She was very much to blame for that.

Saori looked beautiful, standing before them with that certainty and lack of fear only she could have. Seiya had known only one other person to be able to wield authority so naturally, and that had been the former Patriarch when on his “good side”, a man twice her age who had been raised under the traditions of that land.

She was smiling (not her natural smile –he could tell the difference by now-, but the business smile, the controlled one that made people feel at ease) while saying words of wisdom to determine the fate of Sanctuary.

She was indeed beautiful, a walking contradiction of a woman, frail and strong, ethereal and with an undeniable presence, all white and mauve and silk and skin before those that wore armour for her.

It had been long since he had seen her with those eyes, the ones that couldn’t but see an abyss of differences between them. At first it had been a constant, her being the rich brat who lived freely in the mansion while they were stuck on the training grounds, the spoilt heiress who blackmailed him into helping her in exchange of information on his sister’s whereabouts, the young lady that couldn’t see them as anything but possessions; and when both had finally decided to meet on common ground, she was revealed to be Athena and that frail bridge they had built seemed to have been shattered away to give way to an abyss.

Seemed, because that had not been the case, and he had found that the essence of what Saori was had been the greatest force in his teenage life, the young woman becoming the person most important to him.

 

But she’ll never be yours, a bastard who is uncomfortable with her world and can’t offer her a thing.

 

He shook the thought away, finding it bitter and full of things he would not admit. All he wanted was her happiness. And as she stood there, safe and alive, her skin the colour of milk instead of the paleness of death he had held in his arms in the nightmares they had faced together, he felt all the pain had been worth it. Even if his cosmo were to never return, as long as she was safe, he was satisfied.

 

The small, inner voice laughed at him.

 

Liar.

 

Saori stood there, a beauty in white silk with her hair dancing behind her, facing those that belonged to her while she belonged to no one without wavering, her voice full of confidence.

 

Godly.

What could he give her if he couldn’t call his cosmo?

 

Liar indeed.

 

‘’ Seiya... she’s calling you. ‘’

 

Startled brown-red eyes rose to meet Shun’s gentle stare, while the usual candid look of the boy returned to his beforehand sombre complexion.

‘’ If I didn’t know you, I’d have bet that you were deep in thought, ‘’ teased his friend with a tender smile on his lips, tears of happiness due to Athena’s speech still covering his emerald eyes.

‘’ Good thing you know better than that.‘’

Shun chuckled when Seiya ruffled his green mane, unsuccessfully trying to defend himself.

‘’ Well, I guess it’s show time, see you at the top, ‘’ Seiya let out, standing up and looking at the white silhouette whose Cosmo was calling out to him. Looking at Saori’s dark eyes and smiling lips. Yes, the show had begun.

The Coliseum went silent, hundreds of eyes fixed on the lonely figure walking from the Bronze Saints’ ranks. ‘’ It’s him’’, some said, ‘’ I thought he would be taller ‘’ said others, ‘’ I heard he could be the next Sagittarius Saint ‘’, replied one or two, to be soon shut up by a ‘’ He’s far more powerful than a Gold Saint, fool, he touched the Godly Sense ‘’

Seiya could feel the uneasiness in his stomach when hearing all those things. He had always been the last one, having to strife and fight to get to the top. ‘Special’ was a word that he didn’t think much of. And even less ‘admired’. Yet he was both now, for the men and women of Sanctuary. Strange thing, when he felt the one place where Fate had led him to was to stand and remain at the feet of that woman who meant the world to him.

‘’ Athena-sama ‘’

Saori shook her head slightly, arching one of her delicate eyebrows at the mocking smile of her saint.

‘’ Pegasus Seiya... ‘’ she began, though he knew she had called him differently.

 

Seiya-kun, her cosmo said, her eyes echoed.

 

’ You fought bravely so many times... you suffered and were hurt so much, because of Sanctuary’s dream... ‘’

 

Because of you, just because of you...

 

‘’ And you won, Pegasus, you overcame all the adversities, just like a meteor. Like your constellation, you flew over all the dangers and succeeded. You are indeed Sanctuary’s Saint of Hope ‘’

 

Your Saint....

 

‘’ You shone brightly, just like a star, Seiya... Pegasus ‘’ she corrected, a strange glint in her dark eyes that made his heart beat faster. When he took the time to think and look at things from two steps back, he found that he ought to be far from her, that they would always be on each side of an abyss, her back turned from him and about to get away. But that was not his real place.

