Chapter 1: Prologue
1) A short light entr'acte
2a) a movement coming between the major sections of an extended musical work (as an opera)
2b) A short independent musical composition.
Two hundred and forty years ago, two armored warriors stood before the Temple of the Holy Father, watching the sunset. The taller one, with rose-colored eyes, leaned on his companion, a powerful young man with dark hair who held him up with a strong arm around the waist.
Their exhausted faces were exultant in the velvety red light. The Holy War was over. Athena's Seal had finally been placed on the Lord of the Underworld.
"I never tire of that," the dark-haired warrior said, gesturing to the blazing sky with his free arm. " 'The daylight's parting gift, the wanton beauty that heralds nightfall.' "
His companion, the Gold Saint Shion of Aries, smiled faintly. "That's good, Dohko. You'll see many sunsets in the coming years." After a moment he added, "The color is too like a lake of blood." He shifted, pulling himself away from Dohko's supporting arm, and asked, "When will you leave for Rozan to begin your watch on the Seal?" His gaze was fixed straight ahead.
"Immediately." Dohko studied Shion's sharp profile for a moment, then asked, "When do you take up your duties as Holy Father?"
A leaden silence descended between them. Among the five-score Saints who had battled for Athena only they alone had survived. Now they must ready themselves to take up new duties in Her service, duties that would keep them thousands of miles apart for the rest of their lives.
Suddenly there was a gust of wind behind them, and they turned: the spirit of the Goddess as they had last seen her, shining with power despite the battle-weary lines of Her face.
They knelt, side by side, at Her feet.
"Shion of Aries. Dohko of Libra," She said gently, "You from whom so much has been taken, and so much yet to be asked."
"We serve gladly, Athena," Shion said quietly.
"There is one thing more I would ask of you."
Two warriors looked up, faces shining through blood and sweat and grime. "We are yours to command."
"Wait until sunrise to take up your new burdens," Athena said. "Take this night as our gift. Celebrate your friendship, and make it last 200 years."
They bowed their heads in gratitude. The backs of their hands brushed together.
She smiled at them then, and melted into the dusk.
Two warriors stood together and watched the moon rise, then turned and went inside.
And this time Shion did not shake off Dohko's arm.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 2: Prologue
St. Seiya is copyright Kurumada Masami and Toei. Knights of the Zodiac is copyright DiC. No infringement or disrespect is intended by this non-profit work of fan fiction. This is a work of noncommercial amateur fan fiction; it is not published for profit or material gain. The author and the posters have no intent to infringe any intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in Saint Seiya or its derivative works. The author retains copyright to this work.
St. Seiya is copyright Kurumada Masami and Toei. Knights of the Zodiac is copyright DiC. No infringement or disrespect is intended by this non-profit work of fan fiction. This is a work of noncommercial amateur fan fiction; it is not published for profit or material gain. The author and the posters have no intent to infringe any intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in Saint Seiya or its derivative works. The author retains copyright to this work.
Tibet is a sere yet beautiful land, lifted to the sky on the shoulders of the tallest mountains on earth. Most of its people live in the south and southeast, in the valleys created by the east-flowing Indus and west-flowing Yarlung Tsangpo. Few creatures - human or animal – live in the flat arid plains and salt marshes of the northern Chang Tang, or the tortuous misty crags of the Karakorum's far western highlands where Tibet meets both China and India.
Immobile and almost invisible on a high ledge above a narrow pass in the Karakorums, Aries Mu - a being that was neither animal nor human - crouched in the predawn moonlight. Green eyes so dark they verged on black seemed to be staring at the blackness below: but the eyes were unfocused, unblinking, even when the icy wind blew strands of long pale hair across his face. He was not looking so much as listening: listening to the mountains and the wind, breathing and flowing. Someone was coming: having lived in this isolated labyrinth for so long he could sense when humans were nearby, the nomads' soft clicking chatter like the ripples when a stone is dropped into a pond.
The sound that had pulled him from his sleep the night before was different, however: a muted roar like distant breakers. Only a very strong cosmo could announce itself when it was so far off, a Saint's. In fact when he'd first snapped awake the night before he'd even thought for a moment that it was his cosmo, his beloved Master's – but of course it wasn't, it could never be, that Presence had been gone for years.
He had pulled his knees to his chest and almost wept. More than a dozen years, how could the wound still feel so raw?
Across the room, his young apprentice had stirred, sat up, rubbed his eyes. "Master Mu? What's wrong?"
"We may have visitors soon, Kiki," he said, eyes stinging. Without further explanation he'd risen from his pallet, pulled on a drab grey-brown hooded cloak, and flicked away from the spire to the distant vantage point in the Karakorums. Melted against the mountain's side he waited for the stranger, resolution in the line of his jaw. There were only two reasons a Saint would be coming to see him in Jamir: to have a Cloth repaired, or to demand that Mu return to Sanctuary.
That he would be required to do the first was unlikely.
That he could be forced to do the second was impossible.
Mu had come fully awake in an instant, immediately aware that something was horribly wrong. The background swirl of his Master's cosmo was gone from Sanctuary. It was like a life-long shore dweller rising to find that the sea had been stolen: the silence crushed him, deafening.
"Master," the seven-year-old whispered.
He flew from his bed to the portico facing the Taurus Temple, and reached out. Nothing in the Holy Father's Temple, nor Athena's Palace, nor any of the gardens. He reached further: since he had been to the Five Peaks of Rozan once, he could reach out to his Master's friend Roshi, but all he touched was the old teacher, half-awake by his waterfall. Before Roshi could engage him he pulled back and glared at the stars, demanding an answer.
They gave one. A faint whisper of his Master's cosmo came from Star Hill, carrying sadness and pain. Heedless of the prohibition he flicked there, his cosmo damped, arrived crouching and small, and listened. A scrape, a footstep on stone, then silence. He felt a cold scythe of wind flying overhead, black and full of hate, and his heart shrank. He waited patiently for a long while, until he was sure it was gone.
Finally he stood and climbed the stone steps. As he moved into the dark temple at the top he passed through a column of warmth. Master Shion had stood here: the spot held fading traces of his vast soul.
Then the moon emerged from the clouds, and Mu saw with horror that the steps below him were black with blood.
The velvety-blue light of dawn, swelling on the eastern horizon, was wasted on Mu's hooded eyes as he focused on the strange cosmo. The morning star came and went; the glorious burst of the sunrise passed unnoticed.
Finally he felt a crescendo, presumably as the Saint awoke and began to move again. An hour or so later a dark-haired figure came into view in the shadowed gorge below him, two Bronze Cloth boxes strapped to his back. Mu blinked in surprise, then flicked back to the spire.
"So, is someone coming?" Kiki said as he appeared.
"Can I watch? Can I help with the test?"
Mu pretended not to notice the red-haired boy's crestfallen expression, secretly pleased that it was immediately followed by a shrug and a grin. "Oh well, I can work on hammering that solder wire thinner. In case you need it. In case he makes it all the way here."
"That would be a good use of time," Mu said. He was almost tempted to bring Kiki with him – the boy had so much fun helping to make the mists – but there was something unsettling about this stranger's cosmo, and he did not want to expose Kiki to danger. Best to take the prudent, cautious course: people were rarely what they seemed to be, and life's path tended to violent and unexpected upheavals.
He flicked away from the spire and settled on a cliff top above the graveyard, sobered despite himself by how many supplicants had perished here. A field of death. Skulls blossomed in pale clumps, ribs lay like bleached grasses pressed flat by a storm. Arm and leg bones jutted from the cracked vases of ruined Cloths.
Still, they would not have died had they been worthy. Cloths were too holy to be worn by the careless and undisciplined.
He'd gone back to his room. Tears streaming down his face, a firestorm within. He wanted to break everything in sight, or run, or die. But suddenly it seemed like he heard his Master's disappointed, "Tss, Mu! Should a Gold Saint act thus?"
"You are within me always," he whispered fiercely as he lit a candle and forced himself to sit, meditating on the small flame until his breathing and heartbeat slowed.
What should he do? What was the logical thing, the right thing for a Gold Saint of Aries to do? Should he raise an alarm? Should he go to the candidates for Holy Father now, or should he wait until morning?
In the end, he did none of these, because what his intuition told him to do was to go to Rozan. Fortunately he had been taken there two years ago, and he remembered it clearly enough to flick there.
Roshi was, as always, sitting before the waterfall. By moonlight it looked like the Master's hair, a living cascade of silver-green.
As soon as he saw the old teacher he burst out, "He's gone!"
"Yes." Roshi said. He didn't seem at all surprised to see Mu. "His spirit will spread though the universe now."
Mu huddled next to him, and Roshi put his arm around the boy's shoulders. Mu explained as clearly as he could what had woken him, how he had gone to Star Hill, and what he had seen in the moonlight. "What should I do?" he asked, and his voice was that of a seven year old, not a Gold Saint. He leaned against the old man's side, eyes brimming again.
"What do you want to do?"
"Find out who hurt my Master."
"And what will you do then, Mu? Throw yourself into a pyre of revenge?"
"What should I do then?"
"Observe. Bide your time. The strongest blow is useless if it comes at the wrong time, or is directed to the wrong place."
"Will you guide me? For Master Shion's sake?"
"Oh yes," said Roshi. "Yes, Mu. For Shion's sake."
They sat then, in the mist and roar from the waterfall, and if there was any further sound from either of them the torrent swallowed it.
By the time he came back from Rozan, just before dawn the next morning, he decided that he needed a witness to the blood on Star Hill. Since Aiolos was among those his Master had been considering as his successor – and to Mu he was a good choice, strong, skilled, and kind – he set off for the Sagittarius Temple.
He entered Taurus, and immediately met the large, friendly Aldebaraan. "Mu! Want to go for a walk? Early mornings are the best time! The nice cool air, the sparkling dew – "
"Perhaps later, Aldebaraan. May I pass through?"
"Of course." Aldebaraan jogged backwards alongside Mu. "Are you going to check in with your Master about last night?"
"What do you mean?" Mu stopped.
"Something strange happened last night. You must have felt it?"
"Yes," was all Mu could manage, "I felt it." There was a beat as he looked at Aldebaraan. Almost every day they ate at least one meal together, side by side in companionable silence on the stone apron between their Temples. Sometimes they went on runs or walks together, Aldebaraan's curiosity about plants and animals as great as his own. This brown boy with the wide smile was as close as he came to a friend.
But Aldebaraan was no good as a witness. Mu needed an older, more serious Saint, someone whose words carried some weight, like Saga or Aiolos. Maybe he should ask both of them to come to Star Hill to look at the blood – they were both Candidates, so whatever had happened to Shion was their concern as well.
But the Gemini temple was empty. He hurried through.
There was a little twinge in his stomach as he ran up the steps to the Cancer Temple. The Cancer Saint was a bully, and Mu didn't put it past him to be difficult if he thought that Mu had urgent business.
"Mu of Aries," Mu said loudly as he entered. "I request passage."
The older boy was leaning against a pillar just inside the entrance. He grinned at Mu unpleasantly. "Oh really? Where you going in such a hurry? Off to see Daddy?"
Mu was used to this by now, but today he had no patience for it. "I saw your father yesterday, Valin. In a pasture, beneath a cow's tail."
Valin flushed, and brought his hand up, cosmo flaring, but when he saw Mu's hand move as well he held his attack. "Well, aren't you the feisty little dot-head today? Guess I better watch myself, or you'll turn me into a pile of stardust."
"Just let me through," Mu said stonily.
"Suuuurrrrre." Valin strolled out to the middle of the passageway as Mu passed him.
Mu was almost to the exit when he felt a concussion wave behind him. He spun, putting up Crystal Wall, and had the satisfaction of seeing the deflected wave knock the other boy off his feet.
He allowed himself a small smile as he ran up the stairway to Leo.
Where the Cancer Temple had been clammy and confining, the Leo Temple was warm and full of sun. At a table just inside the entrance, Aiolia of Leo, who had won his Gold Cloth just a few days before, sat eating breakfast with his older brother, Aiolos of Sagittarius.
Mu, grateful for this luck, bowed slightly and said, "Aiolos, I must talk to you immediately." Aiolia looked at him darkly, apparently resenting Mu's interruption of the time with his brother, but got up from the table and walked out of earshot anyhow.
Aiolos leaned back in his chair. "What is it?"
"Last night – " Mu clenched his fist. "Last night I went to Star Hill and – "
"Star Hill!" Aiolos exploded. "Do you think that because you are Shion's pupil, you can flaunt the prohibitions? You know it is completely forbid – "
" – and the top of Star Hill was covered in blood. Shion's blood."
Aiolos stopped, his mouth still open. Mu poured all his conviction into his gaze. "You must believe me. You must come with me and see for yourself."
"No, it was just a bad dream, Mu," Aiolos said calmly. "Even though you are a Gold Saint, you are still a child. Children have bad dreams. And your Master is approaching the end of his days …"
"My Master is already dead," Mu replied stonily. "He was killed last night on Star Hill." Aiolos was his best hope. If he couldn't convince him …
"But, that's – that can't be possible. Who would have done – ?"
"Are you saying you felt nothing last night?" Mu cried, almost shaking in desperation. "Can you feel his cosmo now? At all? Anywhere? Even Roshi says that he is gone."
"Roshi? You've been to Rozan?" When Mu didn't answer the teen pressed his lips together. "I cannot deny that I felt something last night. But to say – "
"Come with me to Star Hill, then. Now."
In the end, Aiolos had relented, if only to silence the younger Saint and escape his grief. They walked into the deserted cemetery until they could see the temple atop the tall bluff, and flicked from there.
Star Hill was blinding in the morning sun. There no traces of blood on the white stone stairs. Mu dropped to his hands and knees, disbelieving. How was this possible? He had felt the fading cosmo. He had touched the blood with his fingers: even now the memory of the cold stickiness filled him with nausea. But he had to admit that there was no trace, not even in the cracks and small pits of the weathered white stone.
"I see nothing, Mu," Aiolos said harshly, then more gently, "You should be happy to know that it was just a dream. Let's return quickly, before we're seen."
Mu stood, and looked down the stairs to the precipice at the edge of Star Hill. Even if he had dreamed the blood, it didn't explain where his Master had gone.
It took him a moment before what he was seeing sunk in. "Wait!" he cried, throwing out his hand to stop Aiolos from leaving, then running down the stairs. "Look! see these lower steps? So dark? Rain-stained, covered with moss?"
"So?" Aiolos said slowly, an unwelcome comprehension dawning.
"The steps at the top have none of that! Nothing!" Mu said passionately. "Look at how white they are! They've been blasted clean to remove any sign of blood! Can't you see that?"
Aiolos shook his head. "You don't know that for certain, Mu. Perhaps the highest steps are always like this. Protected by the roof of the temple. Or kept clean as he treads on them. Or perhaps they're affected by the flow of the Holy Father's power as he star-gazes." But his brow was furrowed with the faintest trace of doubt.
They flicked back to the entrance of Aiolia's temple.
"Well?" Aiolia asked his brother, pointedly ignoring Mu.
"It was," Aiolos looked steadily at Mu, choosing his words carefully, "nothing to speak of." Mu realized that Aiolos meant it as a warning.
"The next time you have a bad dream, Mu of Aries, go to your Master," Aiolia said archly. "Don't use up the little time my brother and I have together."
The Cancer Temple was, fortunately, empty.
Not expecting anyone in the Gemini Temple either he was surprised to feel someone. He announced himself and began to walk through.
A tall figure in the robes of the Holy Father stepped from behind a pillar.
Mu's heart leapt into his throat. Perhaps Aiolos was right? Perhaps it had been a dream? Perhaps …?
"Mu... You're far from your Temple." His voice sounded odd, and Mu felt a chill. Why was Master wearing a mask?
"Come, let me walk you to your rooms."
As they came out of the dimness of the Gemini Temple into the sun, Mu looked up at the mask, and he knew. This was not his Master. This was something … other.
The Holy Father put a gloved hand on his shoulder as they walked down the stairs towards Taurus.
Mu could smell blood through the cloth. That night he left for Jamir.
Mu prepared his customary welcome: he took snow and ice from the highest peaks and held it over balmy air he had drawn from the valley of the Indus. The warm humid air cooled and condensed into fog, hiding the gruesome field in thick clouds of white.
He felt the Saint come into the Graveyard entrance, felt a flare of cosmo, saw the concussions as the Saint punched the fog away.
Mu lifted his hands, the fingertips moving as if he was playing a harp. Skulls rose from the field, circled the Saint.
The graveyard had been haunted since time out of mind, and was the reason that even the nomads stayed well clear of Jamir. It was easy to see why. Anyone crossing the boneyard was seized with overwhelming dread at the sight of so much death. Shion had explained that the spire was situated to force supplicant Saints through the graveyard before reaching the Cloth-mender. Mu hadn't understood, when he was young, why someone who had obviously already proved their strength and courage in battle should have to go through such an ordeal to mend their Cloth, but Shion had given him no comprehensible answer.
The very first time he had gone to the graveyard after Shion's death, he had animated the skeletons, wondering for a moment in his mad grief if he could do the same to his Master's bones to create a companion to fill the crushing silence of his new life. A few years later, when the first emissaries (or perhaps they had been assassins, he never knew for sure) had come – he knew they weren't there for repair, their cloths were intact – he had found it oddly satisfying to turn them back with the ghastly spectacle, laughing as they fled, and since that day he appreciated that the graveyard was a barrier that very few passed. Since only those who had physically been to his spire could subsequently teleport there, he was ensured very few visitors. This suited him.
He supposed that making his services so difficult for his fellow Saints to obtain bordered on disloyalty but, after all, Saints did get through from time to time, so obviously it wasn't impossible.
Besides, every Cloth in the Graveyard meant one less piece of human fodder for him. The monster that had killed Shion and corrupted Sanctuary.
Mu spread his fingers wide and moved his hands as if conducting an orchestra, and the bones flew into place around the dark-haired Saint.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 3: Sacrifice
St. Seiya is copyright Kurumada Masami and Toei. Knights of the Zodiac is copyright DiC. No infringement or disrespect is intended by this non-profit work of fan fiction. This is a work of noncommercial amateur fan fiction; it is not published for profit or material gain. The author and the posters have no intent to infringe any intellectual property rights held by the owners of existing copyrights in Saint Seiya or its derivative works. The author retains copyright to this work.
It was one of his earliest memories.
"What do you see, Mu? What do you hear?"
He was leaning back against the Master, unsteady on legs that had just learned to walk. In front of them was the golden Aries Cloth. Mu chortled and clapped the sides of the ram's head, then reached up, just barely able to reach the tops of the swooping, sharp-tipped horns.
"I hit!" he said gleefully. "Made noise!"
"What do you see, Mu?" the voice patiently asked again. Hands came into view from behind him, made a frame of fingers, and through it Mu saw ripples of color moving over the gold. He cooed in delight, and watched as the Cloth slowly became as clear as glass, filled with pulsing rainbow squiggles and swirls.
"What do you hear, Mu?"
He listened and heard a music. The Cloth was singing: the same song as the flames in the hearth, the fish in the river, the roots moving in the earth, the storm clouds and lightening, the lights in the sky, the boys and men that lived in the other big houses, the people below the hills ... He turned and saw the Master smiling. The Master too was filled with color and song and beauty.
It was the first time Mu had Seen and Heard. He had been just over a year old.
Mu, like many other Saints, had been born in Sanctuary; but Shion had become his sole caretaker immediately afterwards (leading to the widespread belief that Mu was the 240-year-old Shion's son, or a direct descendant at least). As a result, Mu's training with Shion had begun very early.
Seeing and Hearing. Several powers stemmed from it, for once one can grasp something's essential nature and completely comprehend its structure - its energy and matter, in other words — the powers of healing, teleportation, and psychokinesis become as easy as clearing your throat, holding an object without breaking it, or diving into a pool.
As with many things, easier described than done.
