Disclaimer : I wont write them, you know them better than I. The Characters of Saint Seiya don't belong to me (I wish they did). I only borrow them for some fun and I swear to give them back relatively unharmed.

Obviously, English is not my maternal language. Yet I did my best and together with split-persona who did a wonderful job betaing the new, improved version, it shouldn't be that bad.

I hope you have some fun reading it.

PRICE OF A FRIEND

It had been three weeks since Shun had disappeared. Three long weeks of waiting for any eventual news as to his whereabouts. Three weeks, by the end of which the Saints of Athena were restless with worry and uncertainty.

Just as it was the case right then. Ikki was pacing Saori's Salon, where they had gathered to await news from Shiryu, who was investigating in Russia.

The phoenix Saint had just endured the most horrendously anxious three weeks in his life. He had been unable to cope, because it had been that day only moments before the attack that he had been out in the forest, talking carelessly to his brother.

He felt responsible somehow. He should have seen the assailants, or at least felt something, before the shooting noise and the stinging pain, when the bullet hit him in the back, but the attacker had possessed no Cosmo. Shun must gave been hit at exactly the same time as him, rendered just as helpless, as the tranquilizer entered his system.

Ikki had fought the drowsing effect of the substance, instantly realizing that the bullets were not meant to kill, and had managed to stay conscious long enough to hear the attackers approach. He hadn't seen anyone, since he had fallen forwards on his face, his body refusing to move even one muscle by then. But at least he had heard them exchanging words to one another. And even if he had not understood their words, he had been certain that he had heard them talking in Russian, which had given them at least a bit of a trace.

When he had regained consciousness again, Shun was gone. Ikki had been out only for a few minutes, his constitution as a Saint fighting the tranquilizer fast. But it had been enough time for his brother to be kidnapped.

The phoenix Saint had returned to Athena and she had instantly put everything in motion to find out what had happened to the youngest of her Saints.

Yet, despite all her money and connections around the whole world, Saori Kido had only recently discovered the probable origin of the attackers.

It seemed as if Shun had been followed for quite some time before the attack. Somebody had tried to get as much information as possible about the Saints, especially Shun, and Saori's Corporation. They had been careful not to leave any trace, but Saori had the money and the connections to get the needed information anyway, even if it took more time than she'd thought.

Those connections had gathered the information that all lines appeared to tie up in the north east of Russia, in a small shut-off kingdom and it's young queen.

The very moment Saori and the Saints had found out this bit of information, Ikki had wanted to charge there and get his brother out, obviously with the necessary force. But the indications were more than weak and Athena had forbidden him to go. Not that he would have normally listened to her, mind, but she convinced him that his brother might be killed if he acted too foolishly. They needed to check out the situation first, she had told them, before they could attempt any rescue. In the end, Ikki grudgingly accepted to wait, knowing that the Dragon Saint, Shiryu - even if he were just as upset about Shun's disappearance as they - was able to keep a cool head, which was needed for such a delicate mission.

Hyoga had volunteered to go too, since he had no problems with the language, but Athena had refused as well, when she saw the icy look in his eyes. He was as much involved as Ikki. Shun was Hyoga's best friend and she knew that he would not just stand by and watch another one of his friends suffer or die.

"The operation needs a cool head, " she had said, "in order to eliminate any risk for Shun's life."

That the only one of the Saints, being able to keep his temper under the given circumstances would be Shiryu, needn't to be said. They all knew it but neither Hyoga nor Ikki liked that very much. Nevertheless, Athena had sent the Dragon Saint to check out the situation on his own before they all went in.

He had departed that morning and they all waited for news, which should have been coming any time.

Ikki was obviously furious and trying hard to hold back his anxiety by pacing the room, a glowing fire in his eyes. He was barely able to control his anxiousness and rage, clenching and unclenching his hands as he crossed the room over and over again.

Hyoga was standing at the window, his gaze lost in the dark night. His eyes hard and ice-cold and his lips pulled into a small line. He didn't tolerate his friends being hurt, and took it very personally, since the culprit seemed to be Russian just as he himself was.

Seiya was sitting on the couch, head propped back and staring at a spot on the ceiling, his whole body tense with helpless anger.

"Miss Kido?" a deep, well-known voice interrupted their thoughts.

"Yes Tatsumi?" Saori answered.

"You have a call from Russia in your office."

Seiya jumped up at those words and Ikki stopped pacing. Hyoga looked at her too and left his place at the window coming to stand at Seiya's side.

Saori nodded and left the room in direction to her office, followed by her Saints.

They entered the big room and Saori went to the huge conference table with the full-sized monitor on one wall.

"Do we have audio only?" she asked Tatsumi with a stern voice.

"No Miss. The transmission is video as well."

Saori closed her eyes for a moment to collect herself and let the three Saints gather around her before she pressed the ON button and the monitor came to life.