 

He knelt.

His place was right at her side, regardless of how many abysses were to be placed between them. He would not let it be any other way.

 

‘’ That’s why I want to give you this, Athena’s symbol...for your honour, for your honesty, for your loyalty... but more than anything...‘’

 

For your friendship... for your love...

 

‘’ For your ability to give us hope back ‘’

A brat, he had been called over and over again. The same thing he had always called her, a spoilt, rotten, snobbish, demanding, unbearable brat.

‘’ Thank you, Athena-sama ‘’ he whispered, his skin crawling pleasantly when her fingers brushed his neck while she placed the simple gold chain with the figure of an owl around it.

Athena’s medal of honour.

He kissed her hand, feeling the blood pulsing through her wrist’s veins, her fingers delicate and warm over his palm. The dark feelings that had crawled inside him banished, replaced by the childish smile that was characteristically his. He would not remember them later on. After all, the mind was not a territory he used to thread on often, his world long reduced to a single point made of fluttery fabrics and inner strength.

She would always shield the world and mankind, wielding justice and victory in her hands, leading armies of men against forces no one should ever face. In that complex world she inhabited, someone had to shield her, and there he would be. He stood up, chuckling bashfully. Dark eyes admonished him endearingly, slightly puzzled, slightly pleased.

The same bossy brat she had always been, wanting to play with him and unable to say it properly.

He would handle it, whatever might darken her days.

 

Domo arigato gozaimasu, Saori-san.


VI


So she thought he was a hero. Kanon grinned and shook his head, closing his hand around the golden owl. One by one she had called those that had fought in her name; the ones she thought deserved her gratefulness. The Five Bright ones came first, of course, each of them accepting the honour in their own particular way. Pegasus had smiled impishly; containing himself from teasing his Goddess. Dragon had acted ceremoniously, bowing respectfully at her, his movements elegant and solemn. Strange thing, for that boy to be Libra’s trainee. Pegasus seemed to fit Dohko’s personality better.

Cygnus had followed, distant, detached, correct. If Dragon didn’t seem Libra’s apprentice, there were no doubts Cygnus was Aquarius’. Kanon could even recognize the shared body language, the self-contained movements.

If he hadn’t fought next to him, he would not have guessed that many of the similarities were mostly superficial, the younger Saint hiding an extremely emotional soul.

Stupid Isaak and his heart of gold. He should have realized the boy he saved in exchange of his cloth and future was a black hole, one that was loved by death too dearly.

But not as much as the one that followed. Kanon had always found Andromeda so… deceivingly wrong as a Saint. His figure was more lithe and delicate than Athena’s, while lacking all of the girl-turned-goddess’ natural sense of command. The boy had blushed bright red when receiving the owl, apparently shy over all the attention.

Yet under that soft-spoken mannerism had once hid Hades and still stood one of the deadliest techniques: Nebula Storm.

Kanon had not thought much of Poseidon’s Generals, but he had found somewhat of a twisted kindred spirit in Sorrento, someone that reminded him of the Gold Saints he had grown up with, of the competitive, uncomfortable relationship he had with his brother.

Andromeda had defeated that man, Siren’s Serenade nothing but a whisper against him. Death’s child, the youth was. The five of them were, to be truthful.

They were oddities in their world, warriors beyond the gold saints themselves yet belonging to the lowest rank of Athena’s army. And like oddities, they were all little monsters, able to do things no mortal should be able to do.


Miracles, that’s what these boys can do


They were terrifying. The last monster was the one Kanon had had the pleasure to face. Phoenix. He found it strange that he had complied to kneel before Athena at all. Ikki seemed to be constantly fleeing from those he cared.

After the bright ones she had called, to the surprise of everyone in Sanctuary, the ‘other’ ones. The bronze saints whose powers matched their cloths level. The five of them had made their way to the top of the Coliseum with a tentative step, unsure of their role. When accepting Athena’s mark, they had looked embarrassed instead of proud. Kanon would have pitied them if he didn’t find them unworthy of consideration. Athena could be thankful to them, but making them stand where the other five had stood was leaving them open to comparison, and to their failings. Unfair, both.