Shion emphasized from the beginning that Seeing and Hearing were a gift, like all the Saint's powers, bestowed by The Ineffable to be used in the service of Athena, and not to be used selfishly or trivially. However, when Mu began to See and Hear without Shion's help he was so fascinated by it, and so eager to progress, he began using it all the time — and rapidly got to the point where he couldn't shut it off. This was not that much of a problem in the relative quiet and isolation of the Holy Father's Temple, where often days went by before he saw anyone other than Shion, but then he began group lessons with the other Saints.
Group lessons were to test and ensure that Gold Saints could, by the age of 6 or so, teleport themselves and heal some of the injuries they sustained while training. Attempting psychokinesis with inanimate objects (other than their own Cloths) came next, but was so much more difficult that some Saints never got beyond tossing simple crystalline solids like ice or rock in large, jerky motions. Most difficult of all, of course, was learning to teleport a living being without damage.
Mu was reasonably adept at healing and psychokinesis by the time he started with the group, but the constant movement and noise from a dozen other people inundated his senses and gave him blinding headaches. He couldn't concentrate, couldn't demonstrate his abilities, and therefore began to fall behind the others. Outside of classes, Mu avoided other people as much as he could — a simple matter, he was already ostracized by some because of what they saw as a favored status with the Holy Father. His only respite came when he was alone in his spartan room, completely immersed in the theory and practice of Cloth repair, or when he went to the training fields after midnight to practice his attacks. He was terrified of telling anyone what was going on.
Shion called him into his study late one evening.
The study was a room full of fond memories for Mu; many times when he was younger he'd fallen asleep here against Shion's side, drowsily braiding strands of his hair as he read on the deep, overstuffed tapestry couch by the fire.
Shion was not by the fireside now, however. He stood behind his desk, towering over Mu and glaring down at a paper on his massive desk. "You're not progressing." His voice was brusque, the words apparently distasteful to him. "You haven't yet become proficient at self-teleportation? I also see that you haven't once brought your Wall up in time to successfully defend yourself."
"It's difficult to learn in a big group, Master," Mu replied in a whisper.
"The others in the group learn."
There was no answer he could give to this, so Mu stared at the floor.
"I see you must have supplemental training, then." Shion's voice was colder than Mu had ever heard it. He looked up: his Master's eyes were as hard as red flint.
The key to self-teleportation was to visualize where you wanted to go, and strongly wish to be there … and then, you flicked, and you were there. The problem was that, even after spending several punishing hours deflecting and returning Shion's attacks, Mu was always simply so happy to be with him that he couldn't teleport away. He didn't want to be elsewhere.
And that, it seemed, was the crux of the problem.
"I've decided that the Cancer Saint will tutor you," Shion said as they hiked back from the practice field after their third session. "It will be good for him to have the opportunity of mentoring a younger Saint, and good for you to experience a different teacher." It was a voice that said clearly that protest or argument were not options, and the exhausted Mu said nothing.
Valin of Cancer took his responsibility seriously at first, but very soon having the usually aloof Mu meekly following his instructions — without success — triggered something unpleasant in him. As the days went by and his patience ran out, Valin moved from taunts and threats to shoves and slaps in his effort to accomplish Mu's training. As for Mu — who now understood quite well what it felt like to wish to be elsewhere — the lash of Valin's personality was so strong he was as good as paralyzed. One day, pinned to the floor with his arm twisted behind him and Valin's knee on his back, Mu finally found the din and confusion and pain so unbearable he withdrew from consciousness.
He woke in a bed, to see Shion sitting next to him. Behind Shion were Shaka, Aldebaraan, Milo, Aiolia, Aiolos, Saga and, hanging back, Valin, looking both frightened and resentful. With so many people in the room the overload started again, and Mu let out a cry.
"Show me," Shion said, and Mu reluctantly put his small hand on his Master's to let him share what he felt.
After a moment Shion looked at him in a way Mu had never seen before, the red eyes as gentle as rose petals. "You said nothing of this. Why?"
"So as not to disappoint," Mu said miserably.
The old man's eyes glittered.
Once Shion began to teach him how to control his Sight and Hearing, Mu began to catch up to the other Saints. When he graduated he moved into the Aries Temple, and at Shion's direction started spending time with the two Saints whose energy was tolerable — his neighbor Aldebaraan, and Shaka of Virgo.
Aldebaraan was easy to be around. Comfortable, like a smooth stone in the hand, mostly because his energy was far more orderly than anyone else's. Then too, Aldebaraan generally didn't talk much, and over time Mu gradually began to enjoy the long hours of companionable silence they spent together, practicing their attacks, sweating through physical training, sharing meals.
On the other hand, Shaka … Shaka was a mystery. Even if he tried, Mu could See Shaka only faintly, and barely Hear him. This had been a relief at first, but over time it came to puzzle him. When he asked Shion why Shaka was so, Shion smiled and said only, "Shaka is a color for which there is no name, and a sound beyond Hearing."
By the time he was seven, Mu had settled into the community of Gold Saints. He had mastered the science and art of Cloth repair, learned all of the Aries attacks, become proficient in all of the basic Gold Saint skills, and was even beginning to surpass some of the older Saints in psychokinesis and healing. He had the beginnings of actual friendship with Aldebaraan, and the snide comments about his parentage had more or less subsided.
And then his teacher, his beloved Master, the center of his world, was murdered. That night, for the first time, he teleported himself effortlessly, because for the first time in his life he wanted to be elsewhere so badly it ached.
The first weeks after he fled Sanctuary he had spent much of his time with Roshi. At first they passed entire days without speaking, sitting in front of the waterfall, watching as the sun's transit turned it from blue milk to ribboned silver to green lace to golden jade. Gradually, as his grief subsided, Mu started to talk about Shion, and Roshi helped him see the wisdom in many of Shion's more labyrinthine sayings — especially those that Mu had impatiently tended to dismiss as deliberately opaque. Mu slowly came to think of Roshi as a second Teacher.
One day, while demonstrating his progress in fine psychokinetic control by threading a needle while simultaneously forming a haiku in mid-air with tiny pebbles, Roshi had looked at him oddly and said, "The way you look and talk … it's very striking, how much you remind me of Shion."
"Well we would resemble each other, being the same race." Mu waved his hand, and the pebbles flashed back to the bottom of the waterfall. "But I'm sure I'm probably different in temperament."
Roshi had nodded, a twinkle in his tiny dark eyes. "Ah, Mu! Very true."
"What was he like? When you knew him?" Mu handed the threaded needle to Roshi.
"He was," Roshi said with a crooked grin as he stuck the needle into the collar of his robe, "a haughty, ruthless, vain, stubborn old man."
Mu, stunned, opened his mouth in protest. "But, but — how can you say such things? Haughty? Ruthless? Well, he was Holy Father, he had many worries and responsibilities. I'll admit he was very strict with me, but I wasn't a good student. But vain? He wasn't vain!"
Roshi gave an amused snort. "You never saw him at the baths, Mu, tending his hair!" Roshi pantomimed combing and primping but at Mu's shocked look he stopped and said, "Ah well, perhaps I saw a different side of him than you did as his student."
Mu wasn't satisfied. "About the only thing you said that was true, was that he was old," he sniffed. "He was an old man."
"Yes, Mu, quite true," Roshi chortled, "but you must take my word that Shion was an old man even when we were young!" He turned a deeper shade of purple than usual before he stopped laughing.
As Mu's affection for Roshi grew he worried more and more that the time would come when he would flick to Rozan and find the floor of Roshi's hut covered in blood.
One day in Mu's thirteenth year he arrived unannounced at Roshi's and heard unfamiliar voices. Assuming the worst, he gathered his cosmo and prepared to obliterate whoever had harmed the Teacher — but then he heard the old man's laugh. A moment later he watched, stunned, as Roshi walked out of his house, a tiny dark-haired girl and an old woman by his side.
Mu flicked back to Jamir and sat waiting until he felt Roshi calling to him.
"Who was that girl?" he asked sharply as soon as he arrived.
Roshi was brewing tea and inventorying his cupboards. He said mildly, "Next time you come to see me, will you bring some of those little hard cheeses the shepherds make? And some of that delicious barley flour, too."
Mu realized how rude he'd been. "I'm sorry, Teacher," he apologized, then waited.
"I'm getting old," Roshi said as he pulled out several large dusty ceramic jars from the cabinet beneath the sink. "And I don't eat much, because when you have a lot of padding like I do," he patted his stomach, "you only need to eat once every few weeks. But since I'm going to be taking on a young student soon — "
"A student!" Mu exclaimed.
Roshi glanced at him sharply but otherwise ignored the interruption. " - and growing children eat like tiger cubs and love to roll in the dirt, I knew I'd need help with the extra cooking and washing. I was told about a very sweet girl," Roshi stood and straightened his ancient back with a groan, "her grandmother is dying and she will soon have no family to go to. She's a little too young to be a housekeeper, but the work will not be too hard, I don't think. Oh, and she sings beautifully." He picked up one of the jars from the floor and set it on the counter, and said, as Mu helped him with the others, "Well, at least she'll have someone her own age for company."
Mu felt an odd disappointment, and resisted the impulse to flick back to the spire and sulk. "So you're taking a student? I thought I was your student," he said, forcing more lightness than he felt.
"Oh no, Mu," Roshi said solemnly. " I have simply kept you company as you continued to teach yourself." He nodded emphatically. "Shion would be proud of what you have become."
"So you will be training a new Libra Saint?"
"No, I will be training this boy to achieve the Bronze Cloth of Dragon," Roshi said as he began wiping the dusty jars with the end of his long sleeve.
"Only a Bronze Cloth?" Mu was surprised. Gold Saints usually trained their replacements: Silver Saints usually had the task of training the contenders for the Bronze Cloths.
Roshi smiled. "Never underestimate bronze, Mu. It makes a much stronger weapon than silver or gold."
Mu shrugged. "Not if my graveyard is any estimation. There are far more Bronze Cloths there than Silver. And not a single Gold Cloth lies there in Jamir."
"Other than your own," Roshi said lightly. He went on, "Who knows? There could be two or three Gold Saints on their way to see you as we speak, crushing skulls in the mist. Nothing is ever impossible." Roshi put the lid on the last jar. "Now, come back soon to meet my student, and don't forget to bring those cheeses."
But it was a while before Mu went back to Rozan.
At first he tried to convince himself that he was staying away so that he wouldn't interrupt the boy's training, but he knew that excuse was as thin as mist. The truth was that sharing Roshi with someone knotted him with envy. Of course he was angry with himself: as a Gold Saint he should be above such pettiness. He wasn't able to get past it until the image of a child's tantrum came to his mind, throwing away half a treat because one could not have the whole thing … Roshi as a sweet bean bun wearing a straw hat made him laugh, and so, having shamed himself into going, he wrapped up some cheeses for the old man.
He flicked to a vantage point near Roshi's house to watch for awhile before he approached them.
It didn't take long to see that the sturdy, serious boy and the dark-haired girl were already occupying all of Roshi's time: from the looks of it the three were inseparable, even during the few hours a day when Roshi was not training the boy. Roshi seemed to relish his young charges, telling them outrageous stories, pulling faces to make them laugh, letting them tuck flowers into his mustache and eyebrows … Mu returned to the spire without being seen. A week later he went back, a hidden observer again, and then two days after that. Weeks turned into months as he sat high on the cliffs or in the trees and watched them.
Training took place outdoors, and Mu watched the boy run, lift weights, endure extremes of heat and cold, practice punches and defense and balance. Usually the girl appeared as soon as training was done and the three tended the garden, repaired Roshi's house, cooked, took walks, and fished together. When the two children swam and played soccer and tag and hide and seek, Roshi clapped enthusiastically for both "teams".
When the air was still their laughter floated up to Mu like a flock of small swift birds, piercing him through so strongly that he could not tear himself away.
Mu squatted on a ledge above the icy stream and watched the Saint below him stop to drink. It seemed from the way he eased the boxes down onto the snow that the combination of thin air, cold, and the double burden he carried was quickly using up what strength he had left.
Yet he must be very strong to have come so far with two boxes, Mu thought. Or perhaps he was just very very determined. Either way, this was not the usual supplicant, and not just because he had defeated the Boneyard. Mu shaded his eyes against the intense snow-reflected light and studied the Cloth boxes. What constellations where these? He couldn't tell, the wide straps covered them …
Oh well. He'd find out soon enough.
Mu returned to the spire to prepare for their imminent visitor.
The five story hexagonal building, built on the end of a narrow rock that jutted out over an abyss, was designed to the 5 principles of earth, fire, water, air and space. Balconies between each floor provided Kiki with his favorite spots for working and napping.
The bottom level, which had a rock-and-earthen floor, contained the storeroom and kitchen. With no door and only one small window for ventilation, it remained quite warm year-round. Kiki slept down here when the night breezes on the third floor became too cold, curled up between the table and the ancient cast-iron stove.
Above the kitchen, the level dedicated to Fire was Mu's workshop and Kiki's classroom. A small smelting furnace in one corner pulled air for its bellows through the hole in the floor originally intended for the ladder down to the kitchen.
The third floor was Mu and Kiki's austere sleeping room. In honor of its element of Water, Kiki had convinced Mu to let him mix copper oxides into some whitewash so that he could paint blue-green fish and waves on the walls.
On the level above was the small ancestor shrine to the Foremothers. There were no doors on this level either, only windows (symbolizing that demons were barred from entering but blessings could flow out freely).
The small top level was the meditation room. Bare except for a rug, its multiple doors and conical high ceiling gave the sense that one really was floating in space above the Roof of the World.
When Mu returned he saw Kiki sitting on the balcony outside the workshop, patiently taking filings from a tiny fragment of Cloth Box that Mu had allowed him to take from the Graveyard. Kiki was currently obsessed with understanding the boxes, his argument being that although they were much simpler than Cloths they had been made by the same people, so if they could be understood perhaps it would provide a better understanding of the Cloths themselves. Mu had a feeling that the Boxes were every bit as complex as the Cloths, but he was curious to see if Kiki could prove him wrong.
When Kiki saw him he sang out, "Master Mu! What happened? Did he pass?" He carefully transferred the filings into a stoppered vial.
"Yes, Kiki, he passed."
"Oh, my first guest! Where is he now?" Kiki was bouncing in excitement. "What kind of Cloth does he have?"
"He's very close. I left him at Tujaychay Pass. He's carrying Bronze boxes." Mu added, "two of them."
Kiki sprang down to the ground. "Two! That's amazing! He must be very strong!" He stretched his arms behind his head. "I can't wait to hear the story of why he has two broken Cloths!"
"A single person bringing two Cloths at once is an unusual situation," Mu said thoughtfully. "Especially if — Kiki, we must take the measure of this man. You can learn much about someone by how they treat children, especially when they think no one else is around."
Kiki nodded. "So you'll watch while I test him?"
"Yes." Mu walked some distance away from the spire and knelt while Kiki watched breathlessly.
Mu sat perfectly still, his eyes half closed, his hands palm-upward on his thighs. There was a faint golden shimmer in the air around him as he drew on his cosmo. After several minutes he began to fade until finally he was completely invisible.
Invisibility was based on the same skill as self-healing, the ability to manipulate one's own matter, but applied to the entire body instead of an isolated area. Mu had simply temporarily aligned the energy levels of all the matter in his body and his clothing to a quanta that did not absorb any visible light. This meant of course, that he could not see, since his eyes also were not absorbing light. But he could hear sounds, and Hear and See the energy patterns of Kiki, the mountain beneath him, and the Spire. So he was far from blind.
The main difficulty with invisibility was that maintaining it for any length of time required most of the body to be absolutely still almost to the molecular level. To do this Mu had also had to suspend all chemical reactions and body processes, and suppress the parts of the nervous system that controlled breathing and heartbeat. The only sign of his location were the very faint sparkles tracing the thoughts he thought, and these were lost against the bright blueness of the sky.
Kiki, who never failed to be both amazed and frightened when Mu practiced invisibility, flicked to the top floor of the spire as he heard faint scuffling noises coming up the path. A moment later a young man wearing grey pants and a Chinese jacket appeared in the narrow gap in the cliff wall, two strapped-together Cloth boxes on his back. He was panting, but only slightly.
He apparently didn't see Kiki, for he announced loudly, ""My name is Shiryu. I came from Japan to visit the master of the residence."
Kiki muttered, "Hm, you have nice manners now. Let's see if I can make you forget them." He waggled his fingers.
A cloud of rocks flew and buried the dark-haired Saint. Kiki laughed; that ought to make this Shiryu lose his temper! He jeered down to the pile, "Not very impressive! How did a weak guy like you even get through the graveyard? It's too bad you had to come here and interrupt my project!"
After a moment the center of the rock pile shook and glowed briefly with a green light: then Shiryu stood, shrugging the rocks aside. "That's powerful psychokinesis, but it's not a very polite way to greet a visitor," he said, with mild irritation in his voice.
"Here's a gift for you then!" Kiki laughed, and lifted a boulder to toss.
Shiryu reacted quickly, though, and smashed the boulder in mid air. "In order to repair these Cloths," he said as the rock fragments rained down on Kiki, "I came here from far away. Can you come down and take a look at them?"
Kiki stuck his tongue out. It was supposed to show Shiryu that he wasn't a demon, and to promise that no lies would be coming from his mouth, but Kiki's demeanor tended to suggest just the opposite. He said mischievously, "No, you should bring them up to me."
Shiryu adjusted the boxes on his back and said, "Alright. I will go around to the entrance on the other side."
"Oh, there are no doors on that side either," Kiki laughed. "And even so, no stairs inside the house! But if you are clever enough to find a way up to me, then you deserve to be helped."
Shiryu looked at Kiki with a mix of exasperation and amusement. "I see." He swung the boxes down. "Please excuse me then, I'll need to be a little rude. I don't have time for games." He set his jacket aside (Kiki noticed that his black hair was as long as Master Mu's, swirling unbound past his waist) then clenched his fists. A corona of rippling green energy surrounded him.
"Ah," Kiki said, "That's a lot of light! it's like a dragon glowing as it flies across the sky!" Behind Shiryu's back, Mu faded into visibility, his fists pressed into the ground in front of him, his look intense, then just as quickly disappeared again.
Shiryu struck the spire just below the second level, knocking the top four floors off and leaving the kitchen exposed to the sky. The rest of the spire landed with a crash.
"How's that?" Shiryu asked calmly. "Should I go and break off the other floors now, until I can come up to you?"
Kiki, who had grabbed onto the balcony instead of teleporting, yelled, "No, wait! Wait!" After a minute he lost his grip and fell to the ground and got up grumbling, "What a troublemaker!"
"I'm begging you to repair these two cloths," Shiryu said, a desperation in his voice, "Please be quick, I have very little time."
As Shiryu spoke Kiki saw Mu flash into sight briefly again and nod his head.
"No, no, I'm not Master Mu!" Kiki said quickly.
"What? Then where is he?"
"He's there, beside you."
Shiryu looked around.
"There, there!" Kiki said. "He's been beside you all along!"
Mu faded back into visibility as he stood. Ignoring Shiryu, he walked first to Kiki and asked quietly, "You fell. Are you all right?" When Kiki nodded Mu finally turned to Shiryu. "I am Mu. What do you visit me for?"
"You ought to know why I'm here," Shiryu said, turning to open the boxes, "even if I don't spell it out." As he moved his long hair swung aside to reveal a magnificent dragon tattooed on his back.
Kiki breathed in awe. "Aoh, look at that!"
Shiryu turned back to them. "I beg you to repair the Pegasus and Dragon Cloths for me, as quickly as you can."
Mu looked at the Cloths. Superficially they were cracked, scratched, missing pieces — the usual minor damage, easily mended. But what he Saw and Heard was much worse - both Cloths were very dim and almost silent.
Shiryu read his expression. "I beg you, Mu."