Ikki inhaled sharply as the Picture came into focus.

They saw a great, heavily decorated room, the kind that was often found within old castles. There were carpets and oil paintings on the wall opposite the Monitor. Heavy furniture of wood and satin adorned the part of the chamber they could see.

The monitor showed three people in the room. One of them was Shiryu, who had sad eyes with a sparkle of hate in them, which was absolutely untypical for him and scared the people present.

But it was the second person present, which took all their interest. Shun stood there, wearing traditional Russian clothing, head lowered and shoulders slump.

Beside him stood a petite brunette woman. Hyoga instantly recognized the traditional Russian style of the jewelry she wore. She held her head high and bore an arrogant look in her eyes.

As she spoke, it was with a heavy Russian accent.

"I am Natasha Karow, mistress of this place. Your Saint came here to defy me, Athena. I won't allow that happen."

"What have you done to my brother?" shouted Ikki.

"You have kidnapped one of my men," Saori answered in an angry voice. "You have defied us and you will give Shun back to us."

The woman laughed and looked at Saori on the other side of the monitor, as if she were no more than a nasty, bothersome bug.

"I don't think so, Athena. I know all about you and your Saints. I have studied everything there is to know about you and I have found the way to keep you under control. Shun will stay with me, for as long as he lives. I have granted him the honor to become my life-mate and serving my country by my side. You can be lucky that I will send you back your Dragon-Saint alive. But you will never come here again, or I will kill you. And don't think you can come here, without me noticing it. I have a woman with great mystical powers at my service, who put a magical barrier around my kingdom. I will feel every Cosmo penetrating my land."

"You think that is going to stop us?" Ikki spat furiously. "We don't care if you know about us, we'll fight any army you send us and we'll get Shun out. We Saints don't abandon one of our own."

"He's right," Seiya added. "Let him go now, and we might let you live."

"You have no chance to fight us and if you are as good informed as you claim, you should know this too," said Hyoga.

Her gaze went to the blond Saint and she addressed him a few words in Russian with a smirk.

Hyoga's stance didn't change, but he clenched his hands until the knuckles were white.

It was Shun who answered, his voice subdued and resigned.

"I'll stay here."

"WHAT? What the hell are you talking about Shun!" Ikki shouted.

Shiryu answered in a firm voice. "Natasha put bombs with nerve gas in different locations about Tokyo. She will make one of them go off, each time, we try to rescue Shun."

They all stared at her in horror.

"You bitch can't risk the life of thousands of innocent people!" Seiya burst out.

She just laughed. "Why not? It is your duty to protect mankind. It is the best way to keep you from coming here and doing stupid things. Oh, you can always search for the bombs. Unfortunately you don't know where, or even how many I hid. I will send you back the Dragon-Saint tomorrow morning. It will be the last time that any of you will penetrate my kingdom. If I feel any of your Cosmo energies here on my land again, innocent people will die. If you behave yourself, and forget about Shun they will never explode and I might even be willing to disarm them some time in the future.

"It is your choice."

With those words the screen turned black, as she ended the transmission.

They stayed speechless for a moment, staring with open mouths on the now black screen before Ikki exploded.

"Who does she think she is dealing with? We abandon none of our own. I'll go to her and kill her before she has any chance to detonate any bombe!"

Seiya nodded grimly. "You can count me in. I go with you."

Hyoga had his eyes closed, hands balled to fists and didn't say a word.

"Stop it right there!" Athena said in a firm voice. "I hate it as much as you do, but she is right, we can't risk innocent people's lives."

"You want us to just forget about my brother?" Ikki said defiantly.

Athena sighed, giving up some of her self-assured demeanor. "No, of course not, but we'll need a plan. All I ask of you, is to think before you act. Shun is in no immediate danger. We will get him, but we will do it right. We will not rush in provoking a war, in which innocents will die."

She looked at Ikki wit a stern expression on her face again. "I want you to promise me, that you will stay put until we have a plan. We will go on it carefully and slowly. Otherwise it will help nobody, least of all Shun. That counts for all of you, understood?"

Hyoga looked at her sadly, but nodded.

Seiya hesitated a moment, before he nodded as well.

Ikki just stared at her and for a moment he was debating defying her, but finally – hesitating - he nodded too.

"We will sleep and think everything over and tomorrow morning at nine, we'll meet here to discuss what we are going to do."

With those words Athena dismissed her Saints.

Once they had left the room, she sat down heavily on one of the chairs of the conference-table, buried her face in her hands and sighed out loud.

Nobody found any sleep that night.

They all lay awake in their beds thinking, searching for a solution and getting no answer.

All but Hyoga. He knew a way to at least get another opinion.

He had met her in a park one day, shortly after he had killed Isaac. He had been sitting on a bench, watching the swans on the little park-lake, thinking and being consumed by guilt, completely lost and despaired. He hadn't even realized that somebody had sat down beside him, before the woman had spoken.