Those boys were everything a bronze saint ought to be, the problem was that the first five were monstrous. But Kanon knew how hard it was to accept that a person one grew up with reached heights that were impossible to oneself. The comparison was unfair, but unavoidable. The boys had grown together, fought together. Poor lads.


Fate was like that, fickle.


Things were different when she summoned the two Silver Saints, Aquila and Ophiuchus. The first one had kneeled humbly, her pride residing in her ability to serve. The Snake Holder, on the other hand, approached Athena boldly, not wearing her mask. The Goddess didn’t seem to mind though, placing the chain around her neck as she had done with everyone else.

People did murmur. Hero or not, breaking traditions as set as the masks for the female saints was something that was not going to go unnoticed, nor would win much support.

Kanon found himself liking the woman. It took guts to go against their traditions.

And then, finally, she had called them. The Gold Ones. Twelve Saints that made everyone in the Arena catch their breath in awe and fear at their sight. Mu, Aldebaran, Saga, Deathmask, Aiolia, Shaka, Dohko, Milo, Shura, Camus, Aphrodite... and himself. It was strange how things had worked out, how he, who had fought always for himself, had been brought back to life by Athena, and Aioros, the one who had died for her, hadn’t. There were two saints for Gemini, but Sagittarius remained empty and unguarded.

The same way Athena’s temple was. Unguarded, now that it lacked a Kyoko, Saga no longer fit for the part.

Fate was indeed, fickle. Poor brother of his would have to see his post taken away from him regardless of all the blood he had shed to get it.

But from the look in Athena’s eyes, she had already made her choice. ‘’ My Saints... my people... ‘’ Kanon looked at the girl, wondering whom would she pick. Goddess or not, she knew little of the people that lived to protect her, having been raised away from Sanctuary. From what he had learned, she heavily depended on the two faithful ones. Dohko and Mu. Probably one of those two would be the new Kyoko... which left another temple unguarded and the realm in charge of either a prankster or a relic. Kanon smirked. They were living through good times for anyone willing to attack Sanctuary. Unguarded houses, lack of Saints, a young Goddess... It reminded him of how things had been when the Bronze Saints had broken into the Twelve Houses. The situation was so similar to back then, and they had succeeded. Why wouldn’t an enemy... a real one... succeed also?

‘’ Sanctuary ‘’

Oh, that word, that word that said it all. The object of desire of almost every God and Goddess that had reincarnated in their era.

‘’ We have powerful Saints... ‘’

Cheering was heard over the Coliseum, the names of the Five Bronze Saints being repeated everywhere, making some of the Gold Saints shake their heads in disapproval. Trainees were always too disrespectful in their first months. Luckily, they learnt fast.

‘’ We have promising trainees... ‘’ she said with a smile that made every man in the Arena sigh. Seiya was the one to cheer this time. The boy owned the bloody heart of their city-state.

‘’ We have a world to protect ‘’

A world. A Goddess. Yes, thought Kanon, they had that. A reason. A justification to draw blood.

‘’ And we have a Kyoko ‘’

Ah, there, the post. Which house would remain empty, which house would lose its guardian, which house would be an easy target for the next Holy War. Finally things began to sound interesting to him.

‘’ And a Staff Chief ‘’

Kanon chuckled, unable to keep a straight face. So that was it, that was the reason Athena had chosen a Kyoko. She had found the way to weaken the head of Sanctuary by appointing his Staff Chief herself. It seemed the female Saints took their guts after their Goddess.

‘’Libra Dohko, Aquila Marin, could you stand forward, please? ‘’

This time the surprise was larger, murmuring filling the air. A female saint in one of the higher posts? That hadn’t happened since... well, since ever. It seemed Athena had taken her task of bringing Sanctuary to a new era pretty seriously.

Athena lowered her voice then, so that the only ones to listen would be the ones closer to her, the warriors already appointed as saints, the world around them quiet. Kanon wondered if she was even blocking them from the rest of the people present.

Most likely so. The air seemed alive, pregnant with change.

‘’Dohko. It seems I always ask too much of you” she said, smiling. “ I feel guilty of burdening you once again with a heavy task, but I think you will understand my thoughts behind this decision”

“Of course, you are free to decline the first part of it, even when I hope you will accept it. But I will not have you decline the second”

The air grew heavier, like it had felt the day Kanon had faced his brother and was sent to Cape Sunion, like the day he found the vase with Athena’s seal. The wheels of Fate were turning around them, faster with each word their Goddess said. Kanon’s gaze went to his brother, who was kneeling next to him, all calmness and reverence. His eyes were closed. It bothered him, he wanted to see them, the part of him that admired and loved him wishing to protect him from what was unavoidable.