Mu looked at him and Saw a soul like Mount Kailas, the holy mountain at the center of the world. Deep and implacable, with hidden fire. He shook his head and turned away, thinking, if only those Cloths had a tenth of the power I See in you, Dragon.
Dragon. Yes, he had finally realized, when he had seen him manifest that fierce energy, that this dark-haired Saint was Roshi's pupil. Even though he'd watched him defeat the Bone Guardians using the Rozan Ryuu Hi Shou, he'd failed to recognize the attack he'd seen practiced hundreds of times. Of course, the last time Mu had seen Shiryu he'd still been a boy, standing solemn and shy in the doorway of Roshi's guest house. His face had still held a child's roundness then, and his body was barely into the "bamboo years" when children grow tall overnight. Now, Shiryu'd turned into a young man.
And not just that, a Saint. Like all the others ready to die following the orders of that monster who spoke for a Goddess.
"What a pity. The Cloths can't be repaired." Mu turned away.
It was not quite a lie, of course. There was a way — resurrection instead of mere repair — but even if Shiryu did survive the ordeal, what was the point? So that yet another bright flame could be snuffed out by the Darkness? Generation after generation, armies of earnest young men throwing themselves at Death, their sacrifices brushed aside like trampled ants. And what for? Nothing ever changed: the Evil came back, generation after generation, insatiable. It had been more than 200 years since the last Holy War: the cycle would most likely begin again soon. Why should he, Mu, make it possible for this one too to submit his body and spirit to pain until defeat made him as grey and silent as his Cloth?
Shiryu ran up behind him, crying, "Why? Why? Mu, why?"
Mu did owe him some sort of an explanation, though. The truth about the Cloths would do. Mu touched the spire with one finger, and as it righted itself he turned to Shiryu. "My house is full of my presence and so, in a way, it's alive. It's part of me, and I of it, so to move it is easy, like moving my own body. In the same way that it is easy for me to bend my leg, I can heal a cut and even recover from surgery, because the energy of my living body fuels the changes of healing and repair. But once I am dead I no longer move nor heal. Because these Cloths are almost dead — "
"Cloths can die?" Shiryu gaped at Mu.
"— that is why they cannot be repaired. I can only repair and heal the living. I can't repair a dead thing."
"But we need those Cloths! We're fighting against Ankoku Saints, terrible enemies who have stolen the Gold Cloth!"
"What a pity." Mu turned away again. A Gold Cloth has been stolen? Whose, I wonder?
Shiryu ran in front of him and gripped his shoulders. Mu stopped in shock.
"Wait, Mu! In the whole world, you are the only one who can repair a broken Cloth!" Shiryu pulled his hands away and took a few steps back then unexpectedly knelt, pleading. "Please look at them again. Even if you cannot restore mine, I beg you, try to fix the Pegasus Cloth. I beg you." He put his hands on the ground and bowed, saying in a strained voice, "Without his Cloth, Seiya will surely die."
Shiryu looked up. "Seiya, my friend. I owe him my life. I will not let him go against Ikki and the Black Saints without his Cloth, or without me. Then, even if we die in the battle, at least we will go into the Underworld together."
Mu was struck dumb. Shiryu was focused on one thing only: to return to the side of his friend. The evil he fought — Black Saints? — seemed almost secondary. There was no mention of the Holy Father, or of Athena for that matter. Mu made a decision. To die young fighting darkness at the side of a friend — if this is truly what you want, I will not deny you. He held out his hand and nodded: Shiryu took it and stood.
If this is truly what you want. "I have a way for the Cloth to come back to life," Mu said carefully.
"What is it?" Shiryu asked. "Please tell me, don't make me wait!"
Shiryu's intensity was such that Mu could hardly bear to look at him. "Your life."
Shiryu, taken aback, repeated, "My life?"
Kiki, who had been watching Shiryu intently, gave a small nod.
"Yes, I can use your own life-force to resurrect both Cloths," Mu continued, "but it's possible — no, it's almost certain — that you'll die as a result. What do you think? Are you willing to risk your life?"
Now we'll see your true measure.
"My life?" Shiryu's grey eyes became thoughtful. "If we have broken Cloths, Seiya and I will surely be beaten. If I do as you require, I may also die, but at least Seiya's Cloth can be healed. In either case, I died once already, and Seiya brought back from the gates of Death." Shiryu nodded. "Yes, Mu, tell me what needs to be done."
"Prepare yourself then."
Shiryu turned to the east and said, as if to a far-off listener, "Seiya, maybe I'll die here, but my soul'll be in your heart. Then we'll fight together to beat the Black Saints." He turned back to Mu. "I am ready."
Is this what a true Saint looks like? Mu wondered. What an admirable person Roshi's pupil has become.
"As I said," he began, "those Cloths have died. To resurrect them requires your warm blood, freshly spilled. To revive a single Cloth will require almost one quarter of your blood — "
" - so both will require almost half." Mu paused. "For most men, losing more than one third of their blood causes shock and death. You are a Saint, and physically superior to most men, but you are still human. I don't believe that you will live if you bleed enough to revive both Cloths, but the decision is yours."
"This life that I have now is a gift from Seiya." Shiryu stooped, picked up a shard of rock from the ground, and with a quick, decisive stroke sliced both arms from palm to elbow. "If returning that life can make those Cloths revive, I'll be glad to do that."
Kiki gave a small horrified cry. Mu closed his eyes, moved by Shiryu's purity and passion.
Shiryu held his arms out, one over each Cloth. The blood dripped steadily, draping the broken cloths with a glistening red-black web. After a few minutes he moved both arms over Seiya's Pegasus cloth, murmuring, "In case I don't have enough blood for both of us, at least your Cloth can be fixed."
Mu's eyes remained closed, as if he was uncaring: but in fact he was watching Shiryu and the Cloths carefully. Just as he Saw the Pegasus Cloth burst into movement and color Kiki finally exploded, "Master Mu! Too much! Too much! That must be at least half Shiryu's blood already! Can't we stop before he dies?"
At that instant Shiryu swayed and started to collapse. Mu flicked to his side and caught him. Ignoring his own Cloth to give his life for his partner. This is true friendship.
"Will he die?" Kiki was distraught.
Mu shook his head. "To let him die would be regrettable." Mu drew his hand down Shiryu's arm, wiping up the blood and healing the gash. He stroked his now-bloody palm down on the left front leg of the Dragon Cloth, then repeated for Shiryu's other arm. At Kiki's look he said, "Not a drop of his sacrifice can be wasted. Now, go send out my tools and the Orihalcon, Stardust Sand, and Gamnion. I'll start the repair work now, out here."
Kiki looked the Dragon Cloth. "Master Mu, it doesn't look the same as the other."
"Quickly, Kiki!" Mu said sharply. "Send out my tools, then take Shiryu inside. I must start immediately, while his blood is still warm.""
Kiki nodded firmly. "Yes, Master, I'll take care of it." He flicked away.
Mu pulled off his stole and wrapped it around the pale Saint's bare shoulders and chest, then eased him to the ground.
Kiki re-appeared with tools and supplies. "I brought your pallet down to the kitchen — " he started to explain.
"Do now, Kiki, show and tell me later," Mu said firmly.
Kiki nodded, then put his arms around Shiryu's neck and teleported them both inside.
As soon as Kiki was gone Mu checked the ground. Kiki was right of course. Just before Shiryu fell, the Pegasus Cloth had begun to flicker and hum sporadically, although the pulses lost momentum and swirled aimlessly in eddies every time they hit a crack. But it was alive and becoming stronger by the moment, whereas the Dragon Cloth was still dimming, still dying. Grey and almost lifeless. Very like its owner now when both should be pulsing with virile green energy. Why?
Mu found it. The shard of rock that Shiryu had used to slice open his arms had bounced when it was dropped and come to rest against the Cloth, deflecting the blood flow away from the front claws. Had the rock not been there, Shiryu's blood might have been sufficient. But because of that stone, covered with blood that was now unusable, Shiryu's sacrifice might come to nothing.
The edge of the stone was sharp. Mu sliced the tip of his fourth finger, and pressed the drop of blood that welled up to the dragon's claw. The blood was absorbed without a trace. Mu added another. Then another.
As the third drop touched the dragon's claw the Cloth came alive in a torrent of color and song.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 4: Comfort
"Master Mu, your bed is too hard and narrow." Kiki poked at the thin mattress that had been brought down from the third floor.
"It suits me, Kiki," Mu said absently, sorting through a decade's worth of gifts from nomads and villagers whose children he'd healed. He'd always accepted anything they offered — to refuse would have been to trivialize the child's importance — but the result was that one entire wall of Mu's kitchen was stacked waist-high with more hand-woven rugs, blankets, bolts of cloth, shawls, baskets, ceramic jars, pots, plates, and bowls than he and Kiki would be able to use in several of their very long lifetimes.
"Well, it's too small for Shiryu. And too rough. Sick people should be on something soft and warm." The unconscious Shiryu was temporarily laying on the hard, narrow straw-and-moss-filled pallet while Mu prepared a more comfortable bed. Kiki rubbed the Dragon Saint's shoulder: it was pale and very very cold.
"We'll take care of him, Kiki. Now go and get your mattress." Mu set aside the thickest, softest, bed-sized kaden and larger saden rugs he could find, along with a small bolt of linen and a huge, finely-spun shawl as soft as chick's-down.
Almost half a day had gone by since Shiryu's blood-sacrifice. Mu had completed the first stage of Cloth healing, breaking off stray pieces that he knew wouldn't heal, dissolving them to create flux and solder, and repairing the worst of the fractures. He hadn't repaired a Cloth in years, yet the knowledge had flowed back effortlessly, his hands deftly moving almost before his eyes had Seen. His task now would be to feed and study each Cloth as it healed, helping them as they re-grew missing pieces and reshaped themselves according to their accumulated knowledge of their wearer and his fighting style.
During those long busy hours he had not once wondered how Shiryu was doing inside the spire, because he knew that Kiki would do as much as could be done — a faith that was justified when he had finally flicked into the kitchen to find Shiryu laid in front of the well-stoked stove, covered with Kiki's special dragon-and-crane kaden. The sleeping Kiki had been curled around Shiryu's other side, where the warmth from the dull red stove could not reach. A covered jar of melted snow and a small dipper were close.
Mu waved his hand, and the table next to the stove moved across the room. He floated one of the large saden rugs into its place next to the stove.
When Kiki returned, Mu levitated Shiryu while they quickly arranged his and Kiki's thin mattresses side by side on the saden, then laid two bed-sized kaden over that, then finally a width of linen as a sheet. Mu moved Shiryu carefully (Kiki squatting to look at the tattoo on his back) then they covered him with the soft shawl, and over that Kiki's red kaden. The beautiful colors and border of dancing animals underscored the pale stillness of the dark-haired teen.
"Oooh, Master Mu, his tattoo was very faint."
"I will see it when he recovers." Don't die, Shiryu.
Mu took a pannier with two tightly-woven baskets from a hook on the wall and handed it to Kiki. "How much snow did you bring?"
"Three 6-hour jars' worth. They're almost melted already."
"Good. Start some 12-hour jars as well. Shiryu's body will need water most of all to make more blood."
"Master Mu, do you think he's going to — ?"
"Be quick, Kiki," Mu admonished. "Work now, talk later." He scooped half-melted snow into a kettle which he set on the stove to heat as he flicked to the hot-springs.
Despite its elevation, Tibet has a large number of geothermal geysers, many on the flat, mountain-rimmed plains of the western Chang Tang. Mu arrived just as a flume was subsiding, and teleported two rocks from the mouth of the geyser to his kitchen. The steaming stones would dry by the time he returned, and then he and Kiki could wrap them in linen and arrange them around Shiryu's body to keep him warm.
Mu flicked to four other sites, the last a cluster of small deep pools in a tiny box canyon where he and Kiki came to bathe. The spot had been inaccessible on foot ever since he and Kiki had closed the canyon mouth with a rockslide so that they could teleport in unseen.
Mu had just placed the first of the well-wrapped stones at Shiryu's feet when Kiki came back with his load of snow. The redhead was bouncing in excitement. "Master Mu! I saw some argali and followed them, and look what I found!" He carefully unwrapped his sash to reveal three caterpillars, each with a column of black fungus growing from its head. Yarsa-kumbu. The rarest, most powerful herbal medicine in Tibet, it accelerated healing and contributed to vitality.
Mu nodded. "Very good, Kiki. Tara and Chenresi blessed us with this way to help Shiryu. We'll give him some tonight and trade the rest at the market in the morning."
"So you don't think he'll — ?"
"I don't think so Kiki," Mu said as they continued to place stones at key points around Shiryu's body. "He has people who he cares about, who he will want to see again. That is a very strong thread tying his soul to life. But the fires of his body are very low now, like banked embers. We must lend him warmth until he comes back."
When I was this close to death, Mu thought as he and Kiki tucked the dragon kaden tightly around the still form, I almost didn't come back.
His adolescence had been an agony.
A growing restlessness began to take hold of him. Even though he knew that much of what he felt could simply be due to his age and his need for a sexual partner, he was also questioning the value of his solitary existence in Jamir. It was essentially pointless — and he himself had made it so. True, he healed children from time to time, but what of his identity as a Saint? His Master Shion had helped him become a finely-crafted arrow, but by abandoning his role as the Gold Saint of Aries he had chosen to fly into an infinite emptiness where he would never encounter a target. He would never contribute to a larger Good, isolated as he was. There was no one to pass his knowledge onto, no potential Cloth Healer or Aries Saint he might prepare for a future Holy War. Yet he couldn't go back to Sanctuary — not that it mattered, as they didn't seem to need him, or even care that he was gone.
Because he felt it wasn't appropriate to speak to Roshi about such things he avoided going to Rozan and tried to control and transcend the emotions himself. He used psychokinesis to hurl boulders in the high peaks, but stopped when he realized that the avalanches that resulted might be harming the mountain animals. He tried meditation, he tried numbing himself in icy snow-fed streams, and finally rock-climbing, hoping that the mental and physical concentration would exhaust him enough to calm his body and empty his mind.
One day, as he was scaling a particularly sheer face, he became intensely aware of how immense and impersonal the mass of unyielding rock he clung to was, and how completely insignificant he was in its shadow. Pressing against the cold stone made him feel keenly how much he longed for something to connect to, be it a warm body or a noble cause. But that would never be: he, Mu, was alone, in a void of his own making.
He fell away from the cliff face in despair.
The first few seconds of freefall were a revelation. He was free, free of doubt and regret, free of the inchoate longings that threatened to swallow him ... It seemed as though he would die and yet, at the last second, as the ground came at him, he instinctively flicked back to the spire.
Sitting huddled while his heartbeat slowed, he realized how purified he felt. Somehow, the fall — or perhaps the decision not to die — had temporarily swept away the dark fog that clouded him. Of course it came back, but now he knew how to dodge it. Over the next few months he scouted out ever-higher places to dive from. At last he located a sheer, thousand foot high bluff rising from the edge of a salt marsh. It was perfect. Isolated even by Chang Tang standards, it was avoided by the nomads because the brackish, undrinkable water at its base supported no wildlife. It took Mu three days to climb to the summit, but once he had reached the top he teleported there again and again, diving down toward the silvery-blue surface of the marsh like a bolt of violet lightening, over and over again until the storms inside him subsided.
He even started to surreptitiously visit Rozan again, although as before always at a distance. Roshi discreetly acknowledged Mu's arrivals by unerringly tossing a swift glance in his direction as soon as he arrived, but never said anything to the children. For this, Mu was grateful.
One day, during a visit just after his tenth year of exile had concluded, Mu saw Roshi's student standing on a rock ledge downstream of the waterfall, looking down at something. Curious, Mu flicked to a better vantage point.
The student was watching the dark-haired girl as she washed clothes and sang in a still pool below the waterfall. The boy, perhaps 11 or 12 now, was staying carefully out of her sight, but clearly guarding her. Even from the distance Mu could feel how intent the boy was (how much he had grown in the past few years!), how protective. A half-hour went by and the only thing that moved was the boy's long dark hair, stirred by the wind. His face showed a clear disappointment that no danger had appeared from which he could have saved her, and Mu smiled. Just then the boy put his hand out in front of him and made small stroking motions with the tips of his fingers. It took Mu a moment to realize that the boy was imagining touching the girl's hair — or perhaps even her body. After a moment the boy stopped, and clenched both fists to his chest, bowing his head.
Watching him that day, the silence pressing in on him, Mu had been filled with a sharp, desperate longing so intense that he had gone to the cliff high above the Chang Tang, dived into the air (the arc of his body paralleled the pale crescent moon above him) and for some reason not flicked away to the spire.
He didn't remember the impact, but he did remember tides of pain as he lay looking at the sky. His body was broken in many many places — arms, legs, neck, back, jaw — and he knew that he would die slowly of thirst and cold. But he embraced that, because he finally understood as never before the truth of what Shaka of Virgo had said so often: Life is suffering. Desire and fear of death cause suffering. Suffering ends when desire ends. If he died, there would be no more desire, no more loneliness, no more suffering. So he lay patiently, letting his body's warmth spiral up into the infinite blue above him, hoping that the moon would cross his line of vision as it set.
The sky had darkened to the violet of dusk before Roshi began calling to him. Finally there was such an urgency, almost a panic, in the summons that without thinking he flicked to Rozan, and a moment later saw Roshi's face above him, framed by the cataract.
"I thought you were under attack, or dying, Roshi," Mu whispered, his voice hardly more than a breath.
"Mu, what is this you have done?" the old man asked sorrowfully.
"The end of it, Teacher. The end." After a moment, he added, "I cannot be fit to be a Gold Saint if I did this."
"I see." Roshi looked at him steadily. Mu could feel the coldness of the rock beneath him, or perhaps it was just the chill of his ebbing existence. Either way, he accepted it peacefully.
"You cannot escape your duties so easily," Roshi said gently, then, "When you chose to hold yourself apart from the evil in Sanctuary, you also denied yourself all the good that is found there."
"What good is there in Sanctuary?" Mu said calmly, bitterness giving him a final surge of strength. "A murdering impostor. A Goddess who condones it with her silence."
"There is the camaraderie of your fellow Saints. And deeper friendships can be found there as well."
"I should have transcended the need for such things."
"Do you think yourself even above your Master?" Roshi said sternly. "Shion relished the presence of others. Had he been forced to live as you have done for these ten years, touched only by the wind, stones his only companions, he would have thrown himself from a mountainside as well." Roshi looked up at the waterfall, molten in the early gold of sunset. "It wasn't easy to see, but he joyfully embraced myriad aspects of life. Especially — friendship. That was very precious to him." There was the faintest catch in his voice.
"I'm sorry, Roshi," Mu whispered. "I have failed you. And Shion."
"And Athena," Roshi added tartly, then turned back to Mu, rubbing his wizened hands together vigorously as he began to burn his cosmo, "but it is not too late to make amends. And speaking of mending, just look at yourself, Mu! Your body is like a poured out pile of mah-jongg tiles. Which piece shall we sort first?"
Mu had stayed in Roshi's guest house for days, healing. His only memory of that time was of the shame he felt when he woke one afternoon to see the boy standing in the doorway, looking in at him with an expression of bewildered disappointment. The girl was there too, but visible only as a shadow on the earth outside the door.
Mu went back to Jamir, climbed but did not jump, and made no more trips to Rozan. About a year later, he received a summons from Roshi.
When he arrived he stood nervously outside the house. Roshi read his expression instantly. "They have gone into town for the day. Come inside, Mu, and have some tea. There is someone you must meet."
Roshi's house was empty. The old teacher grinned, clapped his hands, and called out, "Come back now!"
There was a faint pop and a red-haired child appeared, sitting cross-legged on Roshi's table. Chubby limbs and round face marked his age as not much more than 5, but his eyes were filled with unusual intelligence — as well as mischief. Most amazingly, like Mu and Shion the boy's forehead bore the two thumbprint-like dots in place of eyebrows that marked him as belonging to the ancient race.