"Your heart is bleeding, young one," she had said.

Hyoga had looked at her with a start, eyes wide. The woman was old, almost ancient, the lines of her face carving deep traces into her features. Some errand strands of silver gray hair were curling around her face while most of it was pulled into a bun at the nape of her neck.. She was petite and had a slight hunched over posture, as she sat at his side, seemingly ignoring him. She had just kept on watching the lake, but continued to speak, proving by her words that she was all but ignoring him.

"You are a warrior, a Saint. It is your destiny to fight. Even your friends."

"How do you know….?"

She had only smiled, gently looking up at him at last.

"I know a lot of things. Your soul is open to me, young warrior. And I know about Athena and her destiny on earth. You serve her. You fight with your brothers but what you ignore, you also teach them. They need you just like you need them. You five boys are a whole. Five aspects of a living, healthy concept.

"I also know that you have doubts, but you have to learn to accept your pain and your soul. You are what you are. And no matter what your teachers or your childhood-friend try to tell you, don't forget this part of your soul or it will die.

"You are a great, loyal warrior. You may be able to control your body and your emotions while fighting, but don't try to change your heart."

Hyoga had looked at her in astonishment. She had kept talking to him, as if she knew each of his thoughts. And she had known many things about Athena and her Saints. She had a very calming effect on him and he ended opening up to her, telling her about his feelings and pains. He had never done anything like this, especially toward a stranger, but she had kept him going that day, helping him deal with his loss.

The next day he had tried to find her to thank her. From people in the park he had learned that she was there often to speak to common people. She had the reputation for knowing a lot about others, even though most had never even met her before. And he had been told that she worked as a fortuneteller. From what he heard, she didn't speak openly about the knowledge she possessed to many people, since most treated her like an old crazy lady, nothing more. But Hyoga had known better. She had a gift to see things and he had the suspicion that she had the gift of an oracle.

By asking around, he had found out her address and sent her a single rose. He had not put a note on it, knowing perfectly well that she'd know whom it was from and why it was sent.

After a restless night he had taken the decision to go and see her. He got up and took a shower at five in the morning.

At six he stood in front of the mansion, waiting for the Taxi he had called.

At it's arrival he took the passenger seat and told the driver the address. The man looked at him, as if he had lost his mind. Hyoga could understand that, looking at which address he had ordered the Taxi to pick him up, the driver would be bound to ask himself, what a rich boy wanted in such a bad part of town. But Hyoga had other things in his mind and ignored the questioning looks of the man, who at last shrugged and put the vehicle into gear, driving out of the driveway.

Twenty minutes later, they arrived in front of an old, worn down house. Hyoga paid the driver and exited the car.

The Taxi sped off and he walked to the door of the old shop. On the window, big red letters, faded and barely readable due to the passage of time competed with the gray, dust-like grime, rendering the window nearly blind.

DO YOU KNOW YOUR DESTINY?

The words tried to draw the interest of any passing would-be customer.

Hyoga stepped up to the old glass door and pushed the handle. Finding it unlocked, he entered.

The single, half lit room was filled to the brim with candles, figurines and books. A dusty smell, mixed with the odour of different herbs gave the air a thick and suffocating tendency.

Hyoga crossed the store along the long counter and found a door at its end, which was open a fraction.

He opened it slowly and stepped in. The room was dark and windowless, only a couple of candles on the floor illuminated the place. The candles stood right in front of the old woman, who sat cross-legged on a mat on the floor, eyes closed and meditating.

"Come on in, young one," she said without opening her eyes

He carefully closed the door after himself and sat down in front of her, mirroring her pose.

"You know why I'm here?"

"Yes, young Warrior. You want to ask me if there is a way to rescue your friend without endangering innocent lives."

"Is there a way?"

She opened her eyes and looked at him. "I know that her threat is real. And I also know that no Saint can cross the border of her kingdom, without her knowing it."

"Can you tell us where the bombs are?" he asked hopefully.

"I can't interfere with history. It has to unfold itself. All I can do is give advice."

Hyoga sighed. "But can you at least tell me if it is possible to penetrate the circle without being noticed. Can't the Cosmo be camouflaged?"

"Not for a Saint or a Goddess. You can't cover a developed Cosmo completely, the only way to hide the Cosmo would be to destroy it and that would be irrevocable and therefore a betrayal towards Athena."

Hyoga's hope sank. "So there is no way to get him out without giving up being a Saint."

"No, there isn't. And no Saint has the right to fail his duty towards Athena for another Saint. You have to find another way to help your friend, without going there. But you must hurry, since he is in great danger from her. What I can assure you, is that she won't use her bombs without any provocation."

Hyoga nodded with a numb feeling and stood. "Thank you for your advice." With those words he left.

She smiled slightly after him. "Until later then, young one," she whispered.