“I want a leader for this land, one who can be wise and calm in the sight of battle, and stern but fair during times of peace.”

Kanon wanted to place his hand over his brother’s, even when knowing he would not. That was what Saga had always desired to be; the persona that had led him to reject all that didn’t fit and eventually turned him insane.

“I don’t want a man who wishes for power”

The man who had been Sea Dragon flinched for his brother’s sake, their Goddess’ words brief and sharp like the dagger that had been used against her, implying what had been their lives up to that day.

She didn’t want something like had happened before to happen again, no mortal using her.

For the third time in his life, Kanon felt reverence towards her.

Before them, stood Athena, Nikè on her hands, and she had not forgotten what all of them wished they could not remember.


Open your eyes, Saga


Kanon disliked the conflicting emotions within him. Their relationship wasn’t easy and he knew that, from time to time and between all the other bits and pieces that made their bond, they both still desired to be able to kill the other. He could deal with that. It was the part of him that worried over his brother the one that he found difficult to cope with.


Open your eyes, dammit.


Almost as if he had heard him, Saga did, clear skies fixing on their Goddess, full of warmth, respect… and approval. Kanon felt cheated and instantly peeved.

I’m fine, he heard him whisper through his cosmo, the energy imprint so similar to his that for a second he couldn’t separate it from his own.

As if I cared, he replied, bringing a smile to his brother’s face.


“It is my wish…” Their Goddess’ voice brought his attention back to her, Kanon thinking of his own wish for his brother to go screw himself. Unfortunately he was not a God and experience had proved him that he got the losing end whenever it came to his older twin. Whatever Athena wished would be granted, especially by them. He pitied Dohko. Even when she had said he could refuse, she had cornered him with her choice of words “ … that from this day on, whoever takes the place of Kyoko and becomes my Voice and a leader to my people, will desire nothing but Athena’s will”

“ That’s why I will make you my Kyoko, Libra Dohko, and I will not let you refuse” She stood by the Gold Saint, a woman in a silk dress next to a man in full armour, her presence indestructible, her gaze unreadable. “ Do you know already what shape my wish will take?”

Kanon frowned, a faint idea forming in his mind. She would not dare.


Dohko’s grin softened, his eyes betraying the wisdom of his years, “You leave me no choice, my Lady”


It cannot be that… if she does that….


It was her turn to smile.

“I told you I felt guilty of asking you to bear this burden “

“Nothing you wish for is a burden”

In any other situation, Kanon would have wanted to puke at Dohko’s words, but there, in that very instant, the words showed what was true from any of them. When it came down to it, all of the men and women present there would do her bidding, whatever it may be.

“That’s why I feel guilty” she replied, the air buzzing. When she spoke again, her voice was louder, this time for all to hear.


If she does this, if she asks this from the one that holds the post of Kyoko, all the ones that come after Dohko will have to follow and do this publicly before taking the mask, instead of privately when they found it fit, as warriors, to seek a successor…


If she did that, no Gold Saint would ever be able to do what Saga did.


She will do it.


He was certain then, as much as he was certain that his brother had probably known from the start, the twisted bastard be damned.


Athena’s cosmo filled the Coliseum, the young woman lowering Nikè to point it at the Gold Saint before her.

“Libra Dohko, would you renounce your Cloth and accept the charge of Kyoko? ‘’


The warrior knelt and nodded, calling the Libra armour away from him; elevated and defeated at the same time, a man at the mercy of his Goddess.

‘’ Sanctuary, here be your new Kyoko ‘’ announced Athena, unleashing her Cosmo, the light turning everything around them a tint of gold. Soon, the Libra mark that had for so long been a part of Dohko’s cosmo vanished, the Cloth no longer resonating with him. The Goddess’ mark grew stronger then, replacing it. From that day on, Dohko’s cosmo would always burn with Athena’s in it, a blessing that had destroyed the Libra Saint, leaving the Kyoko standing.

From the small table where she had picked each medal, she took the mask that belonged to the man that guided Sanctuary and offered it to Dohko, who accepted it. Turning towards them, he looked at all of them with those eyes of his that spoke of centuries, and smiled broadly, his wide face full of warmth. Then put the mask on, disappearing behind what he would always be from then on.