Roshi said, "Mu, this is Kiki. He was born on the first day of April."
When Mu looked at him Roshi said simply, "Prove that Shion made the correct choice. Teach him. Be to Kiki what Shion was to you."
"Oah! Are you my father?" Kiki's eyes were huge as he stared at Mu's forehead.
Mu shook his head. What an idea!
"You must be my big brother then!" Kiki announced, doing a one-handed handstand on the table as he pointed at Mu.
"No," Mu laughed for the first time in years. "I will be your teacher."
At this Kiki, suddenly serious, sprang off the table, bowed, and said with unexpected sincerity, "Thank you, Teacher. I will work very hard learning to repair the Cloths."
Roshi cleared his throat. "Kiki, would you please take the basket by the door and see if any of the vegetables in the garden are ready to pick? I would be so grateful if you could take some of them back to Jamir and save me the work of digging them up."
Kiki nodded and was outside in a flash.
Mu looked at Roshi. "He has qualified?"
"Yes, he's especially gifted with Sight and Hearing. Even without that, though, he probably would have been a natural, considering his donor."
Mu's eyes widened. "His donor?"
Roshi nodded. "They wouldn't say who, of course, but they did hint that it might have been the same as yours. Not surprising, considering there are so few of your people left."
Mu was astonished. "But I don't even — does Kiki know of this kinship?"
Roshi smiled. "I suspect there is little that escapes his notice — but no, I didn't tell him. You will be his family either way."
It was true. From the first Kiki happily and respectfully accepted Mu as a combination of older brother, father, and teacher. As for Mu, the responsibility of taking care of and training an energetic five year old had filled his hours; his loneliness slowly ebbed, and over time he lost the need to climb mountains.
Mu made an infusion from the yarsa-kumbu and a few drops of honey, and sat next to Shiryu into the evening and through the night, lifting his head and trickling a few drops of the potion past his cold cracked lips every few minutes. When the stones cooled he removed enough of them so that he and Kiki could lie next to Shiryu and lend their body's heat to his cold, still form.
Shortly after the fulcrum of the night passed Mu sensed a change — although still very cold, Shiryu's body seemed to be warming slightly. No longer just absorbing heat, but beginning to retain it. The Sight confirmed this. It seemed as though he had turned away from Death. As Mu carefully spooned the last of the infusion into Shiryu's mouth he murmured, "Welcome back, Dragon."
Kiki, who woke just before dawn, was overjoyed. "So, he's going to be OK?"
"Yes, Kiki, thanks to your good care his fires did not go out." Mu was at the table, cutting dried meat into thin strips. "His body is still very weak, though, and must replenish the blood he poured out. We need to build his strength back as he sleeps."
Kiki nodded decisively. "Because as soon as he wakes up he's going to want to join his friend and fight?"
Mu sent Kiki to one of the larger village markets to trade the yarsa-kumba for food. Kiki came back with what appeared to be the entire market: cabbages, potatoes, carrots, beans, spinach, squash, tomatoes, turnips, strips of dried mutton, marrow bones, and small baskets of apricots and walnuts. Mu set the last two aside and diced everything else into a soup pot he kept simmering on the back of the iron stove.
For the next four days, every hour Mu or Kiki would prop Shiryu up and patiently trickle a small amount of the rich broth down his throat. Mu taught Kiki how to bend and massage Shiryu's arms and legs so that his joints would not stiffen due to lack of movement. In between tending to Shiryu and teaching Kiki Mu kept an eye on the Cloths, which he had moved into his workshop to guide their healing.
Late afternoon on the fourth day Kiki asked if he could go off and look for "treasures" before the light was gone. Of course Mu hadn't allowed himself to sleep at all since Shiryu arrived, but Kiki had faithfully kept watch as well, and so Mu sent him off on his favorite pastime.
While Kiki was gone Mu sat on the floor next to Shiryu and watched him sleep, but his thoughts were of Shion.
Master Shion had been beautiful in the way that ancient trees are beautiful. Regal in his long robes, his strange wild eyes, his hair … When he was young Mu had loved to stand behind him when he read and pull the mass of silvery golden-green over the back of the couch like a waterfall. If Shion was in an indulgent humor he even allowed Mu to braid it. They had a game: Mu would separate the hair into thirds, then wait. Shion would ask, "Well?"
"A plait has three strands, Master, but they'll all be the same color," he'd say. "I think they need something added for variety."
Shion would chuckle and pull colored threads from the end of his stole for Mu to place in as he braided. Then, "Let me see," he would say when Mu was done, and stretch his hand back over his shoulder so that Mu could share with him what he saw. Shion's hand looked fragile, with delicate-looking bones and parchment-thin skin confettied with a calligraphy of scars, but it was astoundingly strong, as if there were steel beneath the skin. Mu found Shion's hands as beautiful as his still-youthful face, and always put his hand on his Master's reverently.
Beauty and power and strength of character. Mu wondered, as he had countless times before, why anyone would want to sweep that away.
Strength of character. Shiryu's skin was finally losing the gray pallor of the first few days and was resuming the golden hue that Mu remembered. His lips were slightly parted with the soft breaths of normal deep sleep, and as he dreamed his eyes were moving beneath lids so thin they looked dusted with violet. Mu held his breath: Shiryu too was beautiful, although in a way much different than Shion. Shion, although old, had been strong. Shiryu, like all the Saints not much more than a child, seemed almost as fragile as any other human. Perhaps that's what makes humans seem so fiercely alive: since they live one-third as long, they live three times as hard. Like butterflies, bursting with life for a only few short weeks.
Without thinking, Mu lifted the edge of the kaden, and lay on his side next to Shiryu. The heat from the dark-haired Saint's body was so now intense it seemed as though it should be visible as a red glow.
Why am I doing this? he asked himself. Shiryu clearly no longer needs my warmth.
As if in reply Shiryu turned on his side, toward Mu. In his sleep he pressed his forehead against Mu's chest and grasped a handful of his shirt, nestling against him like a child seeking comfort and protection.
Mu was startled, and was reminded of Kiki's first night in Jamir... Kiki had a bad dream and flicked away from the spire while half-asleep, but was too disoriented and scared to return. Unfortunately, Mu had not yet spent enough time with him to be attuned to his cosmo, so finding him had required hours. Finally, long after midnight, Mu Heard sobbing through the mountain ranges, and followed the sound until he found Kiki, curled into a ball on the side of a damp path. Mu had wrapped him in a thick new kaden, taken him back to the spire, and rocked him in his lap by the stove until the sun rose, humming wordless songs, feeling like both father and mother as he watched Kiki's face relax into sleep. From then on, that red kaden with the dragon and black-necked crane in the center remained on Kiki's bed. He teleported to it when he was lost or scared or upset, and spent hours studying the border of dancing animals, pika and cranes and chirus, woolly nimble argali, stippled gazelles and kiangs, shaggy wild yaks, snow leopards and wolves, brown bears and lynx. It was a sign of how quickly Kiki's affection for Shiryu had grown that he had insisted that "his" kaden — and no other — have the job of keeping the Dragon Saint warm.
It occurred to Mu then, as he lay next to Shiryu in the dim rosy light of sunset, that humans, these butterflies with their brief bright lives, were why the Saints existed in the first place. A Saint's real purpose was not to follow the Holy Father, or even Athena: a Saint's purpose was to protect humankind. Shiryu was a shining example of this: he would do whatever was necessary to protect another's life, even if it meant giving up his own.
Mu was overcome by a rush of tenderness, for humans in general and for this human in particular. Comfort and protect. He pulled the kaden up, stroked Shiryu's dark glossy hair a few times, then put his arm across the Dragon Saint's shoulder and fell asleep with the faintest of smiles.
Perhaps his bed was not so narrow, after all.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 5: Awakening
He wakes in the middle of the night as feathery strands tickle his face.
Next to him, Shiryu is sitting up, barely visible in the starlight.
"Welcome back," Mu whispers.
"I, I'm thirsty." Shiryu's voice is hoarse. "How did I – ? How long have I – ?" He rubs his face, disoriented. "I must go back to them," he says suddenly, with a faint note of panic. "They need me."
"In the morning," Mu says calmingly as he sits up. "Let me get you some water."
On the other side of Shiryu, Kiki mumbles and turns over.
"Oh, the small boy is here, too, in this bed – ?" Shiryu sounds surprised.
"Yes, Kiki and I have been keeping you warm," Mu says as he reaches out in the dark to the low table next to the makeshift bed. There is a clink as his hand finds the earthenware cup and pitcher, then the sound of pouring.
Mu touches Shiryu's arm in the darkness, then guides his hand to the cup. He lies back down as Shiryu drinks, smiling at the blaze of starlight cropped by the small square window.
After a moment Shiryu's torso eclipses the stars as he stretches across Mu to carefully pour himself another cupful of water. Arching over the Aries Saint like a roof, Shiryu puts one hand down next to Mu's shoulder for support. His long black hair cascades onto the coverlet.
Below him Mu, inhaling the musk of unwashed skin and the smell of hair, feels an intense sense of receptivity. Receptive to what, he does not know: all he is sure of is that whatever Shiryu might chose to do next, he will accept.
A clink as Shiryu sets the cup back down, then the stars return as Shiryu sits back on his feet. He gathers his long hair together and gives it a few twists, then slides back into the warm pocket between Mu and Kiki. He lies on his side, his back to Mu.
"In the night, if I should I need to – ?" he asks.
"The covered jar, against the wall beneath the window."
Mu lies awake a long time, in case there is more. He can hear Shiryu's heart pounding, hear how shallow and irregular his breaths are. It seems that Shiryu is lying awake too, perhaps also waiting for something. If so, Mu isn't sure what it could be, what it ought to be, so he does nothing.
Finally Shiryu's heartbeat slows and his breathing becomes deep and regular: he has fallen asleep. When Mu hears this he allows himself to drift back into sleep as well.
It was a wonderful sensation: half-awake, rested, warm, the surrounding stillness as rich and vast as an ocean. Mu opened his eyes and looked up at the rough beam ceiling, grainy and dim in the pre-dawn light. Slowly he became aware that he was pinned down by a weight: Shiryu lay against him, the dark head on his shoulder, one arm flung across his chest, in a reversal of how they'd fallen asleep the previous afternoon. Mu felt a great peace lying thus, feeling how the rise and fall of his own breathing was synchronized with Shiryu's. He shifted slowly so that he could see the teen's face. Asleep, he looked so young and: not that many years out of childhood despite his adult body and demeanor.
There was a pang as Mu realized how unlikely it was that Shiryu would live to reach full adulthood. He wished again he could shield Shiryu from the Saint's fate, the inevitable early death. Please, let this one grow old with his friends… He felt a wisp of envy then, for this 'Seiya' who had such a fierce hold on Shiryu's heart that the Dragon Saint would die for him.
Perhaps, Mu thought, if only I had not hidden from him all those years, perhaps if I had come down from the cliffs, been part of his life, he would count me as his friend as well.
Mu woke again as someone lightly tugged his hair. It was morning and the day poured a pure, glorious blue through the small window.
There was a stifled giggle beyond the pillow, at the head of the mattress.
"Kiki?" Mu asked quietly, so as not to wake Shiryu. "What are you doing, Kiki?"
"Don't move, Master Mu," Kiki whispered. "I'm almost done."
Mu pulled his free hand from beneath the covers – Shiryu still lay upon his other arm – and stretched it back over his head. "Show me."
Kiki placed his palm on Mu's, so that Mu could see through his eyes.
A section of Mu's and Shiryu's hair had been braided together for a few inches. Moonlight and night. Kiki had coiled the bottom half of each length of hair side-by-side into a yin-yang shape, with a black stone in the center of the teardrop of Mu's pale hair, and a white stone in Shiryu's.
"Aries and Libra," Kiki said. "Opposites that go together, right?"
"Kiki," Mu said, "it's inventive, but – "
Shiryu was beginning to stir. Kiki nodded and quickly unwove the braid.
Shiryu opened his eyes slowly, looking at Mu in drowsy contentment.
Something inside of Mu shattered, and it seemed as though an enormous, invisible wing unfolded from his chest. He gasped. Every morning, to wake next to someone thus, to receive such a blessing, hear such music for years on end – how could it be borne?
But then, as Shiryu registered his surroundings – in a bed, lying close to his benefactor – he drew back, confused. "Mu?" he said uncertainly, sitting up and moving back onto Kiki's section of the mattress, awkward with embarrassment.
While Mu sat, still unable to speak, Kiki jumped onto the bed and hugged Shiryu. "You woke up! You're OK!"
Shiryu smiled weakly, "You are Kiki?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm Kiki! Are you hungry, Shiryu?" Kiki bounced.
"Yes," Shiryu said, "I think I could eat something." His hands brushed over his shirtless chest, plucked at the unfamiliar pants he wore.
"That's good. I bought all sorts of things the other day for you to eat. You've mostly had soup. Master Mu made it for you."
Shiryu clumsily got to his feet.
"Your muscles may be stiff for awhile, since you haven't moved in four days," Mu said, finding his voice and standing as well. He should stay near, in case Shiryu lost balance.
"Four days!" Shiryu stared. "Have I been asleep so long? Are the Cloths repaired? I must leave right away!"
"You are of no use to your friends if you can barely stand," Mu said more firmly. "Eat if you can, and recover more of your strength. We will make a plan to get you back to them."
Shiryu nodded and stepped gingerly off the mattress, putting his feet down and shuffling as though he couldn't quite tell where the floor actually was.
Kiki, who stood ready a step behind, said excitedly, "Master Mu, look! Shiryu's tattoo!"
They stopped, and Mu held Shiryu's hair aside. The colors of the fierce dragon had brightened, and the jewel it held glowed like fire. Mu traced the tattoo wonderingly, his fingertips tingling, until Shiryu quivered and arched away from the contact. Mu pulled his hand back, wondering what he had done wrong.
Kiki excitedly set the table. He ladled steaming broth into three bowls of shredded meat and cooked barley, then laid out a crock of yogurt and a wooden bowl with an apple, an apricot, a peach, a pear, some flatbread, and several chestnuts and walnuts. Finally, he gave the tea churn a few energetic plunges before pouring out three cups of hot butter tea.
Meanwhile, Mu looked though the piles of gifts on the other side of the kitchen for something for Shiryu to wear. Mindful of the chill in the air, he pulled out a simple shirt and a cropped wool jacket subtly embroidered with dragons and poppies.
Shiryu pulled on the shirt but set the jacket aside. "Oh, this is too magnificent for me, unwashed as I am," he said, then bowed his head and began to eat rapidly.
Mu watched him with some amusement. So eager to return to your comrades? "You mentioned a Gold Cloth," he prompted.
Shiryu nodded, and explained about the Galaxian Tournament in Japan, the Graude Foundation, and the theft of the Gold Archer Cloth.
Mu said thoughtfully, "So, you four Bronze Saints mean to fight Phoenix and his Dark Saints and take back the Cloth?"
"Yes. If I could just telephone the Graude Foundation or Miss Saori in Japan, they certainly have more information by now."
Shiryu, startled, almost spilled his tea.
Kiki grinned and stretched his arms behind his head. "He does that ... I do too. Can you?"
Shiryu shook his head no, half smiling. "It seems a good thing to learn, though."
A short while later Mu flicked back into the kitchen. "There is a man in Shiquanhe with a short-wave radio. He can contact a friend in Dharamsala, who will be able to telephone Japan for you," he said. "However, the radioman does not open his shop before noon."
"Shiquanhe? You've just been to Shiquanhe? But, but that's over a hundred – !"
"Oh, far doesn't matter if we've been there before," Kiki said matter-of-factly as he squeezed each fruit in the wooden bowl. When none met his approval, he took a chestnut.
Speechless, Shiryu looked at Mu, who asked, "Does everyone at your Graude Foundation speak only Japanese, or might there be someone who speaks Chinese, Farsi, or Greek?"
While they waited for noon, Mu went up into the workshop to check the Cloths. Kiki and Shiryu remained below, at the kitchen table.
"So do you want to see my treasures?" he heard Kiki ask.
Mu heard the rattle as Kiki poured his "treasures" out onto the table, a collection of pebbles, grasses, flat pieces of bark (trees were rare in Tibet), nuggets of turquoise, copper, and coal, a flake of gold, various feathers, scraps of colored leather, and spools of red, black, and yellow wool yarn.
While Kiki give Shiryu a detailed history of each item, Mu evaluated the Cloths. They had almost finished regenerating themselves: once that was complete, the last step would be for Mu to heal the "scar tissue" where the various major fractures had sealed. This required work at the molecular level, to untangle the chaotic joins and re-weave the living lattice of the Cloth into a strong, seamless solid. This last step was essential: if it was not done the Cloths actually would be more fragile than before, for unlike a weld in metal the scars in a Cloth were weak points, like the cleavage planes of a crystal or a previously broken human bone, and the Cloth would tend to shatter or re-break at those spots.
Mu had just finished feeding the Cloths – sprinkling them with the stardust sand that was their raw material and source of energy for repair – when he heard Kiki exhale, "Oooo, Shiryu!" in a tone of complete entrancement. He flicked downstairs behind Shiryu and went to get tea.
Kiki was bouncing around in excitement. "Master Mu, look at what Shiryu did with my treasures!"
Shiryu turned around in his chair. "You have finished repairing the Cloths – ?"
"There is one final process to be done." Mu walked forward until he could see over Shiryu's shoulder.
Shiryu had arranged Kiki's treasures into a landscape. Below parted grasses in the foreground, the white feather breakers of a blue and green feather lake lapped a brown feather shore. In the distance, on the other side of the lake, grey pebble buildings glinted atop bark cliffs. A copper sun shone above all.
"That is wonderful," Mu said in honest appreciation as he sat down next to Shiryu..
Shiryu bent his head, abashed. For the final touch he took a piece of dark straw and bent it into the outline of a hut, nestled the hut into the tall grass, then placed the tiny piece of gold in the window like a welcoming candle.
"Do another one!" Kiki pleaded.
"I can't think of anything," Shiryu said modestly.
"Do a bird! In a garden!" Kiki patted the table. "Look, there are plenty of feathers! You could do lots of birds!"
"I'll try," said Shiryu. "How about a bird in the forest instead? It would be a sad garden without flowers."
"Oh, that's right! OK, I'll be back," Kiki said, and disappeared.
"Kiki – " Mu started to say.
Shiryu looked up and their eyes met, smiling over Kiki's bouncy energy. "We never have visitors here," Mu said, "yet somehow he remains very social."
"You should have brought him to Rozan," Shiryu said unexpectedly. "And why didn't you ever come back to visit Teacher after he healed you?" he asked, stirring the seascape with his fingertips. "You are the one whose body was so broken, several years ago, aren't you?"
Mu was illogically pleased. "You remember?"
"Of course," Shiryu said with a smile as he nimbly sorted the feathers and pebbles out to the sides of the table. "Who could forget the mysterious man we were told not to disturb?"
"You didn't stay away, though."
"Of course not. We were too curious. Roshi had never had a visitor before." He arranged a few scraps of leather into the shape of a bird's body. "Shunrei called me a liar when I told her there was a man with hair the color of flower petals in the guest house, so I made her come with me to see for herself." Shiryu began to arrange feathers into wings.
"How did you learn to do that?" Mu asked, feeling some of Kiki's admiration as he watched.
"Making the pictures."
Shiryu said diffidently, "My skill is nothing compared to Teacher's, but I did learn to pay close attention to everything around me, especially the smallest, most subtle things." His eyes were downcast. "He taught me that to watch everything with many eyes makes it possible to see the realities beneath the outward face."
"That is a good teaching," Mu said calmly, though his pulse pounded in his throat. He wished Shiryu would look up so that he could see his expression. "To be able to detect someone's hidden intentions and anticipate their moves is often the difference between victory and defeat "
"Yes," Shiryu continued. "An outer form may hold multiple inner natures." His head still bent, he reached out and picked up a strand of red thread. He coiled it between his fingers, then laid it on the table, a small red irregular oval.. "This shape – placed in a battle scene it can be a pool of blood. In a landscape it is a cloud at sunset. In a treasury it would be a ruby, and in a – ..." He was out of examples.