The Coliseum remained in a respectful silence, the joyful mood that had ruled the day when Athena had given them their medals turned solemn, and the warriors present bowed their heads lower in acceptance and obedience to their spiritual leader, any other kind of display seeming out of place.

She had done it, after all. From that day on, Sanctuary’s Kyoko would be asked the greatest sacrifice a Saint could make and renounce his Cloth; something that only happened with death or when the warrior himself decided that a successor would serve the Goddess best. Something that had always been part of their most intimate, private and personal decisions and experiences.

Kanon felt a chill down his spine, and understood why there was respect in Saga’s eyes. Athena had shown what she expected of them, and had proved that as much as she could be merciful and compassionate, she could also show harshness when needed.


‘’ Thank you” The Goddess said to her Kyoko as he took her right side. She turned to them once again, breaking the heavy silence around them with her smile.

“But he won’t be alone. The Staff Chief will be there to aid him. Her task will be to keep me in touch with your problems, your wishes and your lives. She will be the link between my Saints and myself; as much as the Kyoko is the link between my wishes and Sanctuary. Marin, will you accept the charge of Staff Chief? ‘’

The red-haired girl looked at the Goddess from her blank mask, her body language saying nothing.

‘’Come on, Marin! ‘’ cheered Seiya, soon echoed by Ophiuchus, while Aiolia smiled reassuringly, pride shinning in his eyes.

It seemed that woman could be the right one for the job after all, wondered Kanon. She was loved and respected by the Saints, and known by the trainees. Athena had not over looked any of her decisions.

‘’Yes ‘’ was the answer that echoed under her metal mask, the solemn reverence replaced by loud cheering and the joyful clapping from the trainees, Ophiuchus and Seiya.

‘’Sanctuary, here be your Staff Chief ‘’ Athena said, her Cosmo flaring once again.

The Goddess looked at her saints, at her newly appointed Kyoko and Staff Chief, with satisfaction.

Kanon couldn’t but wonder how a worn out Saint would fit the part of the Kyoko, but time would tell. And the same would happen with the girl. Those were strange days, after all, days none of them had expected –or should- have seen.

What he knew was that his mind was once again behaving like a warrior’s, thinking about how the Twelve Houses had weakened because of her choice, but having Libra as its weak link wasn’t as dangerous as an empty Aries. The neighbouring houses were highly guarded, and he and his brother could always check on the seventh if needed. Strange days rarely came alone in their world.

Athena rose her hand to stop the voices, everyone obeying at once ‘’ Sanctuary is whole now, my Saints, let it be Peace! ‘’

Kanon remained still while the cheering grew, turned into a chant. Despite of the noise and joyfulness around him, the air seemed oddly still. All of the Gold Saints had vowed their heads in acceptance and recognition of their Goddess’ words, but none was recklessly celebrating. Neither were the five monsters, not even the other five.

The voices came from the trainees, who, as all Saints knew well, started boisterous until they were broken into the truth that was Sanctuary.

They always learnt fast.

Peace was what they upheld, but Sanctuary was an army, and their land a war zone. That was something that would always be.

After all, Athena was not a Goddess of Peace. The small, determined woman standing before them was War herself, and that day she had shown it. No man or woman serving her should ever forget that.


VII


She had arrived during the morning, night once again taken away from her. The familiar streets of Athens welcomed her, ancient spirits dancing around her, glad to be seen after being ignored for centuries of modern life, buildings replacing the temples that had once been their homes, supermarkets built over their sacred groves. Artemis loved Greece, the familiar air heavy with the memory of what once had been, of the times of Glory of the Olympian Gods; and Athens in particular filled her heart with a sense of bittersweet melancholy. No other city of the modern world could remind her how it had once loved them the most.

But she hadn’t time to reminiscence. She had walked the streets in a hurry, her body aware of everything around her, trying to pick the trail of her guardians. To her relief, she had found none. She made a mental note to send Julian a thank you card for easing her transportation.

It was the afternoon when she headed towards the Acropolis, Athena’s past greatness hiding the paths to Athena’s refuge.

Her sister’s Sanctuary.

That her relatives were calling the small patches of land that remained their own by that name filled her with anger. Places of safety, as if they were runaways, outcasts…

She sighed, taking a hold of her emotions. It wouldn’t do her any good to give them free reign in the situation she was in.

It always surprised her, crossing the veil through the city. There she would be, walking through old-forgotten streets, apparently heading towards nowhere, and then, magic, the open road to Athena’s training grounds would spread, the world of civilization left behind her.


Sanctuary…


She shook her head, swallowing bitterness. Ortygia, the centre of her cult, was an island, which she had kept isolated, free from prying eyes through spells of deception and the help of treacherous waters and deadly currents.

For her, that had been home, a place to return to and the land where she had been born and raised. Ortygia had been freedom.

But during the years she had been unable to return to it she couldn’t but wonder if her beloved island was really any different from what the places her relatives called protection, both a haven and a hiding place.

The thought bothered her greatly. Lately everything did.

When it came to Sanctuary, she had only visited once, out of curiosity, and had reached up to the training grounds, before the Coliseum and the path to the Houses. It had happened back in the years she didn’t want to remember, right after she left Ortygia.

Those hadn’t been good times.

Not that she thought much of the current ones, but at least the emotional wound was not as fresh, even when it was always somewhat open.


Scarring and rotting, she thought, shaking her head. Despite of her attempts not to remember, she had never been good at letting go of the past.


The place hadn’t change much, the road still shorter than it seemed, and after walking for half an hour she began to find some houses, scattered at first, and then the bustling town that sprawled at the feet of Athena’s religious centre took shape.

That was something she liked. Of all the Gods, only her sister had managed to keep a living city under her watch, small shops handled by the same families for generations, rogue warriors and failed trainees trying to find their place gathering around to test their might, children running everywhere while their mothers, the women of both Saints and regular men, stared at them disapprovingly, threatening to send them to Cancer Deathmask if they did not obey them.

Life was always busy and buzzing in that town, just like it had been of old.

It was a lovely place, one that, like Athens itself, showed no sign of her guardians.

She petted the head of her wolf, which had been following her pace with ease. She really wished it would keep that way.

Another thing she liked about that town was that, as long as she didn’t flash her cosmo, she could go unnoticed. There were plenty of people around, and many had had some sort of training, the place often visited by warriors who had managed to develop their cosmo, but had failed or been denied from winning a Cloth. Secrets and unspeakable pasts were common currency, and a strange, unmasked female was no oddity, even when followed by a huge black wolf.

She had played the trainee too, back then, last time she visited. Strange times indeed.

At the moment she was pretty sure she couldn’t pull the trainee stunt again, but could pretend to be a wandering rogue warrior, at least while crossing town, and enjoy the break of not being watched by prying eyes.


The sense of freedom eased her mood, and by the time she had started to leave the buildings behind, her spirits had softened.

It was late in the evening when they were out of town, nothingness spreading before her once again.

She took a deep breath, Arcade licking her fingertips.

“ I’m fine,” she said with a reassuring smile, tickling the side of his nuzzle. She knew there were no more excuses up from there, and all her choices were equally annoying. She could make use of the night spreading over her and reach Athena’s chambers, to the horror of her Saints; she could flash her cosmo and force them to acknowledge her presence, to the horror of everyone; or could wait till some guards found her and make them take her to Athena, something that she doubted would happen easily, considering she was in the land of some royally paranoid bastards.

Also, to be fair to them, she did look like a rogue warrior at the moment and seemed far from Athena’s older sister, her wolf her only companion, her bag her only luggage, her body protected by a summer dress instead of her Tunic.

She could always summon her bow as proof of Godhead, she thought, a smile growing on her lips.


And draw blood with it, most likely. Why else would I bring it with me? “Lead me to your Goddess, or else!”

She laughed, shaking her head. The mere thought filled her with a sense of twisted joy that she kept surprising herself with of the late.

“ Oh, well, Arcade, whatever will be, will be” she said, continuing down the road.


Let it be some wandering warrior the one to find me first, though, some poor soul who will think himself lucky if meeting a stranger alone on the road. Or a daring guard, desperate to prove his value and unable to listen. Let it be someone against whom I can draw my bow and think nothing, absolutely nothing, of the consequences


VIII


It was night already when it happened, to the surprise of the young warrior. For the last few years, she had spent her life caught in two worlds, spending half of her time in Andromeda Island, helping with rebuilding the grounds there, and half in Sanctuary, guarding that small shrine.