"In a bowl, it would be a slice of beet," Mu said. He wanted to dispel the tension, to coax a smile.
The corner of Shiryu's mouth lifted. "Yes, a slice of beet." He became somber again almost immediately, though. "The same thread, the same shape, yet it can be different things in different surroundings."
"And is this not true also of men? One face on the battlefield, another admiring a sunset or sitting at the hearth?" Mu, suddenly feeling an insight rising inside of him like a distant candle appearing in the night, said, "Our lives are shaped by these decisions, at each moment discarding all but one of all the possible men we could be."
Shiryu nodded, finally looking up. His eyes were bright. "And yet what is essential remains."
Mu realized how much he missed having conversations like this with Roshi.
Kiki popped back in then, several poppies in his hands. He studied the half-completed bird on the table. "The bird has no eyes."
"Ah, wait," Shiryu said, and took the smallest of the poppies, stripped away its petals and stem, then placed the black-and-yellow center as the eye of the bird.
"Ooo, that's a good trick," Kiki said, nodding enthusiastically.
"Shunrei thought of doing it that way," Shiryu said as he arranged a backdrop for the bird using the black feathers, bark, and the remaining flowers.
"She helps Teacher with cooking and housekeeping."
"Is she a good cook?"
"A very good cook," Shiryu replied, laying some branches of black yarn.
"Better than Master Mu?"
Shiryu looked discomfited at that and Kiki laughed, then asked, "Is Shunrei pretty, Shiryu? As pretty as flowers?"
Shiryu nodded, apparently tongue-tied as he stared at a bloom he cupped in his hands. Mu noticed that his ears and neck had become bright red.
Kiki, oblivious, plowed ahead. "What's she like? Have you known her a long time?"
Shiryu cleared his throat, and finally managed to say, "Yes, since we were children. We have grown up together. She's a very good person, devout and kind. She also sings beautifully, and she tames all the wild animals that come near … "
As Shiryu spoke Mu saw how his face glowed with a deep affection. It's certainly different than how he looks when he speaks of Seiya, or looks at Kiki. Or me.
Shiryu added the flower he held to its brothers, then put his hands on the table and announced firmly, "Thank you for all your help, Mu. But I cannot bear to sit here and make pictures, when Seiya and my partners might even now be risking their lives."
"You aren't fully recovered, Shiryu," Mu said. "The Cloths still require their final healing, and you don't know yet where you need go."
"Then please finish as soon as possible, Mu." The determination in his face was unshakable. "And take me to the radioman so that I may find out where I should go to join my partners."
"Yes, we can go to Shiquanhe now. It is almost noon," Mu said.
"Good." Shiryu stood suddenly and took two steps away from the table: but then, as if in slow motion, his knees bent, his head fell forward, and he crumpled to the floor.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 6: Revelation
Shiryu put his hands on the table and announced firmly, "Thank you for all your help, Mu. But I cannot bear to sit here when Seiya and my partners might even now be risking their lives."
"You aren't fully recovered, Shiryu," Mu said. "The Cloths still require their final healing, and you don't know yet where you need go."
"Then please finish as soon as possible." The determination in his face was unshakable. "And take me to the radioman so that I may find out where I should go to join my partners."
"Yes, we can go to Shiquanhe now. It is almost noon," Mu said.
"Good." Shiryu stood suddenly and took two steps away from the table: but then, as if in slow motion, his knees bent, his head fell forward, and he crumpled to the floor.
Kiki was distraught. "Master Mu, what's wrong with Shiryu?"
"Kiki," Mu said calmly as he lifted the Dragon Saint from the floor, "this is not unexpected. Shiryu stood too quickly, that is all."
As Mu placed him onto the saden, Shiryu gripped his arm. "I must go." He looked desperate.
"You will go," Mu said firmly, "but until then, rest while I go to find out where your battle will be."
"If it has not already passed," Shiryu said bitterly. The dark circles under his eyes indicated that his recovery had not progressed as far as Mu had hoped.
"That is a possibility," Mu nodded as he pulled the linen sheet and the dragon kaden over Shiryu's now-shivering form. "It is possible for you to go now, but I have heard that unconscious men make poor warriors."
Shiryu stared at him, but finally his face relaxed into a small smile.
Mu turned to Kiki and asked as he pulled on a long, hooded cloak to hide his hair, "Kiki, do you want to come with me to Shiquanhe?"
Mu generally avoided towns, even though Tibet was one of the few places where it seemed their unusual appearance attracted little notice (he suspected that many took them to be Bön spirits). Kiki, on the other hand, loved the relative activity and excitement of even the smallest village, blissful to have so much to look at, listen to, touch, taste, and smell. He chatted up every shopkeeper, and generally came back from trips with at least one new item for his treasure collection. This time, though, Kiki shook his head. "I want to stay here with our Shiryu," he said. His expression suggested that he hadn't been entirely convinced by Mu's reassurances about Shiryu's collapse.
"Alright then. Make more of the yarsa-kumbu potion for him."
"Isn't that a lot for one person?" Kiki asked doubtfully, "He's had a full stick already. Is it really OK, Master Mu?"
"Yes, Kiki. But since Shiryu is otherwise healthy, I think it will be all right if we keep a close watch."
Kiki nodded and carefully took the mortar and pestle from the shelf.
Mu turned to Shiryu. "I will contact the Graude Foundation or the Kido mansion and find out where you are needed and when. I won't come back until I have an answer."
"Thank you." Shiryu lay back and was asleep in minutes.
Mu flicked to his usual arrival spot, inside a deserted stone cottage near the road that led to Shiquanhe. After ensuring he had no observers other than multicolored prayer flags fluttering in the wind, he slipped out of the cottage and set off into town.
His thoughts carried him almost as quickly as his long strides.
Yes, thought Mu, I am a different man now than I would be if I had stayed in Sanctuary ... But what sort of man had his decisions shaped him into? Was his life worth any more now, did he contribute anything more than he would have if he had perished in Sanctuary? And how was it that Shiryu's presence always led to discontent?
At the beginning Mu's feelings had been simple resentment over the young interloper who had usurped all his time with Roshi. Over time this had gradually changed to a sort of forlorn fascination with the boy who came to represent things that Mu felt he could never have — or never have again: companionship of others his age, the privilege of being shaped by a great Master. Before Shiryu had come to Rozan Mu had been proud of his role as an outsider and enjoyed his solitude, but watching Shiryu grow up had made Mu aware of the cold, empty aspects of his existence as well. Certainly the task of raising Kiki had seemed worthwhile, keeping him from despair as it brought a detached contentment, but now, seeing Shiryu three-fourths-grown into a powerful, graceful manhood, loyal to his fighting companions, fierce in resolve, pure in intent ... this Shiryu made Mu feel his purposelessness again as never before. This Shiryu made him feel hollow, and was again awakening longings for someone or something to set him on fire, something to illuminate the half of his soul that was missing.
Mu sighed, looked up, and noticed that he was approaching the first of the tiny villages that marked the far outlying fringes of Shiquanhe. He pulled his hood low over his forehead and tucked it tight around his face.
He wished so much for Shion to talk to. He wanted to ask, why did the sight of Shiryu's dark hair spilled over the pillow bring such dread, such certainty that tragedy would come if he didn't keep Shiryu close? Why was it so fulfilling to wake next to another's warmth? Were these feelings of friendship? And what could Shiryu be feeling for him? Gratitude for the repair of the Cloths, certainly, but was there more than that? Could the way he spoke to and looked at Mu have such power if there was nothing behind —
Mu was so lost in these thoughts that he walked into the back of a slow-moving wagon, jostling it and startling the donkey pulling it into a shrieking bray. The driver stopped the wagon and turned 'round to look down at Mu over the piles of handmade boots, hats, stirrups, and woven cloth he was taking to market.
"So sorry," Mu murmured, "Please excuse me." He bowed his head and stepped to the side of the road.
"Where are you going, traveler?" the driver (a large, genial looking man) asked. "You seem lost."
Mu thought, I am but said "I'm going to Jigme's shop. Someone I met the last time I was on this road told me that it's on the south side of Shiquanhe's main square."
"Jigme with the radio?" At Mu's nod he said with a smile, "How lucky for you I'm here! You got bad directions! Jigme is on the far side of town next door to a karaoke, not near the square. You have to go northeast from the town center. You might as well climb in, I'm taking these boots and hats to a shop near him."
Mu started to clamber up into the back, but the driver motioned him up front. As Mu reached for the buckboard to pull himself up the wind blew his hood back, exposing his pale lilac hair and the thumbprint-sized dots on his forehead.
The driver stared at him for a minute, then grinned and said matter-of-factly, "So you're the healer who comes down from the mountains? Two of my nephews are alive because of you. Do you still have that red-haired assistant? My youngest niece — she's six — talks constantly about marrying him when they grow up."
At Mu's surprised look, the man added expansively, "Ah well, even if you aren't the healer, you can ride with me anyhow." He pointed back over his shoulder as he gave the donkey's rump a light prod with the toe of his boot, "Pour us some tea, then. Good thing for you my wife sent the extra-large thermos today. Maybe she really does have the Sight."
As the wagon creaked back into motion Mu realized with fondness that the trader reminded him very much of Aldebaraan.
They passed traditional stone huts which gave way to small cottages of whitewashed bricks. Old men and women sat on sunny stoops, loosely held 108-bead rosaries moving through their fingers as they discussed soccer standings and the big-city accomplishments of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Some of them waved and called out greeting to the driver, while others put two fingers to their foreheads and bobbed their heads at Mu as the wagon passed. Finally, after a short bumpy incline that the donkey decided to take at a trot (as if he just wanted it over with), they were in Shiquanhe, surrounded by Chinese concrete block buildings, storefronts with clothes hanging from awnings, street vendors selling dried legs of lamb and noodles and flatbreads from wheeled carts, sidewalks lined with stands and tables displaying vegetables, used clothing, and electronics. Bicycles threaded between groups of monks in maroon colored robes, pairs of drokpa women (their 108 braids adorned with turquoise beads and silver medallions), and teenagers in blue jeans and Western sunglasses. Above all the red Chinese flag with its 5 yellow stars snapped in the ever-present wind.
After crossing the square they turned sharply and drove through a series of ever-narrower roads, apparently by following the ever-louder boom of music from a neighborhood of karaoke bars until they turned down an alley that ran behind a row of shops. The wagon stopped by a door with a faded sign showing a radio dial and a telephone receiver connected by a lightening bolt. Beneath was a neatly lettered card that said, in Tibetan, Chinese, and English, "Radio call, 100 yuan."
Mu thanked the driver, climbed down from the wagon, spun the prayer wheels outside the door, then entered the shop. A thin man with a thin mustache and cataract-dimmed eyes — Jigme, as it turned out — came from the front of the shop to greet him. After some discussion in Chinese Mu handed him the 100-yuan note. The driver happened to enter the shop just in time to see this part of the transaction, and curtly addressed Jigme in a rapid dialect that Mu couldn't follow. The result, though, was clear: Jigme's eyes widened, and he handed the note back to Mu with a bow, placing two fingers to his forehead as he said, "For you, rinpoche, no charge."
The call went smoothly. Jigme used an ancient shortwave radio to contact a man in Dharamsala named Ramanujuan Bell. After Jigme had chatted with Bell for a while in Farsi, he then pushed the shortwave's microphone over to Mu, who gave the number for the Saori mansion in Japan. Bell negotiated the international operators and then apparently held his phone's earpiece to his radio's microphone, and the telephone's mouthpiece to the radio's speaker. Mu was skeptical that this would work, but Jigme was complacent.
After a series of click and rings a surly male voice came crackling through Jigme's radio's speakers, saying something that ended with, "Kidodess."
"Good afternoon," Mu said politely in Greek and Chinese. "I am calling from Tibet to speak to Saori Kido."
"Is this a joke?" the voice demanded in tinny Greek.
"No sir," Mu said, "I am the one repairing the Cloths of Pegasus and Dragon."
"Wait," the voice barked, then added as an afterthought, "if you please." Garbled watery noises came through the radio speaker in Shiquanhe. Jigme, who had been following the conversation with an avid expression, nodded encouragement.
There was a sprinkle of static, and then a female voice came on. "You are in contact with Shiryu?" The voice was young, yet had a surprising authority.
"Yes. Am I speaking to Saori Kido?"
"You are. Please, you have news?"
"Yes, I am fortunate to have located a radio phone operator here in Shiquanhe," Mu said carefully to let her know that their conversation was not private. "Shiryu arrived four days ago. He is most anxious to rejoin his companions and continue with his work."
She understood his discretion. "The next — meeting — has been set for three days from now."
"The repairs will be completed by that time. Can you give me the location of the meeting? I will ensure that Shiryu and the Cloths arrive there."
"Yes. Just a moment, Tatsumi will give you the precise longitude and latitude." Over the sounds of rustling and muttering in the background, she said softly and earnestly, "Thank you so much for helping us."
For a moment Mu thought he Heard a vast and glorious Song behind her voice, with music so full of warmth and strength that all the empty places in his and every soul on the planet could be filled by it ... but then the gruff man came back and began barking numbers at him, and the sensation slipped away.
Mu drank three cups of butter tea with Jigme and the driver before he judged it acceptable to take his leave. He declined the driver's offer to drive him back to the outskirts — he knew that the driver hadn't planned on going that way — but he did accept a ride to a Buddhist monastery east of the city limits, a rambling medieval structure whose perfection was enhanced, somehow, by the fact that half of it was in ruins.
As he climbed the seven flights of stairs — like most of the monastery, hewn entire from the mountainside — and stepped though the entrance into the main temple, Mu was struck by what amazing creatures humans were, to build structures such as these with only their hands and iron tools. The center of the temple was dominated by towering statues of Chenresi and Tara, Bodhisattvas of Compassion. A vast love and welcome for all living things seemed to flow from them; a warm, all-encompassing mantle like what had brushed him when talking to Saori Kido, and which was an infinitely larger echo of the feelings of warmth and protectiveness for humankind that Shiryu was awakening in Mu himself.
It was strange. En masse humans were sometimes mindless and rapacious, able to devour everything in their path, individual members willing to murder and rape and torture in the blind scramble toward power and away from Death — but many humans were also capable of unsolicited kindness to strangers, of heroic self-sacrifice, of creating wonders such as this monastery, and of astounding spiritual progress like that achieved by Shaka of Virgo.
Musing on this, he did not hear the monk approach. "Greetings, Ancient One," the old monk said softly. Despite being at least four times Mu's age, there had been no trace of irony in his greeting. His face, softened with hundreds of wrinkles but with warm, sharp eyes, reminded Mu of Shion. "How may we serve you today?"
"Rinpoche," Mu said with a bow, "my mind has been troubled, and I came here today seeking the peace that comes from clarity."
Threading his hands through his beads, the monk said gently as if answering some unvoiced question, "The path does not disappear, but the foot that treads it changes. A man may step over a stone that would cause a child to fall." He turned as if to walk away, but in a smooth blur whirled and launched a killing jab at Mu's neck, his prayer beads swinging in a slow-motion arc.
Instinctively Mu defended with Crystal Wall and the age-gnarled fingertips stopped at its boundary, quivering (although amazingly the blow was not rebounded). The monk lowered his hand and held it at right angles to his chest, in a gesture that was both familiar and unidentifiable, and gave Mu a faint smile, his bright dark eyes gleaming. "Mu of Aries, the path is swept clean before those who direct their energy at the right time. And place."
His eyes flashed turquoise for the merest instant as a giant lotus seemed to flare behind him: then he turned and moved swiftly away, leaving a stunned Mu rooted to the spot. By the time Mu ran after him, he was nowhere to be found.
Mu faded into invisibility, waiting for the mysterious old monk to re-appear, but after an hour he accepted defeat and flicked back to the spire.
: II :
Kiki was sitting on the floor next to the saden, dozing with his head on his arm as if he'd fallen asleep watching Shiryu — which, Mu thought fondly, he probably had. Mu draped his hooded cloak over the lightly snoring form and let him sleep, then flicked up to the workroom to finish the Pegasus Cloth.
To Mu's knowledge, no one had ever even satisfactorily described what the Cloths were, let alone how they worked. Although it was clear that they were far from than inert objects — after all, they fed on the general background energy of the universe, moved of their own volition, repaired and grew new parts for themselves — it was not known if they were plant, animal or a combination of the two. There was a tendency to think of them as having almost pet-like qualities — loyal, came when called, linked to their wearer for life — but, as Shion had often pointed out, whether this was because they were truly alive and sentient or merely very clever artifacts, no one knew.
Mu had always theorized that over time the Cloth soaked up the wearer's personality and the tone of his cosmo as well as his blood, and that this was part of the bond between the Saint and his Cloth. Since the dead Cloth fragments in the Graveyard were too old and scattered for him to ever test this, Mu was somewhat excited to have the opportunity to compare Seiya's and Shiryu's cloths... And to be honest, he also wanted see if he could "meet" this Seiya who inspired such sacrifice and determination from Shiryu.
Mu slipped his boots off and set them near the workshop door. Next, he took the detailed maps he'd acquired from Jigme from where he'd tucked them inside his chuba and laid them on the table in the workroom. He untied his belt, removed the chuba from his shoulder, and folded it into a pad to sit on while he worked, then sat facing the Pegasus Cloth and gathered his cosmo. After greeting the Cloth and asking its permission to Enter, he put his hands lightly at the juncture of shoulder and wing, and began.
Shion had asked him once, "Do you know why fishermen spend so many hours repairing their nets, and take so much effort to make the repairs almost undetectable? Each individual knot is insignificant, none are essential, none can catch a fish by itself — but together a hundred thousand knots can harvest a hundred thousand fish from the ocean." In the same way, no one molecular bond in a Cloth was crucial, but all together they made something with incredible strength. As Mu moved through the Cloth he looked for holes or tangles in the lattice, places where the Cloth had repaired itself with a thick lumpy scar-like join. As the hours went by he untangled, and rearranged, and rejoined, and as he became accustomed to the Song of the Pegasus Cloth he began to Hear a contrapunctus, a counterpoint. It was an energetic, deceptively lighthearted progression that built a crescendo, disappeared completely — and then reappeared, over and over, passionate against the slow, sweeping pulse of the Pegasus wingbeats. A heroic song, the cosmo of someone who didn't give up or run away even against overwhelming enemies, a great heart who would throw himself against evil again and again, a natural leader who would never ask more than he gave. No wonder he inspired such deep loyalty.
As Mu finally began to withdraw from the finished Cloth he marveled, All this from a mere Bronze Saint? Few of the Gold Saints from his Sanctuary Days had such qualities: Aiolos, certainly, to some extent his brother Aiolia, Saga. Aldebaraan had a little bit of this quality too, though he was not a leader. Most of the others — they followed orders certainly, but also the dictum that discretion was the better part of valor.
As he came back to himself he saw that the afternoon and night had both passed while he worked. Sunrise poured through the door and illuminated Kiki, who sat motionless to the right of the Pegasus Cloth, eyes closed, cosmo slightly flared, his full concentration on Mu and the Cloth. The sunlight made a fiery halo of his hair.
Kiki opened his eyes. "That was wonderful," he exhaled in awe.
"Yes," Mu agreed. "it was. I'm pleased you had the opportunity to experience this kind of repair. How is Shiryu?"
Kiki shrugged elaborately, but looked unhappy. "He slept through the night, but at least he didn't feel cold like he did before. He's still sleeping."
Mu put his hand on Kiki's shoulder. "I can see that you care about Shiryu very much, but don't be so fretful: he will be strong again soon." At Kiki's sigh he said, "Now, I want to show you some maps. I have an idea I want to discuss before Shiryu wakes up."
Mu unfolded the topographical maps and used a pencil to carefully mark both the Spire's location and the location of the upcoming battle with Ikki and the Ankoku Saints.
"It took Shiryu about three days to get here from Japan," he said, pointing and then tracing Shiryu's probable route from Japan to Jamir with his fingertip. "If he left us today as soon as he woke, he would probably get, " Mu tapped the map, "over here just in time for his battle."
"But," Kiki frowned, "Even if his Cloth was finished Shiryu couldn't leave today! He is still weak!"
"That's right," Mu said quietly, "I don't think his body has recovered from being so close to death. Nor has his volume of blood replenished. Such a long trek carrying two Cloths would bring him to the battle already exhausted, and the slightest loss of blood would kill him."
Kiki sighed and slumped over the table, his chin on his fists. "Shiryu is our friend, Master Mu, and this battle is so important to him. What can we do?"
"Kiki, I think that you will be the key to that."
"Really?" Kiki sat up straight. "How?"
Mu pointed to the battle dot on the map. "If you flick to this location and find Shiryu's friends, I can bring Shiryu and the two Cloths to you on the appointed day. This will give Shiryu a few more days of rest."
"Oh, that's a good plan," Kiki said, scratching his chin. "But why don't I take the Pegasus Cloth with me? Then Seiya will have it sooner, and you will only have to bring Shiryu and the Dragon Cloth."
"Kiki," Mu said with a show of doubt, "Think carefully of what you are saying. You know how heavy a Cloth is when inside its box. It will require much more energy than just moving yourself."
Kiki puffed up his chest, for his turn pretending to be offended. "Master Mu, I'm very strong! Beside, I don't have to put the box on my back, if I hold the strap it will come with me." He folded his arms and announced, "It will be easy. I could probably get there in one day!"
"There is no need to be hasty," Mu chided. "Pace yourself, and plan to to arrive near sunset the night before. Take care that you are not observed. Rest as soon as you start to get tired, and check the map and your compass frequently. If you can't find a good place to sleep, hide the Cloth box and come back here at night. When you reach the destination hide in a dry, safe place and Listen for Seiya's cosmo, the same one you Heard in his Cloth. And if you get in trouble … "
"Yes, yes, I know, I know, call for you." The irascible redhead, knowing he'd won, was grinning like a Cheshire cat. "Don't be so worried, Master Mu. Let me prove that I can take care of myself."
"Alright," Mu said fondly.
Kiki bounced in the chair. "Can I start right away?"
"Eat something, and then you can leave."
As Kiki went below to pack a small knapsack, Mu closed the box around the Pegasus Cloth. He found, to his surprise, that he could not shake a small twist of worry: Kiki was young, the distance was great, and they had never been separated for more than a few hours before. Even so, this was the best plan: Shiryu would get a few extra days to recover and Seiya would get his restored and improved Cloth quickly.
And if he was honest, he had to admit that he half-hoped that the fight would be over by the time he arrived with Shiryu, so that Shiryu wouldn't have to fight at all.
Mu flicked outside with the Cloth, had Kiki show him what he'd packed, and made him trace on the map (twice) the route he planned to take. When Mu, on the verge of changing his mind altogether, told Kiki to retie his shoes, Kiki said, in mock gruffness, "Master Mu, you're stalling."
"You're right," Mu sighed. "Go. I will see you in a few days."
Kiki pretended to face the wrong direction for departure (and as soon as Mu opened his mouth to say something, Kiki re-oriented himself with a giggle). "Tell Shiryu when he wakes up that he should get better fast," he said gleefully, "I can't wait to see him fight!" Then he hoisted the knapsack and a bedroll on his back, looped the Cloth strap around his wrist, pressed his palm against the top of the box, nodded firmly, and was gone.
Mu flicked back to his workshop, wrapped himself in his chuba, and lay down on the floor with his back to the kiln, exhausted in the aftermath of repairing Seiya's cloth. He felt a twinge of anxiety, but now it wasn't for Kiki.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 7: The Price
7: The Price
Mu woke with a start a few hours later. The spire was shuddering. An attack? He must get Shiryu somewhere safe. Rozan perhaps ...
He flicked downstairs and found that the attack was coming from Shiryu himself, who was methodically punching a column of holes through the wall of the kitchen.
Of course. There were no doors on the first floor of the spire and the windows were small to conserve heat. Mu stepped to the wall and touched the damage Shiryu's fists had done. The stone melted away into an archway. "Kiki and I don't need doors," Mu said.
Shiryu's 'Thank you' was almost inaudible as he stepped outside into the early morning sunlight.
"You're feeling better?"
"I — I need to prepare my body for the battle," Shiryu said without turning around.
"Of course." Mu followed and stood watching as Shiryu - who wore only loose linen trousers - tied his hair back with a strip of cloth. After some deep breathing and stretching, Shiryu began the Commencement form of Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan.
Wild Horse Shakes its Mane ...
Mu felt proud to witness the younger Saint's precision and grace.
White Crane Spreads its Wings ...
"Must you watch me?" Shiryu asked with a touch of irritation.
Brush Knee ...
Mu was surprised. "Does it disturb you?"
Shiryu didn't answer that, but asked instead, "Where is Kiki this morning?"
Play the Lute ...
"Kiki has gone ahead with the Pegasus Cloth. We'll join him the morning of your battle."
Shiryu shot him an unexpectedly sharp look. "How is that possible?" he asked. "I thought you could only teleport to places you had been before?"
"More accurately, it's places we have seen. Kiki can teleport to any place visible to him. He is following a route I mapped out for him."
Shiryu stopped. "You sent him out alone, and entrusted him with Seiya's Cloth? He is only a child!" A few wisps of hair that had escaped the band blew around his face.
"Kiki is no ordinary child, as you well know," Mu said, touched and somewhat amused by Shiryu's scolding. "If he has any trouble, he will call to me."
"I can sense his cosmo, and go directly to him if he needs me."
"That is possible?" Shiryu asked with a raised eyebrow. "To communicate with Kiki at such distances?"
"Yes. The stronger the bond, the clearer the message," Mu turned and went inside, Shiryu following him through the newly-created doorway.
As Mu knelt in front of the low iron stove and began to carefully remove ashes from the lowest compartments, Shiryu asked, "What are you going to do now? Repair my Cloth?"
"The work on the Pegasus Cloth took the entire night, and was very tiring," Mu said, twisting to face Shiryu, "I will eat now, and then sleep for a while. When I wake again I can finish."
Shiryu scowled slightly.
"If you have an objection, please voice it," Mu said, puzzled. What was there for Shiryu to be in such ill humor about? The Pegasus Cloth had been repaired, the Dragon Cloth would soon be done, and there was a reliable plan in place for his return to battle. He turned back to the stove and began to stoke the rack above the embers with small bricks of compressed fuel.
"I hope I will not offend you if I speak plainly," Shiryu said.
"Of course not." Mu latched the door of the stove and stood to face Shiryu.
"My sensei expressed great admiration and respect for you." Shiryu said. "But now I hear yet more excuses and yet another delay, and so I wonder if there is another reason you sent Kiki on ahead?"
"Another reason?" Mu asked, baffled. "I don't understand."
"So that he would not be here when we discussed your payment."
"I don't mean to insult you, Mu, but I cannot help but feel that you are," he paused, and then said in a rush, "delaying the repair of my Cloth until I — agree to whatever price you ask!"
Mu laughed, thinking that Shiryu was joking, and said lightly, "Well, since I'm repairing two Cloths, won't you have to pay me twice?"
Shiryu clenched his fists. "I had hoped — ." He shook his head. "I see you are not the honorable man Roshi told me you were. But you deserve a payment for what you have done." A faint flush crept up his throat. "I have no money, but whatever else you request I will provide it. Saints honor their debts."
"What else could you offer me?" Mu asked carefully.
"Why the pretense, Mu?" Shiryu said sharply. "I know that you have given me something that makes me feel — that is doing this to me!"
"Doing what?" Mu was at a loss. "Feeling what?"
Shiryu, blushing, said, "Receptive!"
Receptive? Why was the boy becoming so distressed? "I don't know what you mean."
Shiryu took a deep breath and pressed on, misinterpreting Mu's silence. "I am not naive. I understand the way you look at me. And it's obvious you delayed my leaving until you could send Kiki away."
Shiryu said, furiously, "Do you require my humiliation as well? That I kneel and beg for — your touch, as I begged you to repair the Cloths?"
And suddenly it was clear. Yarsa kumba's general use was to stimulate the healing and purifying processes of all the body's systems — but it had a specialized application too, in the cure of impotence, where it stimulated the sexual function as well.
Mu was stunned. How could Shiryu possibly think that he would have given him the medicine for that purpose? Certainly he had wanted to keep him near, but that was to protect him, it wasn't to — .
A pain lodged in Mu's throat. "Tell me, Shiryu," he asked, "are you truly the sort of person who would comply with such a request if it was made to you?"
Shiryu, every muscle tense, was staring at the floor. "If I had to." He was now almost as pale as on the day he had opened his veins and drained his blood.
"You could not possibly understand," he muttered.
"Explain it to me," Mu urged.
"Unlike you, I am a Saint," Shiryu said, looking up with flashing eyes. "I will do whatever I must to return to my comrades, my mission." He added bravely, "What happens to my body is not important to me."
"It's important to me," Mu said without thinking.
Shiryu glared at him.
"Shiryu," Mu said, and he tried to make his voice reassuring, "I do not require payment for my services. If a Saint is courageous and resourceful enough to survive the Boneyard, that is a sufficient entrance fee." He took a step back. "And as for the currency you mention — I have never had a lover. But even in my ignorance I can guess it would hardly be pleasant if someone came to my bed resentfully or out of obligation."
Shiryu's expression was distrustful.
"I kept you here so that you could recover as much as possible before returning to battle. Please believe me when I say that I didn't realize that the medicine would have such an," Mu had to stop, swallowing an emotion he realized was disappointment, "unwanted effect on you. Water and exercise will purge it from your body. I will finish your Cloth now," he added and flicked upstairs to his workroom, stung by the expression of relief on Shiryu's face.
"Who have I become?" Mu wondered as he placed the Dragon Cloth in position. As much as he was hurt by the accusations, he knew how Shiryu had arrived at them — mistakenly, of course. Certainly he felt strong admiration for Shiryu's character, his bearing, his strength. He liked looking at him, found him pleasing to the eye in a way he had never found anything else to be.
Were all these feelings simply masks for baser desires? And he had thought — more than once — how good it would be to sleep next to Shiryu every night and wake next to him every morning. Was his concern for Shiryu's welfare genuine, or had he been trying to hoard him, like a miser who locks away precious treasure? If so, he had certainly fooled himself completely, and Shiryu not at all. Mu wished that he could go back a week in time, do everything differently, if only to ensure that he would not receive that look of disgust.
As he considered all of this, another part of him was surprised by these tumultuous emotions; hadn't he had transcended them years ago? Shaka always said that since suffering came from desire, the best way to be free of suffering was to separate from the cause of desire. If that was true, then the sooner and further away Shiryu was, the better. If he fixed Shiryu's Cloth and took him to Kiki right away, the two could finish the journey together. Shiryu could focus his energy on preparing for the battle, Kiki would be there if Shiryu wanted someone to talk to, and Mu - well, he would come back to Jamir and stay out of their way.
Yes. That was the best solution.
He knew he should allow himself more time to recover from the mental and physical toll of repairing Seiya's resurrected Cloth, but he pushed back his hunger and fatigue and sat down in front of the Dragon Cloth. He seemed to hear Shion's voice. "Recklessness, cowardice, and self-deception have no place in Sanctuary, nor in a Saint's heart." Well, he wasn't in Sanctuary. He was here in Jamir, alone as he'd been most of his life. It wasn't cowardly to avoid rejection. It was just a quick acceptance of reality. If he was making Shiryu so uncomfortable, then hastening to reduce the time Shiryu had to spend in his presence was — considerate. Yes, that's what it was. It was Mu's job to repair Cloths, after all, and wasn't it was rude to keep the customer waiting?
He forced himself to be calm, asked the Cloth's permission to Enter. After a moment he put his hands on the Dragon's front claws.
The Dragon Cloth had very few of the large, complete fractures that Seiya's had had - Mu recalled that Dragon Saints were said to have the "unbreakable shield and the strongest fist" - but there were scars from hundreds of hairline fractures. Mu painstakingly began to mend them. When he had worked on the Pegasus Cloth he had opened himself to its song, letting it accompany him as he worked. This time, however, he deliberately shut it out: He didn't want to hear the Dragon song. Or more to the point, he didn't want to experience even a whisper of Shiryu's cosmo, especially not the way he had experienced Seiya's. What was the point?
It had been easy for Shion, Mu thought as he untangled and re-wove the many small scars in the Dragon Cloth's energy lattice. Connecting to others was so easy for him. As Pontifex he'd known hundreds of people, developed many lasting friendships, and probably had dozens of lovers in his long lifetime. How could his example possibly be relevant to his naive, solitary pupil, who for years had gone for months at a time without seeing or speaking to another being?
His pupil, Mu thought bitterly, who could barely attain friendship, let alone love.
After an hour or two, Mu's head began to hurt. Prudence would have counseled him to stop at that point, but it was imperative to finish, to get it out of there. To get its owner out of here. And so he pushed on ... The Dragon song continued in the background, a complex, syncopated, hypnotic beat that slowly permeated his being until he had no choice but to pay attention to it.
It was difficult to distinguish at first what was Dragon and what was Shiryu: unlike Seiya's Cloth, it didn't have two clearly audible strands of melody. But after a while Mu began to recognize a theme and its variations subtly woven into the grand symphony of the Cloth, a melancholy, throbbing phrase in a minor key that drew his sadness to the surface. Was this the essence of Shiryu's cosmo? Did Shiryu really feel so alone, even with Roshi and Shunrei and the other Saints in his life? Was Mu Hearing right? As he Listened Mu forgot his prior resolve to get away from Shiryu; instead, he felt even stronger the impulse to fold comfort around him, to offer himself as a remedy to loneliness —
— but of course that wasn't possible. Shiryu would never accept comfort of any kind from Mu. The fact was, working on the Dragon Cloth, with its faint traces of cosmo, was the closest Mu would ever get to Shiryu.
So be it. With a sense of defiance and a flicker of guilt Mu flared his cosmo and poured it around the Cloth, embracing it as he now admitted he wanted to embrace its owner. The interlaced energies echoed back and forth, the deafening harmony of the combined Song blinding him, splitting his skull ... but the joyous, glorious sense of intimacy was worth it. Erastes and eromenos, Lover and Beloved, probably deeper and more powerful than a physical union would have been, sweeping away desolation. Mu could feel the sparkle of energy building in his occasus and spreading through his body, his veins full of fire. His lips parted with a sigh. "Shiryu," he whispered. Then there was cool metal against his forehead, and his face was wet ... a coppery taste in his mouth, something trickling down the sides of his neck and his chest ... A shout (more sensed than heard) ... an iron band across his chest. His arms slid from around the Dragon Cloth's neck as he was pulled back. Something rough pressed against the side of his head, a stream of air washed over his face, and he forced his eyes open and saw Shiryu's stricken face. Still wide open to Seeing and Hearing, he was inundated by the cosmo radiating from the dark-haired Saint: he succumbed, letting the riptide pull him under until, as he had done as a child, he gratefully floated into silence and darkness and peace.
~ to be continued ~
(49) 26 June 2008
Chapter 8: Taking Leave
8: Taking Leave
It was dark.
His head felt full of splintered glass.
There was a strange sizzling sound and a half-remembered smell from his childhood.
He moved a leaden hand to his eyes and took away the cool damp cloth that covered them.
Below the deep blue square of a starless twilight sky, an oil lamp on the shelf above the low iron stove illuminated Shiryu, kneeling, stirring a pan.
"Green onion dumplings?" Mu heard himself croak.
Shiryu jumped, then turned to him. "Y-yes," he said. "When Roshi taught Shunrei how to make them I learned too." All his former anger and resentment seemed to be gone: in fact, after a moment he gave Mu a small, unexpected smile.
A few minutes passed as they looked at each other.
"The man who raised me," Mu said finally, "was very fond of fried green onion dumplings."
"Really? What a coincidence." Shiryu gave the pan a decisive final shake then slid the dumplings out onto a plate and sliced them. "I owe you a meal," he said quietly, "and an apology. After all you've done for me . . . my rudeness this morning was inexcusable. I misjudged you and your intentions. I hope that you can forgive the accusations I made."
"Of course." This is unexpected. Mu rolled on his side and reached for the water pitcher next to the bed, but his vision filled with an orange mist and the room seemed to spin. He pressed his hand against the saden, bowed with vertigo.
Shiryu asked, "What is it?"
"Thirsty," Mu managed to say, "and dizzy."
Shiryu quickly knelt, poured him a cup of water, then steadied him so that he could drink.
Mu, disoriented as he was, noticed that Shiryu did not shrink from touching him. Am I dreaming then? Mu wondered.
"What happened to you?" Shiryu asked, his forehead wrinkling in concern. "I was outside exercising when suddenly I felt something unusual happening. When I went up into your workshop I saw that you had collapsed."
Mu said, "I was reckless." He drained the water glass. "Thank you for tending to me."
Shiryu said, "The bleeding from your ears and mouth had already stopped on its own by the time I got you down here."
Mu raised a hand to his hair, stiff with dried blood. He pushed back the kaden and stood cautiously. Pain spiked through his skull, but at least the orange mist was gone and the room remained level. "Your Cloth is finished. You can leave as soon as you wish."
"What are you doing?" Shiryu said, sounding oddly paternal. He put a hand on Mu's shoulder. "I don't think you should be going anywhere for a while."
"It's vanity, but I cannot abide this." Mu, embarrassed, touched his hair. "I'll be back soon."
Shiryu pointed to the tall canisters of melted snow. "Lie back down, I'll fill a basin and wash it for you."
Mu, increasingly uncomfortable with this inexplicable change in Shiryu's attitude, said, "No, there is a hot spring." He went to a shelf and took down a tin bucket with soap and a towel.
"A hot spring?" Shiryu blurted.
When Mu turned Shiryu said, "I haven't bathed in a week." He shrugged and spread his hands. "Would it be dishonorable to defeat enemies with my stench as well as my fist?"
Mu smiled ruefully. "It might do great damage to the honor of Saints everywhere." He put another towel into a second bucket.
Shiryu picked up both. "Is it far?"
Mu considered for a moment. "We need not walk. I will send you ahead, but as soon as you get there step aside to the canyon wall so that I don't arrive on top of you." Mu pointed and teleported him.
It was the same secluded hot springs Mu had visited to get stones to keep Shiryu warm - was it only 5 days ago? It seemed like weeks. The white rock of the tiny canyon glowed in the last light of dusk. Overhead, the blue-black sky was swathed with a glittering veil of stars. Mu waved his hand, and a shimmering Crystal Wall capped the canyon walls. The flickering aurora-like shimmer provided just enough of illumination.
"That's beautiful, Mu," Shiryu said in awe. His uptilted face, tinted with the soft yellow and blue lights, was full of wonder. "Are there no end to your powers?"
"Of course," Mu murmured, secretly pleased. "There is an end to all powers."
Shiryu knelt next to the steaming pools and filled the buckets, then carried them to a table-like rock next to the pools where he had already neatly placed the towels, soap, and clean clothes. He set one bucket down by his feet, then handed the other to Mu.
There was a beat as they stood, not quite looking at each other, then Shiryu pulled off his shirt and, turning half-away from Mu, stepped out of his trousers, poured some water over himself, and reached for the soap, which he had placed midway between them on the rock.