She preferred her tasks at the island, of course. As one of the few surviving trainees of Cepheus Albiore, she had grown to think of that stretch of land as her home, and being part of the team assigned to make it whole again was an honour. Even if there were no more masters to help her finish her training, if she had already left behind the usual age Saints got their cloths at, even if she were never to get one, Albinach believed that as long as she could help turn the island into a learning place again, then she would be more than satisfied.

Like all of the remaining survivors, she held a strong devotion towards her teacher, and an almost as strong mistrust towards Sanctuary and its Gold Saints and traditions. A nest of rebels, Andromeda Island had been referred to for years, by those living at Athena’s land. The home of traitors, Sanctuary had been called by those living in Andromeda.

Developing a bond with the place that had taken everything from her was difficult.

But in her own way, Albinach was trying. She had already accepted that in order to be allowed to fulfil her wishes for her island, she also had to be a part of that home of traitors and let the hate fade.

It was difficult. It didn’t help that her tasks there had been mostly menial, except for the morning trainings with the other students. Tending and guarding an empty shrine near the females’ barracks was far from rewarding, and that was what she had been doing for months, whenever she was called back to Athens.

Whatever may be, as long as I can do something for Andromeda Island, that had been her motto, ever since the Sacred Wars were over and June got all the survivors together and brought them back to the same Sanctuary that had once called them rebels and now welcomed them with regretful arms.

Whatever had taken the shape of a dreadful routine. There was so much to do in the island that it was impossible for her not to feel useful, each willing hand was greatly needed. Yet time in Sanctuary felt like a bore, spent mostly cleaning that damn building dedicated to a Goddess that was not her own. A waste, something anyone could have done, had they had enough people.

They were lacking something there, Sanctuary as a whole. Albinach seriously believed, from time to time, depending on her levels of frustration and boredom, that Athena ought to shove the Gold Saints of their heavenly perches and put them to work as well, make them do something useful for them all. Make them waste their time like she was doing, mindlessly keeping the place in order, making sure the torches at the entrance were dry and unlit night after night.

Repetition after repetition.


Until then.


She returned to her post after Athena’s speech, ready to start her nightly chore, when she heard the sound of water. Albinach thought it had started to rain, but the sky was clear, the stars burning with all their might, the moon crowning the night. A regular summer night in Sanctuary.

It wasn’t after some minutes of confusion that she realized the sound was coming from the shrine itself, water coming from two openings on each side, forming a small stream around the building that merged in a circular pool that reflected the exact shape of the moon. The torches she had checked all those nights flickered without warning then burst, consuming themselves, and in the sudden darkness, she realized the marble was sparkling, the milky way carved on the shrine’s walls.


Your post will be the shrine of the Goddess of the Wild Things, Aquila Marin had told her, when informing her of her duties in Sanctuary. It’s for you to tend to it and the small forest surrounding it. Until you have your cloth, you will not be able to fulfil the role of one of Sanctuary’s warriors, and least you decide to abandon this path you can’t become a guard instead.

So, until you have that cloth, you’ll develop the other skills that, as one of Athena’s followers, are expected of you. You will be a part of those helping restore Andromeda Island, one among many, your strength used for the good of your fellow men and women. And as a female warrior, you will keep to this shrine, alone, a priestess for the sake of your Goddess.


But remember, Albinach, Aquila had insisted, your main duty is not to tend for it, but guard it. Those torches should never lit, and if they do, you must come and tell me immediately. Not a second wasted.


Albinach trembled, feeling an old cosmos spreading through the shrine. It was ancient, and terrible, as terrible as Athena’s during her speech.

Godly and claiming possession.

If the torches were burning, its owner had arrived to Sanctuary, for better or for worse, and it was in her to let Athena know, should they be ready for whatever Fate would bring.


Not another war, the girl begged, taking two step backs, anything but another war. But despite her wishes, she was still one of Cepheus’ students, and would not delude herself. No student of Albiore would stain his or her master’s name by displaying cowardice.

She took a deep breath to settle her emotions, then turned her back to the shrine and ran towards the Houses, her cosmo, devoid of a mark of its own, searching for Marin’s.

Earlier that day, Athena had spoken about Peace to her faithful. Nothing but hours since then, and Albinach knew Peace was gone.

 


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