Mu turned his back to Shiryu, put his bucket down, and shed his own clothes. He felt an unfamiliar emotion. He took some deep breaths to calm himself, then poured the hot water over his hair and began to work out the dried blood. Small sounds behind his back tugged at his attention, conjured images: the shush-shush-shush as Shiryu scrubbed his long limbs with the rough sea sponge; tiny chuk-chuk noises as he soaped the hollow, more tender parts of his body; a small clunk every time he dropped the soap into the rock; feathery splashes as he rinsed himself.
How could sounds be so compelling? Mu wondered. In a reverie, he finally turned and reached for the soap, but Shiryu's hand covered it. "Shall I wash your back?" he asked.
Mu nodded, and pulled his hair forward over his shoulder.
He tried to keep foremost in his mind that Shiryu was doing nothing special, just a friendly favor, but nevertheless each swath of the sponge felt like a caress. When Shiryu was done he poured warm water over Mu's back to rinse the soap away, then asked, "What is this, a scar?" and pressed his fingers to the silvery, crescent-shaped occasus at the small of Mu's back.
Every nerve in Mu's body instantly became white-hot and his tegimen suddenly felt heavy, oddly sodden. His legs were shaking, but he managed to take a step forward, away from Shiryu. "It's very sensitive," was all he could manage to say.
"It's unusual," Shiryu said, apparently oblivious to the turmoil. "What caused it?"
"I was born with it," Mu choked out. He had told himself that he had everything under control. Lies. He knew all the reasons why he should not and could not allow his feelings for the young Saint to be expressed, had made plans to escape his suffering by separating himself from the cause of desire, and then deliberately overstepped boundaries that he himself had set. Now every muscle and bone and inch of skin burned for Shiryu to touch him again where no one had ever touched him before.
"Mu, would you - ?"
Mu looked over his shoulder. Shiryu was holding the sponge out to him. The Crystal Wall above threaded the young Saint's black hair with cobalt, gilded the planes and swells of his muscled arms and chest with topaz. He was a celestial warrior fallen to earth, and sight made Mu's throat ache. Everything about Shiryu's gaze and stance seemed to be asking an unvoiced question, but what was it? Mu wanted it to be Can't you see that I offered my body this morning because that is what I want as well? — but it was more likely Can we set aside this awkwardness to be friends? Or only, Will you wash my back?
There is a moment, when a flint first strikes, when a spark first flashes, that determines if a fire is born or dies. Fire only comes alive in the presence of something to consume, transforming and then destroying all that it lifts to brief incandescence.
Mu picked up the empty bucket and flicked away to the peaks, into the snow's chill embrace.
By the time he returned - his hair frozen from the snow he'd used to scrub the dried blood from his hair — Shiryu was sitting in one of the small pools, chest deep in the steaming water, his arms draped over the rocks to either side, his eyes closed. He jumped slightly when Mu returned.
"Did I do something wrong?" he sat up and asked as Mu flicked into the pool next to him with a small splash.
'No," Mu said, hoping to squelch any discussion of his flight. He set the bucket of snow on the flat rocks between them.
"What's that for?"
"As it melts we can drink it."
Shiryu nodded. "A good idea." He scooped a handful and squeezed the snow, which was too powdery to hold the shape. "Not good for rice balls, though." He blew on it gently, then held it close to his eyes. "It's beautiful as it melts." He thought for a minute.
Snow in my hand,
your lace becomes diamond,
And then flowing tears.
Mu was surprised. "Poetry?"
Shiryu bowed his head. "Roshi tried to teach me, but it did as much good as a heron explaining flight to a turtle."
"It was an acceptable haiku," Mu said, "for a turtle."
Shiryu's eyes widened; then with an odd half-smile he tossed his handful of snow at Mu's head. To his surprise, Mu retaliated. Half the bucket disappeared in the next few minutes. When they were done they sat attempting to eat handfuls of the snow that was left.
"Agg," Shiryu growled in mock irritation, "it keeps going up my nose!" He rubbed the snow over his face, gleaming with sweat from the steaming water.
"Shiryu," Mu said, turning sideways in his pool to demonstrate, "you must first breathe on it." He opened his mouth and exhaled strongly to warm and slightly melt the handful of snow he held. "Then pinch it into mountains, thus." He held out his hand toward Shiryu. "Now it can be eaten."
Silence, sudden and complete. Shiryu was eying him.
. . . . Choose wisely: one way is paradise, the other destruction.
Mu pulled his hand back and under the water of his pool; the lump of snow sprang optimistically to the surface, then spun as it became a transparent sliver and melted away. "I think," he said, "It's time to go back." He dismissed his Crystal Wall from the top of the canyon and climbed out of the pool into harshly-shadowed moonlight.
They didn't speak as they dried themselves and dressed, Mu carefully keeping his eyes focused on a shadow halfway up the canyon wall.
At Shiryu's quiet "Ready" Mu pointed to send him on ahead, then flicked himself to the third floor of the spire and his dark bedroom.
He couldn't sleep.
It had nothing to do with his bed — temporarily reduced to just a kaden rug with a folded cloak as a pillow — or with the cold wind that blew steadily through the room hunting for warmth: after all, he was used to discomfort. It didn't even have to do with his empty stomach: after all, he'd fasted before. It was thinking about why he couldn't sleep that was keeping him awake. Already it feels like an amputation that Shiryu is not here next to me.
There was a tiny sound, almost lost in the whistle of the wind. A crunch of gravel outside, then an almost imperceptible vibration as Shiryu — for who else could it be? — jumped up to the second-floor balcony.
"Mu?" he called from the workshop on the floor below. "Mu?"
Above him, Mu waited. Shiryu jumped up again and pulled himself onto the third floor ledge. He peered through the window. "Mu?"
"What do you need?"
After a pause Shiryu said, "The kitchen is a much warmer place to sleep."
Mu teleported them downstairs. The dumplings, eaten by lamplight, tasted good cold.
Once the plates were empty, it seemed that they could not bring themselves to move from the table. Finally Shiryu cleared his throat, obviously with something to say. "As I grew up and trained in Rozan," he began, sounding oddly formal as though he'd rehearsed his words, "from time to time I sensed a spirit on the cliffs, watching us. Shunrei always believed that it was a guardian angel. For myself," he gave a little laugh, "I came to picture a creature with long flowing hair and wings, golden armor, and a sword. Like Shunrei's Christian angel, but combined also with Ho Hsein Ku and the sculptures of Amazons and goddesses I saw as a child."
Mu nodded, his spine prickling.
"While you were working on my Cloth," Shiryu continued, "I was amazed to sense that presence again, all around me, even inside me, and much stronger than ever before. When I went up to your workshop I realized that it was coming from you. That you have the same energy — the same cosmo."
Shiryu stopped to look down at his hands, clasped and tense. "I had not recognized it when you were recovering at Roshi's that summer but — you are that guardian, aren't you?"
Mu knew he should not admit it, and yet he nodded.
"I sensed it since I arrived here, but the idea was so unexpected and strange that it confused me." Shiryu swallowed audibly, then asked, "At the spring — I noticed — when you were — that you aren't — what are you, Mu? Are you male, or female, or incarnate spirit?"
Yes, what am I? Mu asked himself. A lonely, cowardly hermit? A self-deceiving fool? A Gold Saint without a Cloth, without a purpose? Or just the student of Shion, who loves the student of Dohko?
"A simple healer of humans and Cloths," he finally said.
"No, you're more than that."
"I am not the heroic mountain spirit you imagined, Shiryu."
"Oh," Shiryu said softly, in mock disappointment, "Next you'll say you have no golden armor or sword, and all my childhood visions will be shattered."
"No," Mu said, "I have no golden sword."
Shiryu put his hand tentatively on Mu's arm. "Mu, I owe you so much — "
"No," Mu said, interrupting him, "you earned the right to have your Cloth repaired."
"Mu, I understand that, but I — ." He stopped, then said firmly, "I love Shunrei, but I also know that here, in this place, on this night, if you will permit me, I want to — be near your warmth."
"I told you, you have no obligation to me," Mu said, but at Shiryu's somber expression, he added, "But I do have — warmth. It would be an honor to share it with you for another night."
As they slid under the kaden, Mu found himself solemnly weighing whether or not to lay facing Shiryu. He compromised and lay on his back, laughing silently to think that some decisions would be much simpler once Shiryu was gone.
"Thank you, Mu," Shiryu said as he slid into the bed. He lay on his side, close to Mu but not touching him, his arms crossed over his chest. Within moments the long day and the relaxing hot springs took their toll and he was asleep. Not long afterwards, however, he settled closer, and his hand moved across the kaden until it was curved around the side of Mu's neck.
"Kalos, eromenos," Mu whispered, weaving his fingers through the glossy hair and drifting off to sleep himself.
Just as light is defined by shadow, sweetness is defined by the existence of bitterness. Mu's first thought in the morning was of how few hours were left before he had to take Shiryu to battle the Ankoku.
He turned his head to find the Bronze Saint studying his face. For a moment nothing existed except those calm eyes, this morning the gray-green of a windswept lake.
"Good morning," Mu said.
Shiryu pulled a hand from beneath the kaden and touched his fingers to the dots on Mu's forehead, then rolled away and rose from the bed.
Mu felt an unexpected spark of anger but then banished it. Wasn't it foolish to reject what was given just because it was not more?
They splashed their faces with water and went out into the Himalayan dawn. Had there ever been a morning with light so pure, with a vaster sky, with winds more temperate. Mu stood behind and to the side of Shiryu as the Bronze Saint took the Commencement stance, and together they began the opening movements of Tai Chi. They were as synchronized as mirror reflections and Mu felt their cosmos communing, the energy flowing between them as it had when he'd repaired the Cloth. Shiryu seemed unaware of this deep connection - or else he was choosing to ignore it.
When they finished they had a light breakfast, sharing the last few apricots that Kiki had bought. Shiryu seemed quite interested in the surface of the table as he ate. Mu forced himself to put aside the question he wanted to ask, as it seemed that some of the awkwardness between them had returned. As soon as Shiryu was done eating he went back outside, and Mu went up to the workshop.
It didn't seem as though much of his blood had fallen on the Cloth, although there was plenty on the floor around. He prolonged the unnecessary task of polishing the assembled Cloth and its Box as much as possible, keeping his mind entirely still. Finally he came to a decision: his previous idea would be best after all. He would take Shiryu to Kiki today and let the two of them complete the journey. It was too painful to be together and yet not-together.
He went to the doorway of the workshop with his mouth opened to speak and found the teen looking up at him, shirtless and panting. "Come down Mu, and throw some rocks at me!" Shiryu called in mock challenge, sounding almost playful.
It was not a face to be resisted.
After giving Shiryu some gauntlets and boots to protect his fists and feet, Mu tossed boulders and Shiryu smashed or dodged them. It was - well, it was fun, and the hours flew by in an eyeblink. As they came in for lunch Mu handed Shiryu a towel, then ladled melted snow into a large enameled tin mug. "So does it feel as though the yarsa kumba is out of your system?" Mu asked carefully. "Are you still feeling the side effects?" This was what he had wanted to ask that morning — the only way he dared to ask the question he really wanted answered: Do you feel the affinity to me that I feel to you?
"No, it wore off sometime yesterday," Shiryu said, toweling briskly and momentarily filling the air with the scent of clean sweat. "While you were working on my Cloth. I have not felt its influence for many hours now."
But as Shiryu took the tin mug Mu felt as though there was a different answer coming from Shiryu's cosmo: Yes.
The day ran too fast, an avalanche of time. In the late afternoon Shiryu suddenly ran out of energy and Mu pointed out that his blood pressure was probably still low because he hadn't replenished all of his lost blood yet. Grumpily, Shiryu agreed to a brief rest, and Mu sat and watched him sleep, as he had before.
It crossed his mind to go and talk to Roshi — but what would he say? What would he ask? For permission of some sort? Mu smiled. No, Shiryu was hardly a daughter whose hand Mu could ask for in marriage. And after all, despite his intuitions, he was unsure if Shiryu had any feelings for him other than respect. It seemed that Mu must content himself with a noble friendship. An ideal love, untainted by earthly desires.
Earthly desires. Mu found himself staring at Shiryu's mouth, the faint pulse in the hollow of his throat, the shape of his Adam's apple. Humans had such complex and amazing bodes. So beautiful ...
He got up suddenly. He would start the evening meal. Shiryu would be quite hungry, he'd worked hard today to chase the stiffness from his muscles. It required something hearty, filling, to give him plenty of energy for tomorrow. Mu started a stew with the remainder of the dried meat.
When he turned to set the table he saw the towel, forgotten on the seat of the chair since lunchtime. He picked it up. It was still slightly damp. In a daze he held it to his face .. the masculine smell, faintly acrid, made him feel odd. Restless and irritable, compelled with a rising insistence toward action.
Mu closed his eyes and flicked away to the tall cliffs over the salt marsh of the Chang Tang. After an hour of diving, feeling in control of himself again, he returned to the spire.
: II :
"I think it's ready," Shiryu said, stirring the stew. He had washed up and changed, wearing dark pants and the red jacket he had declined several days before instead of a shirt. "Where did you go?" he asked conversationally.
Mu told him, though he omitted the reason.
"It sounds like a beautiful place," Shiryu said, tearing flat bread into pieces. "Perhaps I can return here and see it some day."
"Do you want to go now?" As soon as he had spoke Mu bit his tongue.
Shiryu looked up, surprised. "Yes."
And so, we step onto this path to the unknown destination. "Stand up, and pick up both bowls."
A bit puzzled, Shiryu did so. Mu took up the spoons in one hand, some flatbread in the other, then walked around the table and stood behind Shiryu. "Ready?"
At the nod, he stepped forward, put his arms around Shiryu's shoulders, and flicked them to the cliff top a thousand meters in the air.
Shiryu's gasp and slight stagger were quite gratifying. Below them, the sunset had turned the miles of salt marsh into a glittering sheet of flame; above them, the dome of the sky seemed vast, the dark eastern edge already dusted with stars.
They sat at the cliff's edge in silence, eating the stew and watching tiny black specks that were probably cranes soar over the water below. "I thought that your house was the perfect place to meditate, but this surpasses even that," Shiryu said solemnly.
"I suppose so," Mu replied.
"You don't come here to meditate?" Shiryu asked, surprised.
"No," Mu said, savoring the shock he was about to deliver, "I come here to jump."
"To jump?" Shiryu's wide-eyed reaction at this was, as expected, even more gratifying than their arrival at the cliff top had been.
"Yes." Mu stood, dusted the crumbs from his hands. "I'll show you." Without waiting for Shiryu's answer he dived out and away from the edge of the cliff.
When he teleported back to the top he found Shiryu on his hands and knees, peering over the side. He scrambled around as Mu re-appeared, almost losing his balance. "That was …. unbelievable! How close to — ?"
Mu shrugged happily. "A few meters."
"What is it like?" Shiryu asked, his eyes shining.
"It's..." Mu had nothing to compare it to. "I'm sorry, I cannot describe it."
"Do you think," Shiryu began, "Do you think you could do it with me?"
"The height wouldn't bother you?"
Shiryu shook his head. "What you did was — it looked like flying."
"Alright." Mu stood behind him. "On the count of three, we must jump together, or else we'll fall like a stone."
Shiryu nodded, and held his arms out slightly. He was breathing fast, in excitement.
Mu stepped close. He put one arm around Shiryu's waist — his hand slid inside the open jacket across warm, muscled skin — and the other across Shiryu's chest, under his arms. They shuffled to the very edge of the cliff.
"One," Mu said, tightening his hold. "Two." He bent his knees slightly, preparing to spring, and Shiryu quickly imitated him. "Three!"
They jumped. As they fell through the thin air toward the fiery water Shiryu shouted in wild joy, his arms held out to the sides, his hair streaming back along Mu's face like ebony fire, and Mu finally knew what it would have been like to have a friend to play with.
They jumped several more times as the sun set. As Shiryu showed no fear, Mu waited just a bit longer each time until he flicked back to the cliff top. The ninth time they jumped, the rocks came so close that Mu returned to the spire by instinct.
"Oh," said Shiryu breathlessly as he noticed that they weren't on the cliff. "We forgot the bowls."
"Tomorrow," Mu murmured, not relinquishing his hold. His head was bent over Shiryu's shoulder, his lips almost touching the other Saint.
And then, to his astonishment Shiryu relaxed back against him, and put his hand on the arm that circled his waist. A warm glow spread out from the small of Mu's back, and a supreme sense of fulfillment. This, he thought yes, this is what Shion meant.
Mu had returned from training upset and gone to one of Sanctuary's underground storeroom to rage. He had barely begun to unbuckle his anger on some old crates when he felt Shion's summons, and trudged upstairs to the study.
Shion sat behind his massive desk, an old inlaid box open before him. "Your cosmo rattled the bookcases as you came in, Mu," he teased, pointing to the glass-fronted shelves. His demeanor was unusually gentle. "What has happened?" At Mu's sullen shrug he added simply, "Tell me."
Mu hesitated, then said, "It's of no importance, Master."
Shion folded his hands and waited, one corner of his mouth lifted very slightly.
"Milo said that Aldebaraan was my friend, but then — someone else said that Aldebaraan was a, that it was — that it was cow's love. He meant it as an insult. He said it was clumsy and shameful."
Shion's expression was suddenly melancholy. He didn't ask who had made the comment. After a moment he reached over and took what looked like a bundle of sable bristles from the box on his desk, studied them for a few seconds, then stroked the bent, ragged hairs against his lips. His eyes closed for a moment, and then he spoke.
"True friends use the word 'love' without shame, Mu, for a friend can be the missing half of one's soul."
Friends? Love? Shame? A missing piece of one's self? Mu had never heard Shion talk about such things.
"I have such a friend," Shion continued, looking over at the fire, his half-closed lids hiding his eyes. "Life and duty separated us long ago, but we have continued to meet on the level of cosmos. Where words are neither possible nor necessary."
Mu held his breath, afraid to break the spell. He watched Shion's brooding face, and when the old man finally blinked he could see the reflection of the leaping firelight in his shining eyes.
It wasn't until years later that Mu realized that it might have been the gleam of tears. He had been given a glimpse of his Master not as the aloof, self-disciplined, almost superhuman presence that he adored and half-feared, but as someone with deep emotions and a personal life completely unknown to him. That night he had seen not Shion the teacher, or Shion the Holy Father, but Shion the man.
The seven-year old Mu did not realize this, of course, but he had been aware that his Master was very unhappy at that moment. "Are you sad because you can't be with your friend?" he had finally dared to ask, "That you can't talk or go places together?"
Shion looked down, lost in thought as he drew the brush through his fingers. No, not a brush — a lock of dark reddish-brown hair. Tied with red thread.
"Life brings mostly sadness and suffering, Mu," Shion said finally. "Joy is rare. Every kind of love brings pain."
Emboldened to be addressed so seriously, as if he was an adult, Mu said, "Shaka says that desire and fear of death cause pain, and must be transcended through the Eightfold Path in order to eliminate suffering."
"Shaka is correct," Shion replied with some asperity, "but his is the narrow path which very few can follow. Most of us cannot climb a step that is not there."
"I don't understand, Master."
"Mu, it is no great accomplishment to sacrifice the bitter and empty parts of one's life. But to renounce the greatest sweetness — " Shion laid the lock of hair back in the box, touched it with his fingertips. "Cherish what joy you find, Mu, whenever and wherever you find it. Friendship, beauty, laughter — they are sapphires in the mud of our existence. Treasure them. And should you be offered the magnificent agony of love, accept it. Embrace it with all your being, even if only for a short time. Even if only for a single night."
Then Shion closed the lid of the box and motioned for Mu to go. "Don't destroy the crates in the cellar: they're still of use. But I think there are some damaged ones by the refectory woodpile."
He never spoke of friendship or love again. Within the month he was dead.
: III :
Mu squeezed his eyes shut, against the memory of Shion, against the realization that what he was experiencing, magnificent and agonizing, was what Shion had meant by the love between two friends, the feeling of having found the other half of one's soul. When something so precious could be so easily lost, the moment had to be treasured.
And it was foolish to reject what was given just because it was not more.
Long minutes passed before Shiryu gently pulled Mu's arms away. "Thank you, Mu," he said, the twilight and his long hair hiding his face as he stepped to the table and gripped the back of a chair. "I have never experienced anything like that." It wasn't clear whether he meant the cliff-jumping or the embrace, but Mu realized that it didn't matter.
Since they had already eaten, there was nothing more to do but go to sleep. They washed up in silence, then Shiryu slid into the bed next to him as if he had always been there. As if he always would be there.
But of course, he wouldn't.
Mu wanted to pull Shiryu close, to touch him again.
But of course, he couldn't.
"I want to get an early start," he said evenly, "so that you can arrive and prepare yourself before the enemy arrives." When there was no response, he said, "Goodnight, Shiryu."
But Shiryu apparently was not ready to sleep. "Mu, other than Kiki I have never seen any others like you. Where are the rest of your people?"
Mu realized that he didn't care what they talked about. as long as he could hear Shiryu's voice. "There are very few of us, mostly hidden. For the last several hundred years there has been a disease that strikes down most of our infants, so all fertile males and females store their seed. Kiki probably survived because he and I both inherited immunity from our donors."
"The male and female whose physical legacy we carry."
"Your parents, you mean?"
"Yes, although I don't know who they are."
"How is that possible? Are you also an orphan, as I am?"
"I don't know. Once it was seen that I would survive, I was given to a very old Master to raise."
"The man who liked fried green onion dumplings?" Shiryu asked. It seemed that he moved a fraction of an inch closer to Mu.
"What happened to him?"
Mu paused. "He died when I was seven."
"And then what?"
"And then I came here."
"No, alone?" Shiryu sounded disbelieving. "How did you survive? How did you even know of this place?"
"I had been here before, with my Master. And we both knew Roshi of the Five Peaks."
"And you lived here by yourself?"
"Until Kiki came."
"How lonely you must have been." Shiryu sounded almost sad. "Why didn't you visit us in Rozan? We were always so happy to see visitors."
Mu had no answer that he could give. "I don't know."
"Well, please come the next time I'm there. Shunrei will be amazed to know I finally met the guardian angel."
And then, on this last night together, Shiryu moved closer to him before he fell asleep.
: III :
Too soon, it was almost dawn.
They rose without speaking. Shiryu shook his head at food, taking only a few sips of water. Mu brought the Cloth Box out of the workshop. "It will be easier to carry an empty Box."
Shiryu nodded, and just as the sun cleared the eastern peaks he called the Dragon Cloth to him, almost blissful as the pieces flew onto his body. The boy who had shouted as they jumped off the cliff the night before was gone; this was a soldier, a Saint of Athena. "And I'll be ready to fight as soon as I get there," he said resolutely, hoisting the Cloth box onto his back. "Let's go, Mu."
Mu Listened for Kiki, then homed in on a small cave. A knapsack and bedroll were inside, but the bouncy redhead wasn't.
Shiryu knelt and felt the bedroll. "Still warm."
"He's nearby," Mu said. "I don't sense Seiya's or anyone else's cosmo yet."
They stood at the cave entrance, suddenly without words. Mu couldn't bring himself to look at Shiryu, knowing that in a matter of hours he could be dead. A small part of him still wanted to prevent Shiryu from fighting, but most of him understood that being a Saint was the single most important thing in Shiryu's life. To prevent — or even suggest — that he not carry out his duty would be a blow against his very essence.
"Is something wrong, Mu?" Shiryu stepped close.
"You must make sure to remember," Mu said, keeping his eyes forward, "What I told you about blood loss. Even a minor injury could be fatal to you, as I don't think your blood has fully replenished."
"I will be careful, but I will win," Shiryu said with conviction, "because I know we will meet again." He put his hand on Mu's shoulder. "I wanted to ask you about Kiki. After the battle, do you mind if he visits with me for a while? In Japan? I know my friends would enjoy meeting him."
"Of course," Mu said, still looking out into the distance. "I'm sure that Kiki would like that. I can see how strongly he became attached to you, even in such a short time." How could he have not?
Shiryu studied Mu's profile and stiff posture for a moment, then stepped in front of the older Saint so that he could look him in the eye. "Mu, I owe far more than I can ever repay."
"No, Shiryu," Mu shook his head, but met his gaze. "It is I who is indebted to you. In the last few days, you have taught me what dedication looks like, and loyalty, and friendship, and courage. You set a standard that would be inspiring to many."
"Is that all?" Shiryu laughed uneasily and looked down at his feet, a faint blush flashing across his face. "Who knew I could accomplish so much by sleeping?" He looked up, a serious glint in his eyes. "Mu, I ... " he began. His cosmo flowed toward Mu's, feathery waves comforting a desolate shore.
Mu felt as if a sword ran through his heart then, and held up his hand. "No more talk, Shiryu." His mouth was dry. "I Hear the cosmos of several Saints approaching. One of them is your friend Seiya. Kiki is already hurrying to meet him." He pointed. "You have a duty to fulfill. Go. They need you."
"Yes." Shiryu said, then turned and walked off into the mist.
Author's Notes (Contains spoilers!)
Although I've attempted to stay as close to canon as possible, I have felt free to invent in those areas where it seems canon has little or nothing to say (more on these in the Author's Notes).
Thanks to GameFAQ regulars (and especially those who post in the St Seiya Legendary Q&A topics) first and foremost musouka and Dragon Shiryu, but also aerith, Evangelist, foco, and Jonoleth Irenicus, for answering scores of questions so patiently. Any errors in this fic are due to faulty understanding on my part.
The Prologue of this fic has since been revised and expanded into a fic called "Legacy."
The genesis of this fic was speculation about why Mu left Sanctuary, and why he went back. Originally it was to have been simply a retelling of episides 10-11, and involve only Mu, Shiryu and Kiki: however, it's grown a bit since the first conception, mostly as a result of speculation about Mu and Shion in general, and specifically about the deep friendship between Shion and Dohko seen so briefly at the end of episode 13 of the Hades OVA.
Although I've attempted to stay as close to canon as possible, I have also felt free to invent in those areas where it seems canon has little or nothing to say. Thanks to GameFAQ regulars (and especially those who post in the St Seiya Legendary Q&A topics) first and foremost musouka and Dragon Shiryu (to whom this fic is dedicated) but also aerith, Evangelist, foco, and Jonoleth Irenicus among others, for answering scores of questions about canon so patiently. Any errors in this fic are due to faulty understanding on my part.
Thank you to whoever suggested "Valentino" (from which I derived Valin) as a name for the young Deathmask. I will remember who you are, someday, and thank you properly!
The information on Tibet in this story comes from three main sources: Tibet, by Bobbie Kalman; Tibet: Enchantment of the World, by Patricia Kummer, and Tibet: Enchantment of the World, by Anne Heinrichs.
Thank you to GameFAQ regulars for sharing knowledge and being so patient with such a Saint Seiya n00b as myself. Special thanks to Dragon Shiryu for the cloth diagram, Aerith for a key detail, and of course musouka for too many things to mention, not the least of which is encouraging the author by applauding early drafts of snippets, and pointing out some simply spectacular Japanese fanart sites.
Almost everything to do with Shion and with Mu's childhood, training, and life in Jamir is speculation, but hopefully it's both plausible and entertaining. (There is, of course, more to come.)
According to my reference books, in Tibet, tujaychay means Thank you.
Roshi's reference to three Gold Saints on their way to see Mu is a nod to Champion Red's Episode G, which is telling stories about the Gold Saints as 14-year olds.
I didn't mention Ohko when Roshi tells Mu he's getting "a" student, or when Mu observes the training at Rozan. Ohko, interesting as he is, is filler.
Since Roshi's insides are running at Misopesaminos speed, I figured he'd actually need to eat once every 4 months. I didn't mention breathing because we did some timings, we did some math, and decided that its a big paradox, since at that speed Roshi couldn't speak to normal speed humans. (Yes, some of us speculated on other body functions as well. Handy if you're handling all three shifts of the Watch.)
Shiryu removing his jacket instead of exploding out of it isn't a mistake, it a sort of lame in-joke.
I kept almost all of the dialog from the subs, editing here and there and interspersing my own extras. I took a few liberties — for example, in the anime Shiryu uses the edges of his hands to slit his wrists, and here I had him slice open his forearms with a shard of rock — but other than that I tried to keep the "stage directions" as well.
For the state of the Cloths I went by manga chapters 12 and 15, where the Cloths are "dying" instead of dead.
According to the books I read, the predominant religion in Tibet is Buddhism. Compassion is the highest virtue, and Chenresi is the Bodhisattva of Compassion. Dolma/Tara, the female Bodhisattva of Compassion, is Tibet's protective Goddess. Some Tibetans also practice Bön, which is an ancient animistic religion that practices shamanism and worships mountaintop spirits.
Animals of western Tibet include the pika (a small rodent), black-necked cranes (in lakes and swamps), chirus (antelope), argali (wild sheep), and kiangs (wild asses).
In the anime, Kiki expresses surprise in episode 39 when it's revealed that Mu is a Gold Saint. Apparently this does not happen in the manga... and I'm not yet sure if the manga has Kiki in line to be the next Aries Saint - so I revised this chapter to sidestep the issue.
"Sapphires in the mud"
The phrase "sapphires in the mud" (and the sentiment expressed) is from Walter Kaufmann's translation of Nietzsche's Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft. For what it's worth, Shion is expressing my own life philosophy.
Red Destiny thread
I've heard a lot about "the red destiny thread" idea … when I googled it I came up with a beautifully written explanation in a Stargate fic by Blue Topaz. An excerpt from chapter 2 (used with permission of the author):
"Back on earth, Chinese people believe that when a child was born, invisible red threads reached out from the child's spirit and connect to all the important people who will enter the child's life. As time passed, the threads shorten, bringing the child closer to those peoples. The red threads may knot up and twist, but they will never break. So, it doesn't matter how further apart those people are, as long as the thread connect them, they will meet again. Even if they were separated, in time they will get together again…. The thread are so strong, no weapons or death can break it."
Yak butter tea
According to my reference books, this national drink of Tibet is churned from strong black tea, yak butter and salt. I'm thinking it's like salted latte, or maybe more like a cream soup? … OK, I just can't imagine what it tastes like! but I hope to try it some day.
A small treat I gave myself when I needed a city in India. It's a reference to one of my favorite scenes from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
The only two pieces of information that seem sure are 1) that it takes Shiryu three days to get from Japan to Jamir, and 2) that the letter Ikki sends to Seiya sets the location of the showdown (on Mt Fuji in the manga: the wackysubs say Murder Valley in the Alps) in "a week" — though it's not clear if it's a week from the time the letter was written or received. There's also no way to know when Seiya received the letter in relation to Shiryu's departure. It seems that he got the letter after the nightmare, and the nightmare corresponded to Shiryu's blood-sacrifice.… So, depending on how you want to interpret it, the battle could be as FEW as three or four days after Shiryu left (leaving Shiryu only one day to recover), or as LONG as 10 or 11 days. I of course tend more toward the latter view, to give Shiryu almost a week at Mu's and to give Kiki several days to teleport to the battleground (the location of which I tried not to be specific about).
I'm not sure where I got the idea from that the "dotheads" — Shion, Mu and Kiki — are from Atlantis or Lemuria, but given Shion's lifespan it doesn't seem as though they are completely human. (I do intend to explore this in future fics, so if I'm wrong feel free to e-mail me before I violate canon.)
The legendary Shangri-La had many things in common with Atlantis — one of which is an increased lifespan — and since Shangri-La was said to be in the Himalayas, it seems apt for the two "Atlanteans" to live In Tibet.
Shiquanhe and more things Tibetan
I have no idea if what I said about Shiquanhe is accurate — it's all based on looking at pictures in the kid's books that I got from the library. I picked Shiquanhe because it was one of the few cities on the map in the book, so I assumed it must be a larger city.
A yuan is the Tibetan currency: 8.28 yuan 1. (There are 50 and 100 Yuan notes).
Jigme is a man or woman's name.
Traditional Tibetan garb for men is a loose shirt and pants, over which is the chuba, a sheepskin or wool cloak slung loosely over the shoulder and tied at the waist. Sound familiar?
At the time this story takes place — theoretically 1986, right? — Tibet probably didn't have much telephone service. By 1998, 74 of 78 provinces/counties had phones, mostly in businesses, government offices, and hotels. By 2000, satellites provided cellular service to over 57,000 people.
Technically Mu is not a "rinpoche" — a word that translates to Revered Teacher — but the Tibetan dictionary was off-line and so I couldn't look up the equivalent to healer or to the Japanese "-sama" honorific.
I sincerely hope I'm not boring you all with all this Tibetan detail, but the more I find out about Tibet the more fitting it seems to me that Mu is "from" there.
Jigme's friend Ramanajuan Bell in this story is my tribute to Srnivasa Ramanujan (1893-1925) a mathematical prodigy who came from a poor section of Madras. Without formal training, he created his own system of mathematics (including notation) which he sent to G.H. Hardy, one of the most prominent mathematicians of the day, for evaluation. Recognizing his genius, Hardy brought Ramanujan to Cambridge, where the devout Hindu died tragically young at 32. The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel is an excellent biography of this astounding person. It's been said, "What Mozart was to music and Einstein was to physics, Ramanujan was to math..." 75 years later his work is still being studied and decoded.
Heartfelt thanks to my betas musouka and Dark Sinistra for rescuing this chapter and the next from certain awfulness.
Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan
Ah, the Internet. I know almost nothing about Tai Chi, but it did seem like something Shiryu would do. I was rather overwhelmed by the number of styles and schools, but waded in and boldly seized. After all, how could I resist a movement called "Wild Horse Shakes Its Mane"?
Yarsa Kumba Scientific name is Cordyceps Sinensis
Note that one of the uses is to cure impotence. This would probably more translate to general vascular effects (i.e., prolonged tumescence) rather than acting as a mild aphrodisiac, so I left it rather open-ended. And of course, I like to think that it's not just the herb ( well, fungus actually) that's causing Shiryu's interest . . .
Occasus is part of an alternate anatomy I've invented for the dot-heads. The occasus is located at the small of the back, over the second chakra, which presides over sexual energy. Nuff said?
From . (remove spaces)
They were made of orichalcum, a metal which, according to a Selenian legend, came from a meteor fallen from Saturn and crashed on Atlantis a long time ago ; anyone who used weapons made from this metal was then invincible. War bursts out. Athena's warriors are soon beaten, as the goddess refuses to allow them to use weapons. All her warriors dying one by one, only young boys are left to rescue the world (in remembrance of this fact, only teenagers are allowed to become Saints)... Athena does not want to see them suffer, and decides to give them armors... She calls then on the alchemists from the Mu continent, which is located in the middle of the Pacific ocean (yes, that's right, Tao, in " Taiyou no ko Esteban ", comes from this very wise people), to forge these Cloths (so are the Saints' armors named). She designs them herself, inspired by the shape she saw in each of the 88 constellations. A Saint has thus to be in harmony with the constellation that inspired his armor to be allowed to wear it ; in other words, he must be protected by this constellation's main star. No one could therefore wear a gold cloth that does not match his own zodiacal sign...it is real luck that Seiya is a Sagittarius, just like Aiolos, his spiritual master.
These Cloths were made from Orichalcum too, but also from gammanium (an unknown alloy) and from Star Dust, which contains the Big Will and gives life to the Cloths...Mu, the Aries Saint, used twice this dust to strengthen the Bronze Saints' Cloths (when he met Shiryu, and when they arrived at the Sanctuary). Mu and Kiki are the last descendants of the people of Mu... This mythical continent was engulfed a long time ago during another Holy War, which opposed the Saints to the Titans, beings who caused the Big Bang, and who came on Earth probably by Hades' will.
The Cloths' power depends on their category (there are 12 Gold Cloths, 24 Silver cloths, 48 Bronze Cloths and 4 from unknown origin, Masami Kurumada having not exploited this feature). They can regenerate by themselves when they are damaged. Their healing is quicker if they stay in their Cloth Box, a big metal box that the Saints carry on their backs
The end … maybe
This is where I planned to end the fic originally.
However, as I wrote I began to assemble material (and insert foreshadowing) for two more chapters - Chapter 8, set entirely at Rozan, covering (among other things) Shiryu's blindness and the appearance of Mu at the waterfall at just the right time. Chapter 9 would be set in Sanctuary, and covers Mu's return there and the beginning of the Bronze Saints battles. There's also an Epilogue planned, which takes place after 12 Temples. If you think the story would benefit from additional chapters, email me or let me know in your review.
Dumplings and dotheads
Yes, Female Heero Yuy, the dumplings are for you though not quite what you requested. (and hey, Mu does cook but it's rather low-key.) And as for everything else you said in your review of Chapter 6, well, then consider this AU, OK? It suits me to give the dotheads a slightly non-human physiology (see the note that follows) and perspective. I have seen Hades (otherwise I wouldn't be writing about Shion at all) and in fact that moment between Shion and Dohko in ep 13 is what made me fall entirely in love with those two and the story of their friendship (talk about Grand Tragedy and angst!) which I did weave quite freely throughout this work.
Tegimen and occasus
A big thank you to Imbrium of the Kyokou Geemu forum, who gave me such delicious Latin words for the dothead anatomy I'm inventing:
"There's also tegimen and tergum, which are defined as "shield", though they seem to stem from a word I've seen used for "covering" ... And - because this is too fantastic not to mention. Tegimen means covering, of the shield, and apparently, even 'vault of heaven". Tergum, however, has shield as a secondary meaning, the primary having to do with backs, or the "hind end of animals" as well as with leather... Occasus - literally "sunset" …, but as such, all the metaphorical meanings of sunset apply - death, destruction, etc. Lit., a going down, setting, of the heavenly bodies; esp. of the sun."
And, er, in case you missed it due to my being overly-subtle - My version of Mu has no visible "bits": they're concealed under the tegimen.You'll find out how they come out ... in "Gold Hussy" ...
Ho Hsein Ku
One of the Immortals of Chinese myth, and the only woman.
Eromenos and Kalos
from Crompton's massive yet readable Homosexuality and Civilization:
"The ancient Greeks had no word that corresponded to our word "homosexual." Paiderastia, the closest they came to it, meant literally "boy love," that is, a relation between an older male and someone younger, usually a youth between the ages of 14 and 20. The older may was called the erastes or lover. Ideally, it was his duty to be the boy's teacher and protector and serve as a model of courage, virtue and wisdom to his beloved, or eromenos, whose attraction lay in his beauty, his youth, and his promise of future moral, intellectual and physical excellence."
This "Greek love" didn't necessarily involve complete physical consummation of the YAOI sort, but most likely had some erotic or sensuous elements ... which I sort of tried to capture here.
Kalos is Greek for "beautiful."
Taking Shiryu back
The anime left it open, except to show that Kiki was surprised to see Shiryu.
Fun fact: In the manga, Mu transports Shiryu to the battle in a lead coffin.
Prologue: 2003.11.15 first post rev g 18 Aug 2002
Chapter 1: 2003.11.26 first posted draft 1d; rev L 2004.01.31 unformatted, and revised due to actually seeing Star Hill in ep 71 of the anime. Dang!
chapter 2: 2003.12.15 first posting 2004.01.14 AK! Edit, because Mu's cloth is in the mountains.
chapter 3: 2003.12.26 first post 2004.1.14 rev g. Because Kiki didn't know Mu was a GS.
chapter 4 2004.01.29 first post 2004.02.16 rev e in which I throw caution to the winds a month later. After all, it's my story.
chapter 5 .2004.02.21 first post 2004.04.20 rev 1b a few small errors, a typo, and a fine-tune.
chapter 6 first post 27 April 2004..(6b)
chapter 7 first post 23 May 2004; rev c 25 May)
(48) 21 October 05
~ If you liked this story, please let me know! ~
(49) 26 June 2008